Search engine marketing research and statistics
As the use and importance of search engine marketing has developed as a business tool, there is now more research being done to help companies understand the trends in usage and the main sites being used - including which search engines are important.
As with many aspects of the web, much of the research comes from the US, but other research studies in Australia, the UK and other countries also bear out the main results being found. Here is a selection of some useful research studies:
User behaviour and search engines.
The following surveys have provided some valuable data on how web users search and interact with sites online - follow the links to the original surveys or summaries of the main findings:
- How users find new websites: - Although the surveys by the Georgia Institute of Technology in the US are now very dated, they were the first reports to track how users found new websites. The last survey at the end of 1998 showed that 85% of users found information through search engines and 58% used directories. A similar result emerged from a survey of UK web users conducted by Forrester Research in Spring 2000 which showed that 81% of users found new websites by using search engines.
- How useful are search engines?: - Another tracking survey from the US by NPD monitored the effectiveness of search engines in generating the results that users need. Using an online sample of more than 30,000 respondents, the figures showed that 81% of people using search engines find the information they need every time or most of the time. Of those who didn't find the correct information, 77% would conduct a different search on the same search engine. The results also show that 45% of users search by using multiple keywords or key phrases, 28% use one keyword, 18% search by a pre-defined option (such as browsing through a directory category) and 9% search by typing in a question.
- The importance of a high ranking: - Delving further into how users retrieve information from the web, research has shown that people rarely go beyond the top 30 results listed from a search. In fact, the top 30 results get over 90% of search traffic and the top 10 results receive nearly 80% more traffic than those in positions 11-30 achieve. Research published by Penn State University in June 2003 also showed that web users typically visited only the first three results from a query, with one in five searchers spending 60 seconds or less on a linked web document.
- How users view search results: - The use of eye-tracking software can help to show how web users view a web page when they first visit it. This data can be useful for usability studies and also search engine research has shown the 'hot spots' within a search engine results list, which helps identify the prime locations for search engine rankings. Other tracking research has helped to develop these findings.
- How search engines influence buying behaviour: - As search engines become the primary route for users to find new websites, more detailed research has been conducted into the way the search results may influence the buying behaviour of a user.
The popularity of search engines.
A number of research organisations track the volume of traffic on the web, either specifically on search engines, or on the largest web sites (which tends to include the main portals and search engines). These regular surveys illustrate the volume of web traffic that the top search engines receive. The three main services are:
- comScore Media Metrix
- A useful summary of these surveys and an analysis of their results over time can be found on the Search Engine Watch website.
Internet monitoring company Hitwise has also become established over recent years are a good source of Internet traffic data, as well as providing information on usage patterns. In the UK, a series of regular reports have provided insights into the growth of the search engine market and behaviour trends with web users:
- UK search engine usage: September 2005
- UK search engine usage: July 2005
- UK search engine usage: February 2005
The growth of search engine marketing.
With Internet marketing becoming a more mainstream medium, umbrella organisations are now tracking the growth in spend and publish data which illustrates the rapid growth in this sector over the last few years.
The growth of Internet marketing spend in Australia is reported on a regular basis by the Audit Bureau of Verification Services (ABVS) who publish annual reports and quarterly updates on the trends in the online industry:
In the UK, the IAB (previously the Interactive Advertising Bureau) has been a representative body for the online marketing industry since 1997 and it publishes quarterly reports on marketing spend within the online sector: