Despite a global recession, budget investments for search engine marketing continue to grow year after year. Many experts predict that spend on search engine marketing (SEM) activities will double in the U.S. from $13 billion in 2009 to $26 billion by the year 2014.
With more and more marketing dollars flowing into paid and organic inbound marketing  efforts, we wanted to poll our readers to see if their organizations are following the same trend. We conducted an extensive survey of industry professionals and business owners to get an idea where budgets for search engine marketing are headed this year. We wanted to find out if spend on search marketing activities will rise, fall or remain the same in 2010. Here are the results.
2010 SEM Spending Trend Survey Results
Survey Acronym Key
- SEO - Search engine optimization 
- PPC - Pay-per-click marketing 
- SEM - Search engine marketing  (includes both SEO and PPC)
Takeaways from our search engine marketing spending survey
So here's a quick recap of the survey results.
- 68% of respondents say they will spend more on search engine marketing activities in 2010
- The reported increase in spend for SEO vs PPC is roughly the same (with a slight edge to SEO); however
- 68% of respondents feel that SEO is more essential their company's online growth
- Local search continues to gain in popularity, with more than half of respondents saying they'll spend more on local focus and geo-targeting
But I think the most compelling results are from questions #4 through #7, which show:
- 50% of the respondents plan to invest more money in search marketing software  (including SEO tools  and pay per click software )
- 53.6% say they will spend more on SEM training and education
- 33% plan to hire more in-house SEM staff
- 43% say they will cut spending on search marketing consultants and agencies
So it appears more companies are planning to increase spending on SEM tools, in-house hires, and training, while cutting their spend on SEM agencies. Are we witnessing a tectonic shift in the search landscape, with business owners taking the reins of their own search marketing activities and relying less and less on agencies?
If so, what could be driving this DIY trend? Well, I can theorize on some factors that may contribute to such an industry phenomenon.
- Better tools - Search marketing tools  and software products are becoming so pervasive, intuitive and user-friendly that it may be getting easier for the average Joe to run an SEO or PPC campaign on their own. Think about it. Before Quicken, most people turned to professionals to handle their taxes. Quicken came along and made tax preparation easier for the individual, who began to rely less on CPAs. Is that what's happening in the SEM space with advent of better, smarter and simpler tools?
- Accessible education - The Web is ripe with free SEM educational resources and affordable training. If you're eager to study search, you can find pretty much everything you need to learn how to run successful PPC and SEO campaigns online. Sure, you need to wade through the crap and be able to execute and implement search strategies effectively, but there are some great learning  and training resources  and online communities where you can readily learn the search craft.
- Cutting costs - Maybe this move is driven purely by an effort to save money, as businesses try to stay afloat in the worst recessionary environment of our generation. In an attempt to trim spend, maybe SMBs are attempting to run search campaigns themselves or hire more affordable in-house SEM staffing.
It's interesting because we see the same trend playing out each day at WordStream, as more business owners are severing ties with agencies and consultants so they can run SEO and PPC efforts internally with the help of our software products . In any case, it will be fascinating to watch how accurate this survey is at spotting this potential industry trend and if it will manifest into something bigger moving forward. Because if a DIY search model does come to frutition, it will have a major impact on the dynamics of the SEM industry.
Special thanks to everyone who participated in our survey.