Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - May 2006
Welcome to the latest edition of our monthly newsletter on web search and marketing issues.
This month we review some newly published research on the importance of achieving ranking positions within the top 3 pages of search results, which shows some interesting comparisons to similar figures compiled 4 years ago.
We also look at Google Sitemaps and how these can be used effectively for any website to help it get indexed and to provide useful data, as well as new features just introduced by Google.
Finally we consider the use of landing pages to increase conversions from search visitors and what factors might need to be considered when developing this element of a website.
To find out more, please read on below and follow the links to the full articles available on our website. If you want to refer to any items included in previous editions, you can find them here
On to this month's news...
The importance of being ranked
It's common knowledge that if you don't get your site ranking in the first few pages of a search engines results, then it isn't likely to attract much traffic for that search term. New research in the US has now identified the likely traffic volumes for the first 3 pages and compares this to previous results, demonstrating that the top 30 results are essential places to be.
Online research conducted by Jupiter Research and sponsored by US search marketing company iProspect, asked over 2,000 web users a series of questions about their search behaviour. It found that 62% of search engine users click on a search result within the first page of results, and a full 90% of users click on a result within the first three pages of the search results. This clearly indicates the importance of a ranking within the first 30 results for any relevant search term - either through the natural listings or sponsored results.
Compared to similar research in 2002, these figures were just 48% and 81% respectively, which seems to indicate that searchers are becoming more lazy, more sophisticated, or that the search engines have become more effective at delivering the desired results. Unfortunately the study does not investigate these distinctions but suggests that users have indeed become savvier because 41% of users who do not find satisfactory results in the first page of results either change search term or search engine, compared with 28% four years ago.
This seems a simplistic approach to explaining these statistics, since there are so many factors that would affect the differences in behaviour reported in 2002 versus 2006. During those four years, companies like Google and Yahoo have become household names with a massive influence on the search market, so nowadays you would expect to find what you want in the first three results pages, or you might assume that your search term could be improved. However, the point remains that people are either becoming less willing to - or just don't need to - delve down into the search results beyond the first 3 pages and therefore the concentration and competition for these high positions becomes more intensive.
Another interesting finding that came out of this study is that 36% of the users surveyed believe that companies whose websites appear at the top of the natural search results are the top companies in their field. To put that finding in context, slightly more people (39%) felt neutral about this question and 25% said that top search engine rankings had nothing to do with market or brand leadership.
This is particularly interesting if you consider yourself a brand leader and are not highly ranked, or in contrast, if you have a top ranking despite not being a brand leader. Either of these two groups would know the correct answer, but understandably many people believe that free-market principles would dictate that the bigger the brand the bigger the budget, and so the top ranked company should be the brand or market leader. It's not always the case and as long as a top ranking site delivers what the searcher is looking for, then it has achieved the most important requirement.
If you'd like to receive a copy of this research, or to discuss its implications for your search engine marketing strategy, please contact us for more details.
Google Sitemaps add new features
Last year Google launched its Sitemaps program, which allows webmasters to submit details of all their website's pages in xml or text format, so that they can be considered for inclusion in Google's index. In the past few days, Google has announced additional new features for this program.
Google Sitemaps tends to be of most benefit to large, database driven websites, although it also provides a range of information and statistics that can be useful for any site. We have provided an overview here of the most useful information this program provides:
- An overview of how Google sees the website, including the last date Google successfully crawled the site's homepage, plus a summary of errors and potential indexing problems.
- A list of the phrases which a website appears for most frequently in the search results are provided, as well as the phrases which generate the most clicks through to a website.
- Details of any errors that Google is encountering are displayed, plus information on how Google is interpreting any 'robots' information on your website.
- In the last few days Google has also added a feature to notify site owners if their site is being penalised for breaking their guidelines. Matt Cutts, head of Google's web spam team provides an overview of this feature on his blog. This indicates that sitemap accounts are fast becoming Google's mechanism for communicating with webmasters more openly - something it has never done before.
Across the other leading search engines, Yahoo now accepts either text or xml sitemap submissions (Yahoo login required), but does not yet provide statistics, whilst there is no similar offering from MSN or ASK.
In summary, Google Sitemaps are becoming an increasingly useful tool for analysing how Google views a website and to help it get indexed successfully. If you do not already have a Google Sitemap file set up for your website, please contact us as we would be happy to create one for you.
Using landing pages to improve PPC advertising effectiveness
As more and more companies enter the pay-per-click (PPC) advertising market, forcing the average cost per click to rise, so the conversion of visits to business becomes ever more important to companies in order to make such a campaign successful. One of the main ways to achieve this is to create relevant and effective landing pages.
Landing pages describe the page on a website that users enter from the search results listing - either from a PPC advert or a 'natural' search ranking. These pages may be existing pages within a website or they can be specially created pages that directly relate to the search term or theme being searched for by the prospective visitor.
In its simplest form, an effective landing page should provide the user with the relevant information they are looking for and then make it simple for them to take the resulting action that's required - whether to make an enquiry, sign up for a newsletter or to make a purchase. Therefore, for whatever search term a user may be looking for, you need to consider what is the best content page to send them to and how quickly can they then take an action.
Landing pages need to work on several levels. They need to avoid physical barriers, such as slow-loading pages, broken links, perhaps the need to register through a complex form before taking further action, or a lengthy checkout process. They also need to be persuasive, with convincing and clear copy that relates to their search, perhaps one or more compelling images, and a direct 'call to action'.
If your website has been designed and written effectively, then you should have a good range of landing pages in place to take advantage of the relevant search terms and potential search traffic that they generate. Your Home Page is not always best option and sometimes specific landing pages for a search marketing campaign should be created and tested with a series of different approaches to see what impact different factors may have on conversion rates.
There are certainly a wide range of factors to consider with landing pages in a search marketing campaign and we will be covering this issue in future editions of this newsletter. However, if you would like to discuss landing pages and how they can be used effectively with your website, please contact us now.
Book review - Connected Marketing
For this month's book review we look at a new title that covers the broader area of online marketing which can also be hard to achieve - viral, or 'buzz' marketing, through word of mouth and other communication channels on the Internet. Done well, this marketing technique can be extremely effective in building traffic and brand awareness online and Connected Marketing contains contributions from a series of specialists in this field.
Read the full review of Connected Marketing here.
We hope you've found this month's issue useful. Please contact us if you need any more details on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website's performance. Also, if there are any issues you would like to see in future editions of this newsletter, please submit your suggestions.