INHOUSE VS. OUTSOURCE

Managing the various components of an SEM campaign tends to be an inside job, according to survey participants. Of those with SEM campaigns or planning to launch them, 75% said they manage landing-page creation inhouse, 72% manage their own ad copy, 65% have staffers assemble keyword lists, 57% do their own Web tracking and analytics. But only 42% keep bid management inhouse, and just 31% of respondents said shopping comparison data feeds were handled inhouse, with 33% outsourcing that work, and the remainder unsure of where the work was done.

But just because the majority of these components were managed inhouse doesn’t mean merchants have a bustling SEM staff. Rather, just 27% had a dedicated SEM staff, and few planned to hire one.

Google and Yahoo! Search continued to be the top ad placement pick for merchants running pay-per-click campaigns. Three-quarters of respondents placed ad campaigns with the two search giants. More than half of consumer merchants (57%) used other general search engines such as MSN Search, Ask, and AOL, and 46% used shopping or price-comparison engines. Not surprising, b-to-b merchants’ second-choice location for placing pay-per-click ads was vertical or industry-specific search engines, with 45% of business respondents using them.

Respondents were most interested in using a mix of specific and generic keywords in their paid-search campaigns; 75% said they did this. At a close second, 73% aimed to get ads on the first search results page in their product category, and 70% periodically optimized their site to incorporate keywords that work well in paid search.

When evaluating the return on investment of search ads, 64% did not factor in offline conversions such as in-store, catalog, or phone sales. Why not? The plurality (38%) blamed a lack of IT expertise, while 21% said the reason was an overall lack of manpower.

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