Meet the Top Search Agencies

If you’re looking for a new search marketing agency, 360i, iCrossing, and Performics are safe bets, according to Forrester’s latest search marketing rankings. The analyst listed the three firms as leaders in the space, followed by Covario, iProspect, Impaqt, and Acronym.

But search marketing is changing rapidly, the report states. It not just about the Googles and Bings of the world any more, people are looking for answers across social networks, location-based services, and even platforms such as Pinterest. Search marketing is becoming “discovery enablement.”

That trend calls for a different breed of agency, Forrester says, or at least for agencies that are as comfortable with those environments as they are buying keywords or chasing ranking algorithms. As users become increasingly mobile, it’s also important that partners are keeping pace. Users are moving beyond the keyboard to technologies like voice search, NFC-based searches and GPS or location-based inputs.

Though the report evaluated search software products as well as agencies, it concluded that service-based partners still play a critical role for most large marketers. “Many of the challenges that marketers will encounter as they face the future of search can best be met by agencies,” report author Shar VanBoskirk wrote.

Clients polled for the survey reported that the biggest search marketing challenges they expect to face over the next two years include integrating their search marketing with other marketing initiatives, keeping pace with new developments in search, measuring ROI from their investment in the channel, and having adequate staffing resources. That’s a familiar story. Those challenges are cited by marketers for most marketing channels.

360i was crowned the leader in the space thanks to its strong paid search offerings and social capabilities. It was also called out for its focus on employee and client education but lost points for its relative lack of international capabilities.

iCrossing got kudos for its strengths in content creation, while Performics’ international scale and strong SEO offering were credited for its own high ranking.

As with all of Forrester’s “wave” reports, its search marketing report was based on a combination of vendor surveys and online customer surveys, with help and input from the vendors themselves. Vendors participated at various levels, with some providing more data and references for evaluation than others.

Full-service agencies were also discounted unless their search offerings represented a specific revenue threshold. Firm’s such as Digitas were not eligible, for example, because its search practices are relatively small despite large overall revenues.