May 27, 2010, 12:01 PM

Internet Retailer Survey: Search engine marketing remains a top priority as new engines and techniques arise

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In the survey, 36.4% of retailers say they are working with search engines to incorporate images into paid and natural search results. 40.4% say they are not, but plan to; 23.2% say no and have no plans to do so.

The image effect
Images seem to be having an effect on consumers searching for products. 23.5% of retailers using images report a 1-5% increase in click-through rates, 17.6% say a 6-10% jump, 11.8% report an 11-15% boost, 2.9% report a 16-20% increase, 5.9% say a more than 20% jump, and 38.2% report no improvement.

“I find it surprising that 38% can have no improvement. You are boosting the text; an improvement has to be there,” Bose says. “Images definitely have a positive impact on the overall return. The overall click-through rate has gone up for our clients 11-15%. As long as they are proving to be helpful to the marketer, images definitely will go up in importance in 2010.”

Forrester’s VanBoskirk agrees that images can enhance the click-through rate for a paid search ad or natural search result, and that the number of images consumers see in search results will increase. However, she feels retailers can make better use of their time elsewhere.

“There are a lot more sophisticated things a retailer can be doing than just throwing an image in the search results,” she says. “How can you better tailor the content of your ad to the users’ intent, for example. I’m a lot more cynical on the image front. The ultimate value images will show will be tempered by better keyword strategies and better deciphering of users’ intent.”

Whether it’s digging in and enhancing paid keyword strategies, better optimizing an e-commerce site to appear higher in natural search results, trying out new search engines like Bing or testing new techniques like incorporating images into search results, one thing is clear: Retailers have to stay on top of search engine marketing because it is a marketing channel that not only brings in the customers but brings in the cash.

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