Agencies specialising in search engine optimisation (SEO) will be heartened by recent E-consultancy research which shows that the majority of companies are committed to more investment in natural search.

According to the UK Search Engine Marketing Report, produced in association with Neutralize (*\*), 62% of companies will be increasing their spending on SEO in the next 12 months.

Given the high profile of paid search marketing, its undoubted effectiveness and its status as the main driver of internet advertising growth, it is still possible to underestimate the vital role of natural search visibility in the online marketing mix.

Encouragingly, our research shows a widespread recognition of its importance (even though there may be significant barriers in the way of effective optimisation such as lack of internal resource and difficulty of implementation).

The need for a strong focus on SEO is underlined by recent Tamar research which showed that nine out of ten British customers prefer natural search results.

This B2C research also pointed out the potential harm to brands if negative comments appear in natural search results.

This brings us on to another finding from E-consultancy’s B2B research which shows that businesses are aware of the importance of natural search for branding.

Neutralize and E-consultancy search report graphic about branding

As the chart above shows, some 45% of company respondents said that SEO is more important  than PPC for branding compared to only 16% who think that paid search is more important. (The remaining 39% believe that paid search and SEO are equally important for the brand.)

What do we think? Well, sitting on the fence somewhat, they are both very important. We would certainly advocate an integrated approach to SEO and PPC from the point of view of both branding and harder financial objectives. 

Sponsored listings visibility needs to be considered in the context of SEO and vice versa, in order to maximise search engine “real estate”, but keeping any PPC spending as efficient as possible. It is certainly helpful that many search agencies have expertise in both areas of search to enable a holistic approach.

The UK Search Engine Marketing Report (subscriber or pay-per-view access) can be downloaded here.

You can read also read what Teddie Cowell of Neutralize has to say about the findings from this research.

Further reading: free E-consultancy market briefings:

SEO Briefing (February 2007)
Paid Search Briefing  (March 2007)