Search Study Reiterates Importance of Getting Top Organic Placement

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A new study shows that most search engine users don't look past the first three pages of results before altering their search or clicking onto a site.


The Search Engine User Behavior Study, conducted by JupiterResearch for iProspect, found that 62 percent of search engine users click on a result within the first page of results, an increase from 48 percent in 2002. By the third page, 90 percent have clicked on a result, which is up from 2002's 81 percent, according to the study.


IProspect, Watertown, MA, said the increase represents an improvement in the ability of search engine algorithms to provide relevant results. The growth of the search engine marketing industry also has lead to a much higher percentage of Web sites being professionally optimized, with the aim of getting sites to turn up at the top of the pile.


"If your site is not found on the first page -- or within the first three pages of search results -- you might as well be putting up a billboard in the woods," said iProspect president Robert Murray.


The experience of searchers also must be considered. Users are becoming more adept at devising successful search terms and quicker to try another search if their initial one hasn't located the right results, the study said. In addition, 88 percent of search engine users will change search terms or use a different search engine if the desired result does not turn up within three pages.


The study also examined loyalty to search engines. When re-launching an unsuccessful search, 82 percent of users use the same search engine as they did for their initial search but add more keywords. In 2002, this figure was only 68 percent. These statistics suggest that marketers need to expand their keyword targeting by thoroughly examining log file data to make sure their sites are found, the study said.


IProspect said 36 percent of search engine users think that companies appearing at the top of search results are leaders in their field. It appears some users still think that search engines use prominence to determine the ranking of search results. The study suggests that marketers can use this misconception to garner brand equity by appearing earlier on in the results.


A total of 2,369 users responded to the 25-question survey. Jupiter Research balanced the sample to ensure that it was representative of the online population. The study can be found at www.iprospect.com/about/searchenginemarketingwhitepapers.htm.


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