U.K. SEM: Who's Who and What's What

  |  September 8, 2008   |  Comments

U.S.-based and other international companies targeting the U.K. must be totally familiar with the finer nuances of culture and language.

I'm on a flying visit to the U.K. and Europe. I worked out of the U.K. office last week, and now I'm on a short vacation with my long-lost wife in the Algarve before I head back to NYC. Vacations and book reading are pretty synonymous for me. But while most people read the latest spy novel or romance, I usually have my nose stuck in a reference book. This time my beach reading material is a little different.

A few weeks back at SES San Jose, I spoke on one of the search-around-the-world panels. In particular I covered the U.K. search market. Ashley Friedlein, a close friend and cofounder of E-consultancy kindly supplied me with some of his company's research data to share with the audience. E-consultancy has a huge membership of online U.K. marketers (over 75,000 registered) to tap into for industry data and feedback, and a good chunk of the audience at my SES session was very interested in targeting the U.K.

What Friedlein gave me was E-consultancy's annual SEM (define) buyers' guide. And at 270 pages, it's a treasure trove of information on the U.K. search marketing scene and search industry trends.

While there are a lot of similarities between the U.K. and the U.S. search marketing sectors, U.S.-based and other international companies targeting the U.K. must be totally familiar with the finer nuances of culture and language. I recently caught sight of a U.K. search ad with the word "condominium" in the headline. Believe me, the average person in the U.K. wouldn't know what a condominium was even if it bit them on the leg.

That's just one example of how the odd little thing can slip through. But because search is totally keyword-driven, it's essential to truly understand the customer's language. Of course, there's also the importance of understanding how the search industry itself works in a different geographical territory.

According to the report, the U.K. SEM market will be worth an estimated £2.75 billion in 2008. The U.K. search market remains buoyant, and E-consultancy forecasts that it will grow 24 percent during the year, up from £2.22 billion in 2007.

Other trends covered in the report include:

  • Economic worries increase scrutiny on search ad performance.

  • New patterns of search behavior challenge search marketers.

  • The complexity of search marketing increases as the sector matures.

  • Google continues to dominate the industry.

The outlook for SEM is still very strong. The report draws from the "UK Search Engine Marketing Report 2008," which stated that 63 percent of companies planned to increase their paid search budget and 61 percent planned to increase their SEO (define) budget.

Also highlighted is the effect of the change in end-user behavior with the introduction of universal search and the increase in mobile search following the launch of the iPhone. Five percent of companies surveyed in the earlier report said they were using mobile as a marketing channel.

The guide also states that the number of Google searches originating from iPhones has been reported as 50 times higher than any other handset. Teddie Cowell, director at leading U.K. digital marketing firm Guava agrees. "B2C (define) search is changing very fast thanks to the iPhone, iPod touch, and other new multimedia devices. This may have a big impact on the consumer search experience."

Social media marketing is rapidly growing in the U.K. This has allowed search agencies to expand their offering by providing social-media-related services. It has also seen SEO increasingly overlap with online PR and reputation management.

Brands' interest in social media marketing is reflected in responses to the report. The biggest opportunity for growth within the SEO space is within social media activities and related content services, according to respondents. More than half of the companies surveyed reported they were either using Facebook as part of their marketing strategy (26 percent) or planning to do so (25 percent).

With profiles of 29 top-performing U.K. agencies, and more charts and graphs than you could shake a stick at, this report is a must have for anyone interested in the U.K. search market.

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Mike Grehan

Mike Grehan is currently chief marketing officer and managing director at Acronym, where he is responsible for directing thought leadership programs and cross-platform marketing initiatives, as well as developing new, innovative content marketing campaigns.

Prior to joining Acronym, Grehan was group publishing director at Incisive Media, publisher of Search Engine Watch and ClickZ, and producer of the SES international conference series. Previously, he worked as a search marketing consultant with a number of international agencies handling global clients such as SAP and Motorola. Recognized as a leading search marketing expert, Grehan came online in 1995 and is the author of numerous books and white papers on the subject and is currently in the process of writing his new book From Search to Social: Marketing to the Connected Consumer to be published by Wiley later in 2014.

In March 2010 he was elected to SEMPO's board of directors and after a year as vice president he then served two years as president and is now the current chairman.

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