E-consultancy's latest Search Engine Marketing Buyer's Guide 2008 estimates that the total UK search market will grow 24% to £2.75bn this year.

That's a healthy growth figure, considering the sector's growing maturity and the economic constraints facing consumers and advertisers. 

We estimate that paid search spending will rise 23% to £2.42bn (88% of the total market), while the SEO market will increase 32% to £330m.

But search marketers are not without challenges - notably Google's continuing dominance, diminishing opportunities to increase RoI, and the increasing overlap between search and other areas of marketing.

Some of the trends we looked at in the report include: 

Effects of economic woes

The search market may still be growing, but it is not immune to economic trends. Some agencies have reported a fall in search volumes for sectors badly affected by the credit crunch, such as the mortgage market. The volume of clicks and conversion has also dropped in other areas.

However, there is an upside, as concern about budgets will lead to a greater emphasis on search marketing ROI. The emphasis will be on keywords and phrases with proven returns, while "ego terms" seem likely to see lower spending.

Challenges of changing customer behaviour

As ever, the rollout of new search engine features and services create pressure for marketers to keep ahead of the game.

Universal search is one obvious example of this; Google is now giving more prominence to video and other forms of media in its search results, so SEO agencies have had to respond to the challenge by optimising such content for clients.

Other new trends include mobile search marketing, which appears set to grow rapidly. Research for the E-consultancy and Guava Search Engine Marketing Report 2008 found that 5% of companies said that they were using mobile search as a marketing channel and a further 24% said they were planning to.

Social media is another area where new opportunities have been created for SEO, if companies can succeed in creating engaging content.

Ongoing concerns about Google dominance

In the UK, despite the efforts of its rivals, Google continues to eat up the vast majority of advertisers' search budgets. The research by E-consultancy and Guava found that 86% of search advertisers were buying paid search ads on Google.

This year has demonstrated marketers' reliance on Google in a number of ways, and there is little sign of those concerns lessening.

For more trends and figures, as well as profiles of 29 leading search agencies operating in the UK, see our Search Engine Marketing Buyer's Guide .

Graham Charlton

Published 10 September, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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