Top 25 Search Agencies: An Endangered Species?

By David Gould, President

This week AdAge released its annual Search Marketing Fact Pack. As part of its annual analysis of the search industry, AdAge ranks the top search agencies in terms of revenue estimates. They are careful to point out that the ranking considers only revenue generated through search (SEO and PPC). This got me wondering for how many more years would the “search agency” specific list be relevant.

A quick review of the list reveals a collection of agencies that do more than just search, a clear reflection of the direction that this industry is headed. As the search market matures, agencies are realizing that focusing solely on search is not necessarily what marketers are looking for.

In its nascent stages, search was relegated to a silo … a new direct response platform with which to experiment. In turn, a plethora of search specialty shops popped up helping direct marketers tap this exceptionally efficient channel. And many made significant investments in proprietary technologies to manage the complex bid management process.

As the value of search beyond optimizing websites and placing text ads on SERPs has become clear, marketers realize that search cannot and should not exist in silo and can certainly provide value as more than just a DR vehicle. The underlying principals and value of search must be integrated into all aspects of successful marketing strategies. No longer should the search marketers be placed in a corner with technology doing all the work.

Accordingly, a new breed of search agency has emerged. Ones that provide a consultative solution to integrate search into the larger marketing landscape. These firms absolutely leverage technology to gain efficiencies in execution but have built their practice around the extrapolation of insights and application to all aspects of a marketing program.

The fact is, today, the search agency landscape is still fragmented with many players and a glut of campaign/bid management tools. As the search industry matures and the growth of marketers’ search investment continues to slow, we’ll see search-specific agency consolidation accelerate and the herd begin to be culled. Search-focused agencies will broaden their horizons into other forms of digital marketing and established generalist agencies will develop their own search offerings, either organically or through acquisition, in order to meet the marketers’ need of a fully integrated solution.

I suspect it won’t be long before the AdAge changes the list’s title from “Top 25 Search Marketing Agencies” to “Top 25 Marketing Agencies Offering Search.”


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