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Andy Betts
M Posted 10 years ago
t 6 min read

Jim Brigden from iProspect UK will be speaking at Share13 on the 'Future of Search Panel' alongside Dave Tan from Google and Eric Papczun from Perfomics US. In this post Jim shares a unique view on the the common challenges search marketers face on both sides of the Atlantic.  

Jim Brigden - iProspect - Two countries united by a common challenge  

When taking a global view of search markets, the United States and United Kingdom tend to look very similar on the outside. It is for this reason that Google often tests new initiatives first on these two markets. Despite their similarities, however, these cross-Atlantic neighbours have very clear differences that are evident once you begin to peel away the surface. Before I delve further into the more intricate details of these two markets, I must first admit that my search marketing career has predominantly been spent within the UK. However, working with a number of global brands I have observed a number of differences between the UK and US dominant search markets.   

Search Engines

One of the substantial differences between the US and UK search markets is the impact of the Yahoo!/Bing Search Alliance. Collectively, the Alliance makes up nearly 30% of the search engine market share in the US. In stark comparison, the two only make up roughly 10% of the share of search traffic in the UK. For the most part, Google is the only player within the UK market, with 9 out of 10 searches completed through this portal. Subsequently, media spend usually follows the percentage split of search engine market share in each country, thus creating a much more competitive landscape within the UK, where the majority and often the entire budget is dedicated to Google. The approach in the US differs slightly, with a more blended budget split in comparison. However, it is important to note that Google still reigns over both the UK and the US market, even with the US popularity of the Yahoo!/Bing Search Alliance.


Despite being a fifth of the population size of the United States, the UK has a stronger amount of competition across verticals on the search engine result pages. This means that search marketers have to be on the very top of their game to get the best paid results and organic listings to compete in the crowded market. One of the biggest reasons for the higher competition is that Google has a 90% market share in the UK.


When it comes to new offerings in the search market space, Google will release their beta opportunities to advertisers typically first in the US, with the UK often in the second release group. These roles are reversed when new changes to the search engine results pages are rolled out by Google, with testing carried out predominantly in the UK first before being extended to the US. This is something we are seeing time and time again, and it heavily relates to the fact that the overall consumer profile is very similar in both markets.

Talent issues – you’ll need good people regardless of your location

Recruiting a skilled individual or a team to manage search is not easy, even when youth unemployment is at an all-time high. How many graduates are au fait with Adwords and Google Advertising fundamentals and are business fluent?  If the UK is representative of a number of regions around the globe, then there is a grave need for an entrepreneurial, business-friendly tech-centred approach to learning.

The UK educational establishment has a long way to go to fulfill this dream, and most graduates are woefully ill-equipped when they leave, resulting in a shortage of digital talent in the market. The well-equipped graduates that do come onto the market are often pretty savvy about their worth. They know their value and negotiate hard to get the right package for them. Is your recruitment ability and pay scale going to meet their expectations? You will be competing with an array of other businesses looking for the exact same people, so do not underestimate this question.

Poaching a team out of an agency is even more difficult than recruiting individuals. An agency has trained up and invested heavily in their employees, putting the very real opportunity for career progression in front of them. They’ll also be exposed to a variety of different clients and industries too – after all, agencies try hard to share good practice and skills, and this is valued greatly by the agency team. Moving to a single client, where collective knowledge soon becomes outdated, often holds limited appeal. Agencies are often located in metropolitan areas rather than in industrial parks near a major motorway, which further boosts their appeal.  

These youngsters (and they are invariably young compared to the author of this post) put quite a high ticket on work-life balance, often what agency life is centered around. My advice to any client is to play the long game and be aware of how much time you will have to invest in talent recruitment and management, and how hard it is to replace a skilled employee.

Getting the technology right - Agency and In-house

What technology are you going to use? It’s a given that you are going to need technology to create, optimize, and report on campaigns. And it needs to integrate with your other campaigns too, as well as some of your internal systems.. How are you going to select the right bit of kit? Which client's learning are you going to call on? Do you have a head of technology/IT that you can lean on?

My experience with Marketing and IT Directors is, unfortunately, not necessarily of a shared collective vision; it’s often more akin to a fight to the death. My hunch is that you might have the technology that is safest for your agency business, rather than what gets the best marketing results for your brands. If this is the case, the Board will be looking for someone to blame, rather than reward. Expect that someone to be you. Over the years I have seen several clients launch in-house search teams, and some have been very successful in doing so.

The best in-house teams nearly always have a consultancy agreement in place with their agency to get knowledge refresh sessions, advice on technology, or even additional hands when the head of search at a client decides they want to move on. If you are a client and do decide to bring things in house, my advice would be to do so over a period of time and to make sure that the agency knows what you are planning and why. As a client you might still benefit from the agency relationship over time if you are sensitive and do so in a long-term partnership style.

About Jim Brigden

Jim Brigden joined iProspect as Chief Client & Commercial Officer in August 2012, following its acquisition of I Spy Marketing, where he was CEO. Previously, Jim founded the first UK specialist search agency The Search Works in 2004, growing it to a £100m turnover in just three years. Since then, he’s been director of a breadth of digital media, ecommerce and technology agencies.

Share13 is in San Francisco on August 22-23 

Share13 is the industry's premier digital marketing event focused on organic search and digital marketing. Share13 is packed with content from leading brands and hands on practitioners on what is working in their business today. Unlike many other user conferences and public tradeshows, share is exclusively for search and digital marketing practitioners at leading brands. Attendees learn best practices from leaders, share their own expertise and make connections that last a lifetime.

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