The recession forced all businesses to reconsider each and every dollar spent, and search marketing was no exception. We saw our own PPC software client, 1-800-Mattress , side-step the recession after implementing a well-organized pay-per-click campaign. However, Ken's salary survey  suggested the recession lowered online marketers' income; his data showed that the average salary was down from industry surveys of the previous year.
In April of 2008, Joshua Stylman  predicted that of all branches of marketing, paid search  would take the smallest hit. I think he was absolutely right, and I think the trend of search dominating marketing dollars will continue. Here are five reasons why I think search marketing is just about as recession-proof as they come.
1) Paid Search Was Built with ROI in Mind
No other marketing avenue provides the kinds of details and dollar-to-conversion tracking that paid search does. A former colleague of mine used to say that he would discount a potential employee almost immediately if he was asked what he liked best about marketing and the interviewee said something similar to "I really like to be creative." Sorry to anyone out there who got into marketing because he didn't like math at school--you're setting yourself up for a rude awakening.
By logging into your Google Analytics account, you can see where you spent your money and what you got as a result. Want to know if your radical new ad texts  are working to gain people's attention? Easy, compare the click-through rate and conversion rate of your new text to your old. It's never been so painless to experiment with different brand voices and marketing techniques, so you can make informed decisions as to what works best for you.
2) The Vendor Wants to Help You Save Money
Sure, you could say that all vendors want to help you save money--if you don't make money, you won't advertise with them. However, Google, Yahoo and other search vendors are motivated in an entirely different way. You've probably heard plenty of people say they stopped using a certain search engine because the results weren't relevant to their interests. How many times have you heard someone say she stopped reading a magazine because the magazine's ads didn't speak to her?
Google actually provides instructions on how to optimize your campaign, raise your Quality Score, and thus reduce your cost per click  so you can pay them less money. Because these vendors must always be thinking about their users, they want you to optimize your campaign as best you can and they’ll charge you a lower fee in exchange. It's a win-win!
3) Feedback Is Included
Marketers are constantly trying to connect with their consumers and figure out what they want. A company can pay thousands of dollars for a usability study where they sit behind one-way glass to watch people examine their product and note their reactions. With search marketing, everything in your Google Analytics account is user-generated. Want to know how your users are referring to your product? Want to know what feature they'd like to see next? Check your search query report (while simultaneously performing keyword expansion ) and see what people are searching for to find your website.
In other words, search marketing doesn't just give you new customers--it also gives you information about how your users think.
4) The Internet is Crucial for Bargain Hunters
Though Neilson  predicted that online holiday shopping would decline this year over last year (shipping costs being one main deterrent), Internet research isn't going anywhere. The article states that "the Internet is playing an important role in purchasing behavior. Deal-seeking activities—like comparing prices and finding coupons—drive consumers to go online first before ultimately making an in-store purchase." Even if people aren't making the purchase online, a strong online presence is crucial in order to compete with similar businesses.
5) Even Pepsi Is Doing it
OK, so it doesn't exactly defend my claim that online marketing is safer than other marketing avenues, but I still think it deserves attention. ABC  reported that Pepsi decided to skip their famous, conversation-starting advertisements during the Superbowl in lieu of a social media campaign. This marks the first time in 23 years that Pepsi will be absent from the big event. What's the lesson here? I think this is a good sign that more and more companies will shift their dollars from offline to online marketing, be it through pay per click or other venues like networking sites or YouTube. The article states, "according to a recent survey conducted by Forrester Research, more than 50 percent of marketers are increasing their spending in social media." Isn't this proof that the trend of online spending will only grow higher and wider?
Online Marketing: Is There Anything Better?
All in all, online marketing is the most cost-effective and efficient way to get your message out there and to find new customers. The bonus, of course, is that if it isn't working for you, you're probably doing something wrong, and there are plenty of ways to analyze the data until you figure it out.
What do you think? Which side are you on?
Photo credit: JerPhotography