August 31, 2004, 12:00 AM

Less than 10% of Fortune 100 use search engine optimization effectively

The nine well-optimized sites identified in OneUpWeb’s new study represent a surprisingly small increase from the three it cited in a similar study two years ago. Failure to optimize risks market-leader status, the study warns.


Despite their high-profile market presence, less than 10% of Fortune 100 companies use search engine optimization effectively, according to a new study by search marketing company OneUpWeb. The nine well-optimized corporate sites found in this year’s survey represent a surprisingly low increase from the three sites it identified when OneUpWeb last conducted the study in 2002, according to OneUpWeb president Lisa Wehr, who argues that leading companies who miss the boat on optimizing sites for search are allowing competitors to usurp their leadership online.

If the optimization of Fortune 100 sites had kept pace with the growth in the SEO industry itself, the number of even moderately well-optimized sites should exceed 95 companies by now, the study contends. “Customers expect to see the names they know as a dominant force in the places they live,” says Wehr. "More and more, they’re living online”

OneUpWeb’s study found that of the 100 sites-the study focused principally on corporate home pages-clear optimization campaigns could be identified on nine. These campaigns included ethical optimization techniques, such as unique title tags including primary keywords placed throughout the site and relevant body text indexable by search engines that includes primary keywords. Sites in this group included the corporate sites of Hewlett-Packard, AT&T; and BankOne. Of the nine, seven sites appeared in Google’s top 10 results for searches under their respective primary keywords.

An additional 47 sites had some optimization in place, and of this group, three appeared in Google’s top 10 results for their particular primary keywords. Issues with optimization in this group ranged from poor or overly repetitious meta keywords and description tags-basically, spamming-and having titles and meta tags well-optimized for primary keywords, but no other on-page optimization. Included in this group were the corporate sites of Walgreen’s and Bristol-Meyers.

A total of 44 sites had no optimization. Of this group, seven appeared in Google’s top 10 listings for their respective primary keywords. The sites typically had title tags with nothing more than the company name, no meta tags, and no indexable text. Among those in this group were the corporate sites of Ford Motor Co., J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and K-Mart Corp.

Though it might be argued that the corporate sites of industry giants don’t need to be well-optimized because they’re already well-known, failure to optimize can result in the loss of sales, according to the study. As an example, AutoNation, which has promoted itself as the country’s largest automotive retailer of new and used vehicles “both on and off the web,” doesn’t appear in the first 30 Google results for the keywords “pre-owned vehicles,” “used cars” or “used car.”

“The Goliaths of business leadership risk being unseated by their smarter ( and possibly smaller) competitors who realize the benefits of effective SEO strategies financially and from a branding perspective,” concludes the study.


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