For those of you who read my recent posting on Google’s dominance of the overall search market, a 67 percent share that shows no signs of diminishing, beware. In it I cautioned what such domination might mean. Little did I know at the time that I had under-stated the case. Thanks to the good folks at Optify, a leader in the digital marketing software market, I got a deeper education. And, while some things run the risk of being over-hyped, the findings in Optify’s recently released, 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, are important and sure to get the brain cells going on overdrive.
What market dominance really looks like
If a picture is worth a thousand words than it seems logical that an infographic may be worth a lot more. Take a close look below, it puts a number of things in stark relief that we all should consider, not the least of which if you are a marketing person are the dominance of Google, the effectiveness of e-mail for lead generation, and which social media work best.
As you can see Google’s market share overall maybe 67 percent but in the all important B2B segment it increased to an astonishing 90 percent in 2012. Plus, Optify’s report found that organic search is still the strongest driver of known traffic to B2B sites, but shows relatively low conversion rates, while e-mail shows the highest conversion and engagement rates.
It is likely disheartening to Google competitors, such as #2 Bing with five percent share, that things are not just bleak, but show no signs of improvement. And, if you are developing a marketing program you may wish to ponder deeply the fact that with the increase in Google’s enhanced privacy settings, which now lists referring keywords from organic search as “not provided,” you are facing the prospects of reaching fewer folks and ultimately paying for the data on the traffic on those you do.
Optify says that because search continues to be a primary source of driving traffic to B2B sites, the study is evidence that marketers should build a diversified strategy. It also shows that organic search, while important, should only be part of such efforts.
Take careful notes
As noted at the top, by all means take a hard look at the infographic. And, you should absolutely spend some time reading the entire free report. It is a true page-turner and worth looking at what Optify calls its “deep dive.” That said, here are just a few key highlights:
- Google’s share of the search market in the B2B segment in North America reached 90 percent.
- While companies increase their investment in social media marketing, social media represented a small fraction of traffic and leads to B2B websites in 2012, contributing an average of five percent of all traffic and leads.
- Within social media, Twitter outperformed Facebook 9-to-1 in lead generation campaigns.
- Organic search is the strongest driver of known traffic to B2B sites with 41 percent of traffic.
- Google is responsible for over 35 percent of all traffic to B2B websites making it the single most important referring domain in 2012.
- Blocked data continues to be an issue as “not provided” exceeds 40 percent of all organic visits from Google.
- Combined with visits from branded search terms, known keyword data from organic search continues to drop, leaving marketers with less than 40 percent of referring keywords.
- E-mail still shows high engagement rates with an average 2.9 percent conversion rate (well above the 1.6 percent overall average). This is a trend that keeps increasing as more B2B marketers leverage e-mail for lead nurturing as well as lead generation.
This is not anecdotal information. Optify’s study analyzed over 62 million visits from more than 600 small and medium-sized B2B websites from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012 to determine the percentage of visits and leads from various sources to B2B websites. The parameters of this study included only U.S. based .com sites with 100 to 100,000 monthly visits. Channel analysis included websites with a minimum of 10 visits per traffic source that month.
In the statement announcing the study, Doug Wheeler, CMO of Optify stated that, “Google has long proven to be the uncontested leader in the search market, and as our research shows, that authority will only continue into the foreseeable future.”
He further noted that, “With such a clear domination of search, we believe that marketers should diversify their marketing programs beyond organic search. It will come as no surprise if Google decides to monetize elements of its organic search data such as referring keywords, access to analytics or other, currently free services, leaving marketers no choice but to adhere to its terms.”
Wheeler had me with the word “monetize.” In fact, it prompted a call where I asked him for more insight on the findings. He congratulated me that my previous article was on the right track. He noted however, that Optify had hard data that the situation is “worse than you thought.” He went on to caution that the trend of an increase in “not provided” because you did not pay, and hence traffic was blocked, is laying the groundwork for what I have characterized as Google being a not insignificant (and possibly not inexpensive) tollgate on the Internet.
Just as an aside, and this is a much bigger topic than the one addressed above, having the ability to be a gatekeeper on Internet—be it a toll taker as in this case or a potential traffic blocker or discriminatory overlord as is at the root of the net neutrality debate—is the great fear many have as to whether the Internet will remain open and an engine of global commerce and innovation. Interestingly, many have felt that the Internet was too big to be monopolized. Ironically, Google itself has been a big supporter of net neutrality, although the recent revelation that it has been paying Orange for traffic in Africa seems to indicate they doth protest too much.
Back to the issues revealed by the study. Reality is that because of Google’s dominance, and the seeming lack of a disruptor, as Wheeler explained, “You are likely locked into Google as a customer and they are going to make you pay for the data.”
In short, traffic information at a high level is interesting and you need it, but the underlying data and analytics behind it are what are very valuable to marketers always on the search for more perfect data to fine-tune their efforts. And, because they are intrinsically valuable they will be something you have to pay for. You probably do so sooner rather than later.
It also means according to Wheeler that, “Because social media as we found is not great on referrals, content marketing and SEO are going to be harder work than ever before, and Google is likely to continue to adjust its algorithms.” He did say that such adjustments are not just based on locking in customers and positioning them to pay for value added, but also because the goal of business intelligence is to hopefully make tools continuously smarter and hence even more valuable for you the marketer and by extension Google.
I also wanted to share a few of Wheeler’s words of advice if you are putting together a marketing program. He said the study uncovered the fact that, “Things that bring traffic to your site are not highest converters.” Concentration does need to be on diversity with the understanding of:
- What brings traffic to your site
- What gets them to opt in so you can further engage them
- Realization that social media may be valuable for getting awareness, and consideration, but it has yet to prove itself as a means for conversion.
Wheeler in fact stressed the fact that e-mail is the way to convert people. He said, “Use others to opt in, but convert using email. Work the funnel.”
If nothing else, while you are reading the study, brush up on the exact definitions of what constitutes the commonly used terms like organic, directed and branded search. If you like we had a working but not detailed knowledge about what these mean, once you do know it will be invaluable context for the content Optify has provided.
It will be interesting to see just how long Google decides to wait to start collecting those tolls.
Edited by Brooke Neuman