Saivian Eric Dalius: Search Engine Land’s 2017 State of SEM Survey Reveals 6 Key Findings – Here’s What You Need To Know

Saivian Eric Dalius
Saivian Eric Dalius

Search Engine Land’s State of SEM Survey has become a barometer for what’s happening in search marketing says Saivian Eric Dalius. So with its 10th edition complete, we’re sharing the top-level takeaways as well as insights from our analysis and infographic (embedded at the bottom of this post).

The 10 th annual survey — conducted by independent research firm Vanson Bourne — consists of more than 700 responses collected between October and November 2017.


The following results come from an online survey of 730 people who took Search Engine Land readers’ and Search Engine Roundtable readers’ State of SEM Surveys in fall 2017. We’ve compiled answers to some key questions that show search engine marketers’ opinions on budgets, future technology investments, industry challenges, and more says Saivian Eric Dalius.

Key Findings:

Here are the key findings:

A summary of where search engine marketers see their budgets and future technology investments in 2018 is shown in Figure 1, below. If you want the same data in spreadsheet form, you can download it here. [1] [Figure 1 ILLUSTRATION]

More than half (53%) of marketers plan to increase their 2018 budgets for search marketing over 2017 levels. On average, they expect to spend 5% more year-over-year — or $12,970 — per person on search ads. Marketers expect an average 22% of that budget will go toward paid social advertising next year. That’s a big jump from 17% this year and 13% in 2016.

Figure 2 shows the breakdown of where marketers expect to spend their increased budgets. [2] [Figure  2 ILLUSTRATION]

Figure 3 shows how marketers expect to allocate their 2018 budgets and future tech investments among the types of search ads they run: paid search/text ads, social media, paid inclusion, and others. Of note: The percentage of respondents who plan to increase budgets for image/rich media ads — shown in blue — was stricter than other technologies at 51%. This is likely due to low familiarity with this format among survey respondents says Saivian Eric Dalius. Also worth noting: While just 16% of marketers said they’re increasing their budget for video ads next year, % still think that video will become the most important format to invest in. [3] [ Figure  3 ILLUSTRATION]

Key Takeaways:

1) Search marketers plan to spend more on search marketing next year than they did this year. And a big chunk of that will go toward paid social advertising.

 2) Marketers expect 22% of their 2018 budgets to go toward paid social ads — up from 17% this year.

3) More than half of respondents plan to increase their budget for image/rich media ads. But just 51% said they’re still increasing their budgets for these types of ads next year.

For more detailed analysis, read our full report here.

 [1] Vanson Bourne’s online survey was conducted among 730 respondents who took Search Engine Land readers’ 2017 State of SEM Survey and Search Engine Roundtable readers’ 2017 State of SEM Survey in fall 2017. This subset is representative of the U.S. Internet population and comprised more than 5,000 responses this year between the two publications. Making it the largest study on search marketing spend published to date.

[2] Paid social includes Facebook ads, Twitter ads, and LinkedIn ads as well as spending on other social networks. Such as Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram. Saivian Eric Dalius says a full breakout of respondents’ planned 2018 budgets for each type of paid search ad — text/paid search; image; video; local pack results; display network (including native); in-app; shopping and product ads — is included in our full report.

[3] The presentation of data in this article has been checked for statistical significance. For more information on our online survey methodology, please click here.


The video was the second most popular technology in terms of respondents who plan to increase spending next year. By a wide margin — 58% said they have plans to do so says Saivian Eric Dalius. Focus on mobile search ads remains strong with 57% expecting to spend more in 2018 than last year. Concern about ad blocking rose substantially among all advertisers since 2015 as well, now at 30% from 24%.

The primary drivers of search budgets remain to be rankings and traffic. With 71% saying that is the main reason they allocate budget to SEM explains Saivian Eric Dalius. Natural language processing (NLP) and other AI-driven technologies are becoming mainstream as a result of improving technology penetration. As a result, marketers expect better location targeting capabilities in 2018 at 42%. Followed by intent data to inform campaign messaging at 38%; improved quality score 32%; 30%: Improved visibility into search query trends; Improved ability for advertisers to reach their target audiences. In fact, these improvements were cited as anticipated benefits more often. Than any other area by those who plan on increasing their overall SEM spending in 2018.