US firms increased their spending on search marketing during the first quarter of 2008, a new report has revealed.

A study conducted by SearchIgnite has shown that despite gloomy economic conditions, the first three months saw stronger search marketing growth than previously anticipated.

Roger Barnette, president of the agency, explained that many advertisers invested more of their budget into the medium.

However, the SearchIgnite study expressed concerns that search marketing spending slowed in March, suggesting that the second quarter could see less spent on search engine marketing.

Mr Barnette added: "While search budgets have been relatively insulated from marketing budget cuts, some of the incremental dollars have been taken off the table."

Earlier this month, Karen D Schwartz, writing for EWeek, suggested that search engine optimization and marketing tactics could be a low-cost way for businesses to build consumer relationships during a recession.

She added that online marketing is comparatively inexpensive compared to other promotional tools, making it the ideal focus during an economic slowdown.