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Agencies that specialize in search-not interactive or general agencies-direct the lion's share of dollars spent by marketers on search marketing, according to a study by JupiterResearch. Fifty-one percent of dollars spent this year are flowing through search agencies that are either spending the money with search engines on behalf of their marketing clients or are advising the marketers on how to do their searches.

The findings shows that search marketing-which used to be conducted by mom-and-pop shops spending $20 a month using their credit cards-has matured and is "being treated like money in other forms of media," said Nate Elliott, associate analyst at JupiterResearch, who wrote the report.

And, while just 31% of search marketers use an agency, they control 51% of the total spending. Agencies directing those dollars include Decide Interactive/24/7 Search, Did-It.com, Impaqt, Performics and AvenueA/ Razorfish Search.

Jupiter forecast that $2.6 billion will be spent on search marketing in the U.S. this year. And $3.2 billion is forecast for next year. The area is expected to continue growing until 2009. Many general agencies "want a piece of it," Mr. Elliott said. "This is a huge online ad spend."

But it won't be that easy. Search marketing requires a lot of expertise, Mr. Elliott points out. "You are not going to acquire it overnight." Another issue is that search is direct marketing, and traditional agencies are specialists at branding. Plus, the bidding, cost-per-click environment is unfamiliar to them. Jupiter surveyed 538 marketers in all sectors in August 2004 for the report. Read more: AdAge.com QwikFIND aaq17L

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