Study: AOL Gets Highest Conversion Rate for January

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Searches conducted on AOL were most likely to lead to online consumer purchases in January, according to a new WebSideStory index. This may reflect a difference in the demographics of people visiting various search engines.


WebSideStory's index compares the median conversion rates of four major search engines at business-to-consumer e-commerce sites. AOL generated the best rate (6.17 percent), followed by MSN (6.03 percent), Yahoo (4.07 percent) and Google (3.83 percent), according to the index. WebSideStory, San Diego, provides on-demand digital marketing applications.


"With portals rich in content and services, AOL, MSN and Yahoo may tend to appeal toward a more buyer-friendly demographic," Ali Behnam, senior digital marketing consultant at WebSideStory, said yesterday. "Google, meanwhile, may appeal to more browsers -- those with less of an intent to buy."


Search marketers may want to pay more attention to the demographics of visitors to engines, just like offline marketers use demographics to place ads in print publications, said Erik Bratt, director of corporate communications. Demographic information might let online marketers more efficiently target particular consumers with their keywords.


Google showed the greatest disparity between its conversion rates from apparel Web sites (2.33 percent) versus sports and leisure sites (4.51 percent). This suggests that Google users skew male and have less intent to buy, Bratt said. In comparison, AOL had conversion rates of 5.48 percent for apparel and 5.96 percent for sports and leisure, reinforcing the notion that AOL appeals to a more buyer-friendly demographic.


All four engines achieved conversion rates above the median average, which was 1.97 percent in January, according to the index. This was down from 2.3 percent for the last three months of 2005. These conversion rates are likely to exceed industry averages because the Web sites surveyed use Web analytics to optimize their search engine marketing.


The index is compiled by using HBX Analytics technology to track the search Web site origin of visitors, using either paid or organic keywords, to the more than 30 sites that participated in this study. These e-commerce sites generate $3.7 billion in revenue yearly, Bratt said.


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