Organic Search SEO

How much should search marketing cost?

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 by Graeme Parton

How Much Should Search Marketing Cost?It’s no secret that the internet is the first place many people turn when they want or need to buy something new. While the relationship between buying and surfing began relatively modestly with sites like selling books and music, it’s rare that today’s consumers think twice about logging on to investigate – and even complete – much bigger purchases; cars, holidays and even houses can all be found waiting to be bought online, for example.


Even when it’s not directly providing the platform for transactions to be completed, the world wide web acts as the perfect place for prospective buyers to find out more about the products and services on offer, as well as the companies supplying them. In 2012, for instance, network firm Cisco found that 74 per cent of consumers turn to the internet to carry out research before later buying products in store. The only thing that’s really changed since then is that even more of this research is carried out on smartphones and tablets instead of conventional PCs and laptops.

OK, so where do all of these consumers tend to turn in their quest for knowledge? Google of course (other search engines are available). Most modern businesses already know that internet buyers can be a busy and impatient bunch, so a couple of positions on the search engine results pages (SERPs) can be the difference between making a sale and not even registering on the buyer’s radar. What many companies struggle with, though, is working out just how much they should be spending on each area of search marketing and even digital channels in general.

The current situation

Let’s begin by taking a look at how much of their budgets British companies are already spending on different search marketing techniques.

In July last year, Econsultancy published its UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report 2013, which was put together to find out more about the current state of search marketing. After asking the representatives of 311 companies about how their marketing budgets were split between different areas, it found that the average firm was allocating 24 per cent to paid search, 18 per cent to search engine optimisation (SEO) and equal shares of 11 per cent to both social media and display advertising.

For more of a balanced picture, Econsultancy spoke to those on the supplier side of things. More than 200 search marketing agencies were asked about how their clients’ budgets were being split. According to these services providers, 28 per cent of customer budget is spent on paid search, 25 per cent on SEO and 12 per cent each on social and display ads.

The most interesting finding here may be that those with professional help are readily spending more on search marketing. It could well be the case that companies feel comfortable allocating more to these digital marketing channels when they know it’s being spent in the right areas.

How much is actually being spent?

How much is being spent on search marketing?According to the report, 63 per cent of the companies asked said they were spending between £0 and £25,000 on SEO every year. It was also found that 91 per cent were expecting to increase spending in this area over the next 12 months. The majority (63 per cent) of companies are keeping their social spending below £10,000, but again, 93 per cent are expecting to boost spending here.

The figures were a little different for display advertising, however. Researchers found that 50 per cent of businesses are spending more than £20,000 on display ads each year. The fact that three per cent of respondents are allocating more than £5 million to it, though, shows that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for firms to follow.

Finding the right balance

To state the obvious, companies can only spend what they have at their disposal. More importantly, though, the amount which needs to be allocated to each area will depend massively on industry and enterprise size, as it’s these factors which dictate things like competition levels. There’s little point, for instance, in a small, independent garden centre spending everything it has on trying to get ahead of a nationally recognised brand like Homebase in the rankings; it should instead be focusing on tactics which are going to put its name in front of potential customers in its local area.

The stumbling blocks

Despite it appearing obvious that businesses will be looking to spend more in 2014, it’s not certain that this money will be spent in the most effective ways; the report shows that firms are being held back from search success by all kinds of barriers. Time and money are the most common complaints, with a large portion of respondents citing budget and a lack of resources as issues. Agencies also produced similar responses on behalf of their clients.

Perhaps most interestingly, though, lack of know-how, poorly converting websites and implementation difficulties were also popular concerns. The fact that many agencies will be ready to address these issues in one fell swoop goes some way to explaining why it is that companies with professional help are willingly spending more of their budgets on search marketing, with better results.

While professionals won’t be able to boost a company’s bank balance at the click of their fingers, they will be able to ensure the money that is available is spent in the right areas. The issue of limited resources is also remedied by the fact that the task is taken out of the company’s hands altogether.

Put simply, it’s important that business leaders know how much money needs to be spent to ensure success for their own firms, not those belonging to other people – only then can they stop wasting resources in the wrong places.

If you would like to find out how much you should spend try out our search marketing budget calculator or get in touch with us on 0845 123 2753.

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About the author

Graeme Parton

Graeme Parton

Graeme is a Brand Journalist and part of the content team at Vertical Leap. When he’s not writing, Graeme tends to be found watching live music at venues across the UK and Europe.