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SEO will be a primary focus for marketers during the downturn, says survey

Respondents said SEO was their top performing channel last year and is more likely to be maintained going forward.

A new survey validates the importance of maintaining your SEO efforts through the coming downturn. The survey, by Conductor, had 317 respondents drawn from Conductor’s extended network across a range of industries, including B2B (24%), Retail (12%), Healthcare (11%), Media (10%) and others (travel and hospitality, consumer technology, financial services, insurance, automotive, e-commerce and manufacturing).

Budgets down, but goals the same or up. Like the most other marketer surveys right now, the Conductor study shows that budgets are being adversely impacted by the outbreak. However, the majority of these survey respondents — most of whom are hands-on practitioners — said their budgets were only decreasing slightly or remaining the same. Only 20% were seeing budgets “decrease greatly.”

Despite this, 68% said that their goals would remain the same (32%) or increase (36%). Accordingly, 86% said that their marketing goals would be more difficult to achieve this year given reduced budgets and other circumstances.

Asked “Will SEO be more or less important during this time?,” 63% said SEO would gain in importance either slightly (34%) or steeply (29%). Only 5% responded that SEO would decrease in importance.

Organic search the top channel. Organic search was seen by 66% as these marketers’ top performing channel last year, followed by paid search (50%) and email (50%). Social media was named as the top performing channel by just 14%. These perceptions will drive future marketing decisions in a downturn.

Confronted with a global recession, these marketers say they would, lower budgets, invest more in SEO and raise the ROI threshold for marketing decisions. Only a minority (25%) said they would issue layoffs.

Why we care. The central findings of this survey — that organic search is the top performing digital channel and SEO is an essential tactic — are widely supported by other research and advice from digital marketers looking at long-term impact. Conductor VP of Digital Strategies Patrick Reinhart made the point in a call with me that investing in SEO now (“planting the seeds and building for the future”) will pay significant dividends when the crisis is over.

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