Search Engines Fail to Draw Marketing Dollars

Search engines may be the top method for finding sites on the Web, but only a small percentage of businesses have dedicated a portion of their marketing budget for building cohesive search engine strategies, according to a report from CyberAtlas Research (a division of INT Media Group, Inc., the parent company of this site).

The report, “Search Engine Optimization Strategies: A Marketer’s Perspective,” found that nearly 46 percent of the marketers surveyed for the report said they allocate less than 0.5 percent of their annual marketing budgets on search engine optimization (SEO) services, while only 10 percent spend more than 25 percent of their marketing budgets on increasing their visibility on the Web.

Nearly 70 percent of the respondents were “somewhat satisfied” or less with the Web traffic they receive from search engines, which suggests there is an opportunity for players in the SEO field to gain revenue from driving more visitors to client’s Web sites. Less than one-quarter (24 percent) of those surveyed said that 75 percent or more of their traffic came from search engine referrals, while 25 percent said that less than 25 percent of their Web traffic originates from search engines. According to the report, this makes it difficult for marketers to know what to expect from initiating SEO regimens or participating in paid placement programs.

The visibility of corporate Web sites remains a high priority, with only 13 percent of those surveyed not knowing how much traffic they got from search engines and online directories. Travel, food, accommodation, healthcare and retail sectors rely heavily on search engines for directing visitors to their Web sites. Manufacturing and government agencies rely the least on search engines for referred Web traffic.

The survey respondents also reported that search engine audits are performed frequently. Nearly 85 percent of those surveyed said they audit their search engine listings monthly or more frequently. Only 7 percent said they never monitor their site placements in search engines. Nearly 65 percent of respondents perform SEO activities at least monthly, and 13 percent weekly. In-house staff performs more than 80 percent of SEO activities, while consultants from outside the organization perform only 13 percent. Marketers reported the same level of satisfaction with SEO efforts whether done in house or outsourced.

The report also found that the adoption of paid placement and submission programs offered by major search engines has grown dramatically, further indicating that free listings may be a thing of the past. More than 30 percent of the firms surveyed have utilized paid participation programs from Yahoo, GoTo.com and LookSmart. The majority of marketers using these services said the best results are produced by targeted marketing programs that leverage select keywords, primarily because these programs increased the volume of relevant traffic to their Web sites.

How important are search engines to the traffic of a Web site? According to a study by IMT Strategies that asked 400 consumer and business email users how they discovered new Web sites, 45.8 percent cited search engines as their top method. Word of mouth was mentioned by 20.3 percent, followed by random surfing at 19.9 percent. Banner ads (1 percent) trailed accidents (2.1 percent), newspapers (1.4 percent) and television (1.4 percent).

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