Study: Fortune 100 Lack SEO

The number of Fortune 100 companies who deploy effective search engine optimization (SEO) techniques has tripled in the last two years, but only a scant few have well-optimized sites, according to analysis from Oneupweb.

The 2004 study of the first 100 companies in Fortune Magazine’s Fortune 500 list revealed that only nine had definitive, ethical optimization campaigns – up from just three in 2002 – indicating that this powerful group may be missing out on valuable online market share.

Oneupweb president Lisa Wehr says the lag is an indication that SEO “simply hasn’t been important enough to appear on their radar.”

Fortune 100 SEO Usage
2002 2004
Effective SEO 3% 9%
Some to moderate SEO 44% 47%
No SEO 53% 44%
Source: Oneupweb

In talking with clients, Wehr found that a number of other reasons could also be behind the Fortune 100’s lack of a comprehensive SEO strategy. “They thought it was being done by another department,” she said, adding that they also “thought their brand reputation would be all that was necessary.”

Wehr clarified that the analyzed companies were not clients of Oneupweb, and therefore she couldn’t comment on how their SEO strategies were organized, but she thought the Fortune 100 “didn’t really understand the potential brand/market share and sales risk.”

“However, in our experience working with clients, the most successful and savvy marketers are using SEO as part of an overall plan. Additionally, each brand is using SEO as part of its brand plan, fitting in appropriately to an overall brand plan,” Wehr said.

Wehr also cited the lack of time to internally deploy an effective SEO strategy, along with the lack of budget for external help.

The study’s methodology consisted of an analysis of ethical and unethical SEO methods used on companies’ Web sites, as well as current Google positioning for each company’s primary keywords. Oneupweb conducted individual searches to determine whether each company appeared in the top 10 or top 30 listings in Google.

Among the ethical methods were unique title tags, unique meta descriptions and meta tags, relevant body text, and anchor text containing primary keywords or phrases.

Oneupweb considered comment tag keyword-stuffing, invisible text or image links, spamming with non-relevant keywords or phrases, and cloaking [define] among the unethical SEO techniques.

The Oneupweb review found that nearly half of the Fortune 100 had some optimization in place, and about one-third of those appeared in the top 10 Google results for their prospective primary keywords.

Of the sites that had no optimization campaigns in place at all, only seven of those sites appeared in Google’s top 10 listing for their respective primary keywords.

The report highlighted case studies for Cardinal Health (number 17 on the Fortune 100 list) and AutoNation (number 97), finding the companies missing from the top tiers of search results.

The study cites a Google search for “medical lab products” – one of Cardinal Health’s primary business focuses – that landed the company at position 16. A more recent search didn’t even find Cardinal Health anywhere on the pages of results, not even when “cardinal” was added to the “medical lab products” phrase.

Oneupweb’s search for AutoNation’s primary keywords – “pre-owned vehicles” or “used cars” – didn’t find the company among the first 30 Google results.

The SEO and marketing firm expected that roughly 30 companies would have made significant optimization strides since its 2002 study, however, if the Fortune 100 had grown along with the SEO industry, 95 corporations should have had well-optimized sites by now.

Oneupweb remained optimistic about the Fortune 100’s ability to come up to SEO speed, and expects the 2005 study to show significant gains. “We hope all of them are using SEO to some degree. In two years, the number using SEO well tripled. By next year we hope that number will have tripled again and 30 are using search engine optimization effectively on their corporate Web sites,” said Wehr.

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