If you looked at how multichannel marketers viewed search in 2005, you would see that (A) search was run as a stand-alone channel with a distinct budget that was growing very rapidly (50 percent-plus, annually), and (B) search was managed by specialized agencies and internal specialists, distinct from all other forms of advertising leveraged by the organization. The budgets grew because search worked—more search investment equalled more sales.
Roll the tape forward to 2011. Budgets have reached maturity. In the U.S., search budgets are growing at more modest 10 percent to 15 percent rates, and since 2009, when the Great Recession hit the market in full force, the goal has become integration—as in, integrating search into the entire buying funnel.
And when marketers start looking at integrating search into their overall media programs, they run smack into attribution modeling—i.e. how do you accord the appropriate credit to each advertising touchpoint? Many consumers—having seen TV commercials, print ads and/or display ads—go straight to a web search to look for their products and buy. Then search gets the credit, if you look at associated sales, because a search query was the last thing a consumer did before buying.
But in reality, advertisers don't use last click. If you go to any advertiser and ask each of the individual channel marketers how much revenue has been created by their channels, you will get a total that is two to three times more than the total revenue of the entire organization. If a consumer interacts with five different types of advertising and marketing activities—search, display, email, TV, print—each claims credit for the same sale. Simple reason—they all want budget! So they look at the absolute number of sales that result from any consumer who intersects with their channel, and when you do this across multichannel marketing programs, you over-count the result many times.