- May 2004
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
users identified both natural search results
and paid search advertisements equally as
often as the most relevant
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
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)
a quarter (25.8 percent) abandon their search
after the first two pages
14.7 percent of searchers wait until they
view three pages (that's 81.7% cumulative)
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
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.
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).
client rents RV campsites and cabins in the
Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, near the Smoky
Mountains National Park and Dolly Parton's Dollywood
client was aware of one important keyword phrase;
"Smoky mountain cabins".
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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