MarketLive Report: Maximizing Search Engine Marketing

A report by MarketLive offers tips and tactics for improving search results, from keyword management to avoiding duplicate URLs.

There's no question that search-engine marketing is critical to the success of any e-tail business. But with search marketing becoming increasingly expensive and complex, it's hard to know where to focus your time, energy and money. To help, MarketLive next Monday will release a report that provides snapshots of trends in search marketing and offers practical advice e-tailers can use to maximize the effectiveness of both organic and paid search campaigns. We got a sneak peek at the report and have summarized some of the most pertinent insights — and tactics — you can employ to make your virtual cash registers ring.


The second volume of the MarketLive Performance Index (the first was released in June and focused on site usability) is based on data from a range of 150 online merchants and offers tips for optimizing search.


Customer Loyalty and Conversion Goes to MSN
Perhaps one of the most surprising findings in the report is that MSN beat the competition for conversion rates. Data highlights for the second quarter of this year include a detailed look into search, and in the performance breakdown of the top three search engines, the findings were as follows:

  • Google delivers over 23 percent of overall traffic to e-commerce sites, the highest among top three search providers;
  • Google generates approximately 14 percent of overall revenue for e-commerce sites, highest among top three search providers; and
  • MSN achieves the highest conversion rate of top three search engines, at 4.61 percent.

In fact, in terms of customer loyalty, MSN is the leader, according to the study, which states, "compared to Google, MSN delivers 21 percent higher return customers and 38 percent more loyal customers."


As a result, the report advises e-tailers to "look beyond Google." It says, "Place a higher consideration on MSN when budgeting dollars and resources for search engine marketing; not only is competition for keywords less strenuous, but the return on investment and lifetime value is likely to be higher as well."


The study also compared the overall performance of paid search versus natural search and found that merchants are finally starting to benefit from their investments in paid search. While natural search drives a higher percentage of traffic and revenue versus paid search, the study says that, on average, paid search delivers a conversion rate of 2.93 percent, a 16-percent increase over natural search.


So, it makes sense for e-tailers to use both paid and nonpaid search, with the report recommending that paid search be used as a way to test the effectiveness of keywords in natural search.


Speaking of keywords, the Performance Index offers some detailed strategies for this critical aspect of search marketing. Consider this: "According to Forrester Research, 64 percent of current search marketers manage a tiny volume of keywords — fewer than 500. As Forrester states, "Five hundred words is the vocabulary of a three-year-old ... adding keywords beyond the most popular ones taps into search marketing's 'long tail,' that is, the thousands of low-cost keywords that generate few searches independently, but collectively represent a large audience.'"


Keyword Ka-Ching
Tips for growing your keywords include using generic terms, but also descriptive ones that narrow the focus as well as targeted phrases that describe just one product or service.


Additionally, the report advises that e-tailers "practice the art of word stemming." For instance, "if 'educate' was part of a keyword phrase, educated, educates, education and educating should also be considered." You should also consider including your business location, if your operations depend on a geographical area.


If you have the budget to pay for outside help, the study recommends using Word Tracker or Keyword Discovery in addition to free tools offered by Google and Yahoo paid search programs.


(continue to page 2 for more tactics on sitemap creation and duplication avoidance)

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