Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - April 2005
This month we consider the increasing use of weblogs and how these can be used to support the online marketing of a business website. We have also included some information on a number of recent research reports on search engine usage and also the latest market shares in the UK. Finally, we report on several announcements from the pay-per-click advertising market, including the predicted launch of a new programme by MSN Search.
To find out more, please read on below. You can also browse through previous editions and if you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, just submit your details using the form at the side of the page.
On to this month's news...
Using weblogs as a marketing tool
Weblogs or 'blogs' have become increasingly widespread on the Internet in recent years. Initially these were written by individuals within a specific interest area but more recently we have seen businesses start to use them as a marketing tool, particularly in quite specialist markets.
A well written, frequently updated blog can establish your business's credibility as an expert in its field, develop an affinity with potential customers and can also allow you to respond current issues related to your business in an informal manner.
It can also provide a number of benefits for your search engine traffic.
- It is a good way of creating more content on your website that can be used to target keywords relevant to your business;
- Any other websites that link to the content on your blog can benefit your website's link popularity.
- Search engines also tend to crawl frequently updated websites on a more regular basis, which can be of great help when you are trying to develop the search engine optimisation on your website.
Of course a successful weblog needs to be frequently updated, requires time and a talent for writing. However, done well it can a very cost effective marketing tool than can build on the strengths of your existing website.
For more information on blogs, this acticle provides a good overview or to find out more how weblogs could be used to market your business, contact us to discuss what options may be possible.
Eye tracking research into website usage
An interesting study was published recently on how web users view the rankings appearing on a search engine results page. The US based company Eyetools, used 'eye tracking' software to monitor the way that 50 users viewed a set of Google search results.
The result of this research, shown in this screen shot, found that 100% of users looked at the top 3 listings on the page with only 20% of users looking at the 10th ranked website. It also showed that people tend to view the 'organic listings' on the left of the screen more than the pay-per-click listings to the right.
The research highlights the benefits of achieving a much prized top 3 ranking. It also indicated that getting a pay-per-click listing at the top left of the page - which is often allocated to the top two advertisers for popular terms - can allow for significantly more traffic than further down the page. However, whether this increased volume of traffic is as cost-effective is another matter that needs to be measured!
A press release on the findings can be found here.
Although not entirely surprising, this research adds another level of understanding on search engine usage and the balance of traffic between 'natural' and PPC traffic, at least on Google. The results would also indicate that on Overture's partners, where in most cases the top sponsored results are displayed on the left above the main 'natural' listings, the clickthrough rates are likely to be higher.
The use of eye tracking software to identify the 'hot spots' on a web page are one thing for search results. It could also be used to assess how well your website performs in getting visitors to view the important content on your site and follow links or take action. To view a case study of this type of work, view the PDF document here
To find out more about implementing user research for your website, contact us now for details.
Search engine usage in the UK
Staying on the subject of user research, the Internet monitoring company Hitwise has just released some interesting information about UK service engine usage during February 2005.
Hitwise's web traffic data confirmed that Google is the top UK search engine and also splits this usage between the .co.uk domain and the .com version. Following Google's recent introduction of IP redirection which sends UK-based users to the .co.uk version, the latest data shows that this site is now used for 63.7% of all UK web searches, whilst Google.com was used for 7.7% of search traffic - therefore a total share of 71.4%.
This represents a massive domination of the market, with Google's nearest competitors showing a much lower market share. Yahoo has an 8.4% share of search traffic with 5.5% coming from the UK site and 2.9% from the .com version. Figures for the new MSN Search tool show that the UK version attracted a 7.9% share during this period. This leaves a further 12.3% for all the other search engines, such as Ask Jeeves, Lycos and AltaVista.
The Hitwise data also shows that Google is more dominant as a search tool in the UK than the US, where it has a lower share of search traffic at 56.7% as it faces more competition from Yahoo, which shows a 29.9% market share.
The research also showed that different UK search engines tend to be used for different purposes. For example, MSN and Wanadoo (Overture/Yahoo results) tend to send more searchers to travel sites than other search engines, while Ask Jeeves is stronger for shopping and classified categories.
Changes to the pay-per-click advertising market
The pay-per-click advertising market looks set to change over the next year with announcements from both Yahoo and MSN over the last month.
Yahoo has announced that it will be renaming the Overture service (which it purchased in 2003) as Yahoo Search Marketing Solutions over the next few months. However, this is largely a branding change and the service being offered looks set to stay much the same in the near future.
MSN, as expected, have just announced they will begin offering their own pay-per-click advertising service, possibly within the next 18 months in the UK. It will be tested within 6 months in France and Singapore in the first instance and then rolled out to other markets after this. Currently MSN use adverts supplied by Overture and have a contract for this to continue until June 2006.
The most innovative feature of the new MSN PPC service that was announced will be the opportunity to target different geographic locations and demographic groups by using information gained from users' profiles on the widely used Hotmail and MSN Messenger services.
Effectively this will eventually mean that most major advertisers will need to use Google AdWords, Overture and MSN to ensure best coverage of the UK market, especially if MSN's share increases. This will mean increased management time required for a business operate all three accounts successfully, but hopefully we should see improving service levels as competition between these three providers increases.
If you want to find out more about using pay-per-click advertising to support your online business, please contact us for more information.