August 15, 2018 / Featured, SEMPO Updates

State of Search 2018: Top Trends Marketers and Agencies Need to Know

By Marc Engelsman, SEMPO Vice President of Research and Board Officer, and Digital Brand Expressions Vice President of Client Strategy and Analytics

Figure 1: SEMPO State of Search Report reveals that both marketers and agencies see mega marketplaces like Amazon as a powerful, emerging digital platform to consider. (Image courtesy of SEMPO).

As one of the leaders behind the SEMPO State of Search Report and Survey, my deep engagement with the final report makes me all the more aware of its findings as I go about my day-to-day role as a digital marketer. Here is how I see some of the insights from this year’s SOS Report playing out in real life:

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  • Insight: Marketers continue to focus on the ROI, attribution, and integration of their search and digital marketing efforts as part of their marketing mix. In Real Life or “IRL”: Agencies are responding by shifting more to paid search and paid social channels that have the veneer of more accountability through metrics, such as clicks, click-through rates (CTRs), video views, etc. But these metrics fall well short of clearly demonstrating the business value of agency efforts.


  • Insight: Agencies are still struggling to hire and retain talent. IRL: The search and digital marketing professions have become increasingly complex as the competition to drive better results faster (such as the metrics listed above) goes deeper into programmatic algorithms, machine learning, and other complexities. The problem is not just knowing how to work within these multifaceted systems but knowing how to ensure strategic thinking takes precedence over tactical solutions. As agencies struggle with finding the right talent, marketers compound the issue by moving more digital responsibilities in-house.


  • Insight: Complying with the European Union’s GDPR policies was not a high priority initiative for marketers or agencies at the beginning of the year. IRL: Many marketers and agencies ended up scrambling to meet the May deadline for GDPR compliance (and some are still scrambling today). Clearly, the real impact of this initiative at the individual company level was missed by many.


  • Insight: Buying ads on Amazon was seen as one of the top five key initiatives for agencies but not by marketers or clients. IRL: Amazon continues to expand its disruptive presence into new industries like food stores (Whole Foods) and pharmacies (PillPack). As agencies pick up on the potential implications of mega marketplaces like Amazon as a compelling digital platform, agency activity and interest in Amazon has increased, with marketers beginning also to show signs of interest.


Those are some of my thoughts. Why not take a minute to review this year’s State of Search report and see how it aligns or not with your current initiatives. You may find the results are simply validating and/or you may find new trends that challenge some of your current thinking. Either way, SEMPO is always interested in hearing from you and hope you will make your voice heard when we field our annual survey again later this year.


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