Sophisticated website design and Internet marketing - eVision, Connecticut

Online Marketing Newsletter - May 2004

In this issue

It's been relatively uneventful in the search engine world the past month or two, unlike the first 3 months of the year when we saw some of the most significant changes in the search engine landscape in years.

However, a couple of significant search engine user studies were recently released. I'll summarize them in this newsletter.

Survey Confirms Importance of "Natural Search Results” to marketing success.

(Natural Results = Also called “organic” or “editorial” results. These are the “traditional” search engine results that we influence by optimizing web pages).

It's been clear to us for some time, based on our clients' results and published articles and case studies) that to get the best results from search engine marketing it helps to have both good positioning in the “natural” search engine results and good positioning with search engine ads - The Pay per click (PPC) ads such as Google Adwords (displayed on Google, AOL, and many other sites) and Overture ads that are displayed on Yahoo and MSN, etc.

You've probably seen these Pay per click ads at the top or to the side of the “natural” search results. They are often called “Sponsored Listings”. They are actually small advertisements. You bid on keywords (phrases that people might search on such as “green widgets”). Whoever pays the most gets the number one slot. For each person who ‘clicks through' to your site you pay the amount you bid.

Some online marketers believe that all you need to do today is use search engine ads, bidding high enough to get your ad to the top of the listings. However, some people will not click on search engines ads believing that they are not as relevant as the natural results. Also the positioning of the PPC ads has an effect, for example most of the PPC ads on Google are listed off to the right of the natural results while on Yahoo & MSN a larger number of PPC ads are listed above the natural results (although this is changing at MSN - see below). Finally search engine ads can be very costly for competitive keyword phrases. There are times when an ad campaign just doesn't pay off because of the cost.

Well now we have some numbers from a recent survey and even I'm surprised at just how important the natural results are on Yahoo and Google.

A Search Engine User Attitudes Survey has just been published that shows:

  • About 2/3's of search engine users chose a natural search result as the most relevant on Yahoo and Google (60.8 percent at Yahoo! and 72.3 percent at Google)
  • On the other hand, almost ¾ (71.2 percent) of the searchers at MSN clicked on a paid search advertisement as the most relevant to their search
  • AOL users identified both natural search results and paid search advertisements equally as often as the most relevant
  • So in total about 2/3's (60.5 percent) of Google, Yahoo!, MSN and AOL users selected a natural search result over paid search advertisements as the most relevant on a sample query

These results show just how important it is to ensure that your web pages are being found in the natural search engine results.

For the past couple of years, some search engine marketers have been predicting the demise of Search Engine Optimization, predicting that all a web site owner need do is “pay to play” with search engine ads, bidding high enough to be near the top of the results. I think this survey shows just how off target that prediction has been so far (at least at Google and Yahoo).

However the results at MSN show just the opposite affect where almost three quarters of users chose a paid advertisement. This could be because of the difficultly in determining the difference between natural results and pay per click ads on MSN. But this is changing. MSN has already begun changing the placement of search engine results to comply with FTC recommendations regarding the labeled of Pay-per-click ads. So the results seen in this study are likely to change too. Plus MSN is expected to release its new search engine later this year or early next year with a new “look & feel” which will also affect the results seen in the survey.

In Summary, the survey shows that those who focus only one type of search result (natural or pay per click) are likely missing a significant number of potential site visitors. As we've been telling our clients, it's important to focus on improving “natural” search engine results while using paid advertisements to attract additional users.

The importance of being on the first
3 pages of Search Results

Another survey was released at the same time that confirms that most user don't go past the third page of search engine results

  • About a quarter (22.6 percent) of search engine users end their search after viewing the first few results returned
  • Another 18.6 percent stop after reading the entire first page of results. (That means almost half of users (41.2%) don't go past the first page of search results)
  • About a quarter (25.8 percent) abandon their search after the first two pages
  • Another 14.7 percent of searchers wait until they view three pages (that's 81.7% cumulative)

The study goes on to break down results by occupations, gender, age etc, but in summary the results tend to suggest that if your web page(s) isn't on the first page of search engine results, you are missing almost half of your potential market.

