Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Top Search Engines Show You the Money.

Do Search Engines Drive Internet and Offline sales?

According to a recent article by Jason Miller, a reporter for Web Pro News "MSN searchers were 48% more likely to buy online than the average Internet user. His info was based on a report from the month of June by comScore Networks, Inc. The report also indicated that "Google users 42% more likely" to buy than the average Internet users.

On the flip side of this good news was the lackluster ecommerce involvement of AOL users who were only 3% more likely to make a purchase than the average Internet user. This is significant to know because search engine users have been traditional thought of as better potential customers than other types of Internet traffic. Search engine users are proactively looking for information with specifically targeted search terms, and therefore are considered by many marketers as direct response driven targeted prospects.

One theory is the reason MSN searchers may be more likely to buy is that the majority of them are women (who many times make more buying decisions for their families), while the majority of Google users are men at 51%.

This theory doesn't really hold up because AOL subscribers are 52% women but who tend "NOT" to make many more purchases than the average Internet user. Perhaps MSN users are slightly more upscale than Google, Yahoo! or AOL users.

The comScore study also reiterated what a lot of recent studies have shown by other sources the more sophisticated and complex search terms are the more likely the searchers using those terms are to making an online purchase.

Another interesting revelation in this article is that many searchers (85%) made their purchases offline 5 to 12 weeks after the initial search session. Only 15% made a purchase during the first search session (which by the way is very high because most websites have a initial conversion rate of .5 - 1%).

It is because of these facts that search engine marketing is debated as a direct marketing tool because their usage may precede a purchase by as much as 60 to 90 days. According to the comScore study most searches (70%) started out as generic generalized terms and then became more specific. Only about 20% of the search terms started out as brand names like Sony, HP, or Dell.

It must be mentioned here however that closer to the buying circle more brand names are used in searches.

A deeper look at the comScore study also showed that "search played a role in roughly half of all online purchases."

The comScore study was commissioned by DoubleClick because comScore had a panel of 1.5 million U.S. Internet consumers.

In is also interesting to note (in a different study) that According to Hitwise, an online competitive intelligence service, search engines contributed greatly to the record traffic to shopping and classified sites last Dec. 11th, 2004 of (9.73 percent). In other words search engines drove about 10% of Holiday sales. The specific traffic drivers were Google (4.26 percent), Yahoo! (2.24 percent) and MSN 0.54.

According to the Hitwise research Google seems to drive retail traffic of books, sports, fitness and music. Hitwise further reveals "Yahoo! search is stronger in sending its shopping referrals to: ... video and games, automotive, and classifieds". MSN sends a higher share of its shopping referrals to Apparel & Accessories, House & Garden, and Appliances & Electronics".

This definitely shows that search engine marketing is an important part of the marketing mix of most companies especially in the retail industry. Search Engine (SEs) may take a few months to manifest themselves, but SEs without a doubt drive sales down the info superhighway showing us the money along the way.