It's been a busy few weeks for reports about search engine marketing issues, with three different publications having been released recently. They cover the issues of selecting a search engine marketing firm, which search engine marketing strategies seem to work and a review of how the web sites of Fortune 100 companies rate in terms of search engine friendliness.
The first, "Buyers' Guide to Search Engine Optimization & Positioning Firms," is an outstanding resource that fills a long-needed gap. There has simply never been this type of comprehensive guide to firms that conduct search engine marketing, and the report is a real must buy for anyone considering outsourcing their search engine marketing efforts.
Published by MarketingSherpa, the 100 page report covers 24 search engine marketing firms, with at least another 31 to be added over the coming months. Along with profiles of the firms, it also has an outstanding introduction to the many different ways that search engine optimization firms approach the task of building traffic. The report costs $119, when downloaded in PDF format, or $129 for a print version.
Who made the cut to be reviewed? A post for recommended search engine marketing firms was sent to several mailing lists frequented by web marketers. Over 100 responses came back, and a list of the initial 24 firms was compiled, when duplicates and subcontractors were removed. The concept was to use this type of survey to find what are the leading firms, at least in terms of reputation.
It was a good approach, especially in that since the SEO industry lacks any type of trade group to determine who is biggest. Nor does biggest necessarily mean the best. After all, independent consultants might perform outstanding work as well as firms with many employees. At least this report provides a first benchmark to "who's who" in the industry.
One part of the MarketingSherpa report calls search engines "the ultimate, cost-effective online guerrilla marketing tactic" and adds that "if search engines are not driving a solid percentage of your traffic, then you have not optimized properly." But what's a solid percentage? The report notes this could vary between 5 to 100 percent, depending on your overall marketing mix.
Isn't there a better figure that can be found? That's one of the questions several questions that "Search Engine Optimization Strategies: A Marketer's Perspective" aimed to answer.
I know this new 46-page report well, because I cowrote it with Search Engine Watch associate editor Chris Sherman for CyberAtlas. Whereas the MarketingSherpa report is a first in surveying SEO firms, the CyberAtlas report is a first in surveying so many web site owners about a wide-range of tactics they follow to achieve success with search engines. The report is $195, when downloaded in PDF format, using the special URL below.
The focus wasn't about specific search engine optimization techniques, such as how many search terms can go into a meta keywords tag. Instead, it was an overview of the collective search engine marketing experiences of over 400 web site owners and marketers.
For instance, we found that there was no conclusive answer to the "how much traffic should you get from search engines" question. Nearly as many respondents (24 percent) said they received more than 75 percent of their web traffic from search engines as those who indicated they got less than 25 percent. In fact, answers for the entire range of traffic volumes were nearly evenly matched in responses. Truly, how much traffic others get is no great measure of how well or poorly you are doing.
The report examined the take-up of paid participation programs. Paid submission to Yahoo and LookSmart and paid listings with GoTo were by far the most popular programs, each used by over 30 percent of those survey (you could select as many programs as you used). Paid inclusion from Inktomi and Google's paid placement programs also had some significant usage, around the 20 percent mark.
Another finding was that about half (46 percent) of those responding said they spent less than 0.5 percent of their annual marketing budgets on search engine optimization, which was pretty shocking, given that search engine listings are becoming widely recognized as one of the most targeted and cost-effective types of advertising available.
The third search engine-related report released recently comes from search engine positioning firm iProspect. The company surveyed the web sites of the Fortune 100 companies and found that 97 percent of them had some type of site architecture problem that might give them problems being found by search engines.
One fact from the report's press release is that the study found that half the companies reviewed had meta keyword tags. However, it determined that the tags didn't make use of key products or services offered by those companies. If they had, it might have increased the chances of the companies getting some valuable traffic from search engines.
The press release overstates the problem, however, suggesting that the lack of accurate meta data means that pages about products and services from these companies "will in all likelihood not appear in the query results." The web's major human powered search engines, such as Yahoo, make no use of meta data to compile their listings. In addition, Google -- one of the web's most popular crawler-based search engines -- also doesn't use the meta keywords tag. In these instances, accurate or inaccurate meta data would have no bearing on rankings.
The report is available in two forms. A $195 summary version provides an overview of findings, with some interesting comparisons to how things have changed since 1998 (better, but there's plenty of room for improvement), along with an industry-by-industry breakdown. The $2,000 full copy presumably provides a close up look at each company's web sites, providing details on problems that were found.
Buyers' Guide to Search Engine Optimization & Positioning Firms
MarketingSherpa, Sept. 2001
Learn more about the report here or purchase it for immediate download. There's a money-back guarantee, and the report comes with a special web site where updates will be posted. You can also download the first 12 pages of the book for free, which contain introduction to the world of search engine optimization firms.
Search Engine Optimization Strategies: A Marketer's Perspective
CyberAtlas, August 2001
Using the URL above, you can download the CyberAtlas report at a discounted rate.
How visible is the Fortune 100 to Web Searchers?
The iProspect report can be ordered here.
Fortune 100 Companies Damage Their Ability To Be Found Online By Prospective Customers
iProspect, Sept. 10, 2001
Release about the iProspect report.
Five Myths That Stop Companies From Hiring Search Engine Optimization Experts They Desperately Need
B2BMarketingBiz.com, Sept. 25, 2001
Reasons why you might consider outsourcing your SEO efforts.
Selecting a Search Engine Optimization Provider
SearchDay, Sept. 20, 2001
Choosing an SEO provider to make your site more easily found in search engines requires more than just hiring a cocky keyword-slinger or meta tag hacker--the best SEOs are masters of multiple skills.
More Search Engine Optimization
This page for Search Engine Watch members has a list of articles about selecting SEO firms, as well as other resources relating to search engine optimization.
Avoiding The Search Gap
The Search Engine Report, May 2, 2001
Other surveys have found search engines generate 6 to 7 percent of a site's traffic. Learn why this number may seem so low in comparison to the percentage of people who use search engines -- and why it means you need to make a good impression. Search Engine Watch members -- use the link at the top of the article to reach the members-only version of the article.