Further, if you don't have a web page listed within the first three pages of results you'll miss over 80% (81.7%) of your potential visitors.

Keyword Research is a vital first
step in Search Engine Marketing

(Keywords = The words and phrases that people search on when trying to find information on the web such as “green widgets”).

We just finished a keyword research project for a client and I thought this would be a good time to demonstrate how important keyword research is for search engine marketing and point out the kind of insights we often gain that can help a client with all their marketing, not just search engine marketing. We use the information we get from keyword research for just about everything else we do in search marketing (and most online marketing for that matter).

This client rents RV campsites and cabins in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, near the Smoky Mountains National Park and Dolly Parton's Dollywood theme park.

The client was aware of one important keyword phrase; "Smoky mountain cabins".

We performed a keyword research project as a first step before redesigning their web site. In a keyword research project we take words and phrases from the existing client site if there is one, their site reports if the data is available, and from their other online or print communications. Then we examine competitor's sites and perform searches to find similar sites to look at.

We enter the keywords into a search term tool that finds hundreds of other web pages that include these words and phrases. The tool suggests other related search terms that it finds on these pages. It shows us how many times each search term has been searched on in the last 60 days in a sampling of some of the major search engines and gives a prediction of how many times the phrase is being searched on each day across all the major search engines.

When we're done with this first step we usually have a long list of keyword phrases, sometimes hundreds of phrases! We then prioritize (and often categorize) the keywords. Next we choose the phrases most important to client's web site. Finally we check the competition for these phrases from other web sites so we have an idea of how difficult it will be to get on the first page of search results.

Once we're done with a keyword research project we use the results to optimize the web pages as we develop the site (and after the site is live) to get the best results with the search engines.

Very often the design of the web site itself, and even the client's other marketing efforts, can be affected by what we find. For example, here is some of what we discovered for this client:

  • There are actually more people searching for places to stay specifically in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee [where they are located] than in the broader Smoky Mountains area.
  • There are enough people searching for places to stay near Dollywood [which is also in Pigeon forge] that we should consider focusing much more on this on the web site.
  • People are looking for vacation packages built around Dollywood including tickets to Dollywood. This is something they can think about offering.
  • People are searching for specific types of rentals such as romantic packages, pet friendly rentals, pigeon forge honeymoon cabins, etc. If we focus on some of these specific packages on the site, these web pages will likely be found by people during their searching. It often easier to get on the first page of results for very specific keyword phrases as there's much less competition from other web pages for these phrases.
  • People are also searching for information about things to do in the Smoky Mountains and in Pigeon Forge (such as golfing, hiking, activities for children, car shows, listings of area attractions). We suggested the client consider including more and more information about what people are looking for on the site as time goes on. The search engines will pick this info up and more and more people will find these web pages - some of them may become customers.

George Aspland
Branford, CT


"I checked both Google and Yahoo and we show up number 1 in both under this keyword - excellent, excellent - terrific job and thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Fiona Beecy, Beazley Company Realtors

Search Engine Marketing: Optimization & Registration
First we make sure your web site is ready to be registered with the search engines and directories. We make sure it has been optimized to give you the best search engine results. Then we submit your web site to the search engines and directories that can bring you traffic. And we make sure your web site is submitted to the correct categories within the many directories that are organized by categories.

Learn more

Strategic Linking
Registering with the major search engines and directories isn't enough. We get links to your web site placed on compatible high-traffic web sites such as industry directories and "Links" pages on industry news and association web sites. We even analyze your competitors' sites to see where their traffic is coming from!

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IMPACT Marketing Messages!
Email messages and Newsletters

We can help you develop an email marketing system to keep in touch with your prospects and customers and help you find new prospects.

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Conversion Rate Improvement
Turning web site traffic into qualified leads and new business is an integral part of our service. We can evaluate the ability of your web site to persuade your visitors to take action and recommend modifications to the structure and content of the site to help convert visitors into inquiries and sales.

Copyright 2004 eVision, LLC. All rights reserved.