The Associated Press reported that online advertising has felt the recent economic slump, falling 5% in the first half of 2009.  Although online advertising as a whole has felt the pressure, search advertising seems to be doing fine.  Google Inc., which controls 2/3 of the search advertising market, reported  a 4% gain during the first half of the year.

So what does this mean? Maybe nothing, and we are simply seeing fluctuations due to an unsteady market.  However, it could also be a sign that search marketing is continuing to eat away at other forms of online advertising.  Consumers continue to rely heavier on web search as a prominent source of educational, entertainment and business related information and media.   This supports the fact that getting basic SEO on a website now will provide enhanced dividends in the future.

During an economic downturn, if consumers are still attuned to peripheral  Pay-Per-Click ads (like Google Adwords), they must be even more familiar with getting what they want within the actual search results.   As far as spending money on marketing, getting a higher search ranking for a website would probably place among the highest cost / benefit ratios of any advertising budget.