April 9, 2009, 12:00 AM

In a tough economy, marketers tune up their search engine optimization

By 2013, search engine marketers will spend an estimated $3.85 billion to optimize their web sites for natural search, an increase of 111.5% from an estimated $1.82 billion in 2009, eMarketer says in a new report.

Web retailers and other online marketers will be spending much more time and effort beefing up their search engine optimization efforts over the next several years, says a new research note from eMarketer Inc.

By 2013, search engine marketers will spend an estimated $3.85 billion on optimization programs, an increase of 111.5% from an estimated $1.82 billion in 2009, eMarketer says. “Marketers who do search engine optimization within their companies likely choose that option to keep costs down,” says eMarketer senior analyst David Hallerman.

Despite the economic benefits and higher page rankings that effective natural search can generate, many marketers, including retailers, still struggle with implementing an effective program. “Marketers sometimes find the search engine optimization process complex,” says Hallerman. “Many often called it a ‘black box’ technique, since optimization requires deciphering the hidden ranking algorithms of search engines. For some marketers, that means full-blown search engine optimization depends on help from an agency.”

At the same time that web retailing and other marketers are implementing more natural search options, they also will be spending more on other forms of search engine marketing, including pay-per-click and contextual advertising, eMarketer says. Overall spending on paid search advertising will total an estimated $14.72 billion in 2013, up 65% from $8.9 billion in 2009, it says. Spending on contextual advertising programs, which scan the text of sites for keywords and return ads to a web page based on what the user is viewing, will increase by 46.9% from $2.45 billion in 2009 to $3.60 billion in four years, the research firm says.

But also by 2013, when total U.S. search marketing advertising will reach an estimated $23.38 billion, marketers will be spending more on search engine optimization than on contextual advertising, says eMarketer. “For companies that especially need to retain customers due to limited customer spending in down times, marketers will look increasingly toward search engine optimization as they try to find new business,” Hallerman says. “As marketers better understand the purpose of web site optimization in their overall campaigns, spending for search engine optimization will grow more each year than for the other three types of search marketing-and more than the total online ad market.”

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