Despite an abundance of resources spent on paid search advertising by marketers, a majority of search engine users say natural search results are more relevant to their needs. So say the findings of a recent survey by search engine marketing firm iProspect.com Inc.
The Search Engine User Attitudes survey found that of respondents indicating a preference among major search engines Google, Yahoo, MNS and AOL, 60.5% selected search results generated by natural search under a sample query on that engine as more relevant than paid results delivered by the same engine under the same term.
The takeway for this finding is that marketers need a search strategy that includes both natural and paid search, says iProsepct CEO Fredrick Marckini. “Marketers not investing in natural search engine optimization and paid inclusion programs are missing a large percentage of potential traffic. The same is true for the reverse; marketers who are only investing in natural search and paid inclusion miss nearly 40% of search engine users,” he says.
Users of Google and Yahoo in particular placed greater importance on natural search results, with 60.8% of respondents indicating a preference for Yahoo and 72.3% of Google users selecting natural search results as the most relevant to the sample query. By contrast, users of MSN identified paid search advertisements as the most relevant. Users of AOL found natural and paid search advertisements to be equally relevant, with 50% choosing natural search results and 50% choosing paid.
The findings, adds Robert Murray, iProspect president, may suggest that paid inclusion programs, which don’t guarantee placement of a retailer’s listings in search results but do guarantee that the retailer`s pages will be in the engine’s index for consideration, will contribute a larger percentage of search engines’ revenue than they do today. “With the Google IPO imminent, it remains to be seen if Google’s historic stance not to offer paid inclusion programs changes, due to pressure from the marketplace,” he says.
IProspect’s Search Engine User Attitudes Survey, based on 1,649 online survey respondents, was completed in March in partnership with WebSurveyor, Strategem Research and Survey Sampling International.