How the Pandemic Changed Search Marketing

BY Kathy Crosett
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Industry experts thought they had their projections right, but the pandemic changed search marketing this year. Before we knew about COVID-​19, analysts were certain that the search industry’s growth rate would begin to slow. They figured new media formats would gain favor with advertisers. And that meant the rate of growth in search marketing spending would slow drastically. Those initial projections have been revised. 

Search Spending Outlook

Search spending in 2019 in the U.S. amounted to $55.9 billion. At the height of the pandemic, eMarketer issued a report predicting that search spending would total $54.37 billion for the year. Then, analysts realized consumers had shifted their shopping behavior. SMBs, in particular, adjusted their advertising strategies, making search marketing one of the winning media formats in 2020. Now, it seems likely that total search spending this year will end up at about $59.22 billion. That's a 5.9% increase over 2019. In 2021, marketers will likely shell out $70.85 billion, or an additional 20%.

What are marketers spending their search budgets on?

  • Product Listing Ads in Google search results
  • Amazon Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands
  • Paid Listings
  • Paid Inclusion

It’s also interesting to note that growth in search spending will go to a few familiar service providers. According to eMarketer, Amazon (+29.4%), Google (17.3%) and Yelp (+15.1%) will experience significant increases in 2021.

How the Pandemic Changed Search Marketing

The upheaval in the search market is likely to continue through at least the first few months of 2021. Between now and then, consumers won’t be searching on their desktop computers for travel destinations like they were doing last year at this time. Instead, they are checking their mobile devices, looking for consumer packaged goods when they realize there’s another surge in the virus and it’s time to pantry load.

In 2021, we can expect desktop search spending to increase from $23.01 billion to $26.53 billion, a 15% growth rate. However, the mobile search spending increase of 22% is very impressive, as the total for that channel is projected to reach $44.32 billion next year.

The increased competition in the search marketing world means your clients should be thinking about how much of their marketing budgets to put into Amazon versus Google. You can help your clients understand the differences between the platforms.

Your Revised Strategy

For example, if your clients aren’t part of the Amazon Seller ecosystem, they won’t buy ads on that platform, because the search results only show what’s available on Amazon. However, if your clients do sell on Amazon, they are likely aware of the fact that over half of consumer searches for products start on the Amazon site. At that point, marketers must decide if they want to pay for a paid sponsored product listing, an Amazon display ad, or a more expensive headliner ad. On the other hand, your clients can use your help to develop a search engine optimization campaign that works with paid search using Google Ads to reach consumers beyond the Amazon site. 

With so many businesses competing for a good position in the search arena, your clients must use the right strategy, bid on the right keywords, and track the results of their investments. The pandemic changed search marketing. Your SMB clients may not have the time to do search marketing properly. But you can prove the value of your services when you pitch for this business. One key detail you’ll need is how consumers respond to search marketing. Check out the AudienceSCAN profiles on AdMall by SalesFuel to get started.