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While 33% of companies say that social media marketing (SMM) is “very much part of our search activity,” a much larger 58% of agencies report the same, according to [download page] a September 2012 report from Econsultancy. Some 60% of companies treat social media and search engine marketing (SEM) separately, compared to 35% of agencies. And, while the percentage of companies that treat SMM as integral to SEM is unchanged from 2010, the percentage of agencies that treats social as integral to search has risen 10% points in those 2 years.

The study concludes that agencies are more likely to have direct experience with the impact of social influence on search traffic, as well as with the impact of social signals on page relevance and ranking.

Agencies See Social’s Impact On Search

Companies are far less likely than agencies to report a “huge impact” of SMM on SEM. 14% of companies this year say that the rise of social media marketing has had a huge impact on their search engine marketing, compared to 11% in 2011 and 10% in 2010.

By comparison, 20% of agencies report a huge impact from social media, up slightly from 19% in 2011 and 18% in 2010.

Some 47% of companies report a moderate impact of SMM on SEM, compared to 59% of agencies. Overall, then, 4 in 5 agencies say that social media’s rise has had at least a moderate impact on their clients’ search engine marketing, compared to 3 in 5 companies who report that impact.

Search, Social Media Marketing Largely Kept In-House

Asked what type of service provider, if any, companies use primarily for search engine optimization (SEO), the majority of companies (56%) say they keep it in house, up from from 44% last year. 17% rely on an SEO specialist (down from 20% last year), 8% on a search agency, and 5% on a paid search specialist. The remainder, in descending order, includes web design companies, digital marketing agencies; PR firms; ad agencies; and social media agencies.

Companies are also inclined to tackle paid search themselves. 52% keep that function in-house, up just 1% point from 2010, but up significantly after a dip to 38% last year. 18% use paid search specialists, followed by search agencies (11%), digital marketing agencies (7%), and in descending order: SEO specialists; ad agencies; web design companies; social media agencies; and PR firms.

A higher majority of companies (63%) keep social media marketing internal, more than manage their own SEO and paid search. This proportion is practically unchanged from 62% in 2010, and up from 55% last year, suggesting some confidence on the part of companies in managing their social media marketing. Of those companies that do rely upon service providers, social media agencies are the leading choice (11% of respondents overall), followed by digital marketing agencies (5%), advertising agencies (5%), and web design companies (3%).

A study from Awareness, also released in September, found similarly low levels of outsourcing of social media activities. According to that survey, just 22% of respondents either outsource (10%) or plan to (12%) this year outsource social media measurement, while 1 in 5 do (10%) or plan to (10%) outsource social content creation. Just 1 in 10 outsource brand monitoring, with industry or competitive monitoring (8%), competitive audits (8%) and content publishing (7%) seeing even lower levels of contracting.

About The Data: The SEMPO State of Search Marketing Report 2012 is based on a global online survey of nearly 900 companies and agencies. This year’s SEMPO study (now in its eighth year) is an aggregation of information provided by organizations from 36 different countries, and from marketers across a range of business sectors and types of agencies. 77% of company respondents and 71% of agency respondents are based in North America.

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