Gartner Finds Corporate Websites Still A Higher Digital Marketing Priority For U.S. Marketers Than Facebook — Just

If you thought corporate websites were gathering the equivalent of digital dust as marketers moonlight on social media to lure in the punters, think again. According to a new poll of U.S. marketers conducted by Gartner, corporate websites are ranked as the top digital activity for marketing “success” — beating marketing on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Social media marketing, however, ranked as the next most important activity, equal in importance to online advertising.

The survey, conducted in November and December of 2012, polled a relatively small sample of 250+ marketers from U.S.-based companies with more than $500 million in annual revenue, across six industries (financial services and insurance, high-tech, manufacturing, media, retail and healthcare).

Design, development and maintenance of the corporate website was cited by 45% of survey respondents as contributing to marketing success, with marketing on social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter cited by 43%. Digital/online advertising was also cited by 43%.  The survey asked respondents to rank different marketing activities first, second and third in importance, collating all three preferences to get the overall percentage. On first place preference, corporate websites came out joint top with online advertising, cited by 18% apiece as the most important activity. Social media slumped in importance on this measure — cited by just six per cent of respondents as the most important activity (and second only to the company blog):

Gartner digital marketing

The results indicate that corporate websites still have a key role to play when it comes to marketing a company’s offerings, despite the big role also played by social media. It’s also notable that mobile marketing is still relatively low down the priorities list, with an aggregated percentage of 24%. It’s still far better than the poor unloved (and doubtless rarely updated) company blog, though, with just 6%.

“The survey results suggest that the corporate website will not be displaced anytime soon by a brand’s social media presence,” said Bill Gassman, research director at Gartner, commenting on the results in a statement.

And while the Facebookification of the Web evidently hasn’t replaced corporate websites quite yet, it does pose a challenge to marketers — in terms of making sure dull but worthy sites stand out. Gassman says marketers should therefore be investing in “measuring and optimizing their websites through Web analytics and testing, paying attention to all aspects — from customized landing pages to compelling content that encourages visitors to be engaged with your brand”.

Corporate websites perhaps have a key reputational role to play in the marketing mix, supplementing and underpining social media marketing spending — by providing reassurance of a brand’s professionalism where a Facebook page can provide evidence of user engagement/approval (or otherwise).

In other results from the survey, Gartner found the majority of respondents are spending between 10% and 50% of their marketing budget on digital marketing activities, with the average being a quarter (25%). While digital marketing spending averages 2.5% of company revenue — but budgets are expected to rise to 9%  in 2013.

In 2012, the survey found marketers allocated the largest share of their digital marketing budget (12.5%) to digital advertising, vs. 9.4% to social media marketing activities (the seventh largest share). Mobile marketing took 7.4% of the 2012 allocation.

The top priorities for increased budgets in 2013 are commerce experiences, social and mobile marketing, and content creation and management, according to the survey.