Search marketing consultants and SEM evangelists often have a hard time getting decision makers to understand the results that a search marketing campaign will generate. Business owners that are not familiar with the ideas behind search engine marketing often want to know exactly what their investment is going to purchase. Questions like "what rank will I have for phrase X" and "how many new visitors will I gain next month" are understandable, but usually unrealistic. No search engine marketer has the ability to predict the exact rank that their work will achieve, nor can they tell a company exactly how many visitors their work will send.

This problem is often even more difficult to overcome for companies whose only search marketing experience has been in the pay-per-click realm. It is easy for a company president to look over an Adwords or Overture report and realize that their $1000 investment has purchase 4500 visitors in the past month. After all, they know ahead of time that they are paying a certain amount for each visitor that comes to their site. Pay-per-click is rightly seen not as a long term investment, but as the actual purchase of visitors. It's often not so easy for them to plunk down that same $1000 toward organic optimization services since search engine marketing companies have no way of telling them exactly what results that $1000 will purchase. A good search marketing company will not guarantee specific placements or traffic numbers, they can only promise to do work that will result in increased rankings.

A recently released study by Oneupweb may help search marketers quantify the rewards that come with investing in a strong organic search marketing program. While click-thru rates among organic listings can vary dramatically based on industry, title tags and actual placement in the search results, Oneupweb's study focuses on showing the average traffic and conversion impact that can come with moving a Web site's listing onto the first three pages of Google.

To put together the study results, Oneupweb reviewed the traffic and conversion data for more than 100 keywords in a variety of retail industries over three distinct time periods: the month before a site entered the first three pages, the month after a site appeared on the first three pages, and two months after a site appeared on the first three pages. The study covered search terms that ranged from generating zero visitors per month on up to terms that generated 780 visitors per month.

The study revealed that the first month a keyword listing shows up on the second or third page of search results, the traffic for that term increases five times over what it was previously. In the second month of being listed on the second or third page of the search results, traffic increases nine times over what it was originally. Sales levels also increased slightly.

A site that moves into the first page of search results at Google experiences both a significant surge in traffic and an increase in conversions. Sites that enter the top ten for the first time tend to experience three times the traffic that they earned from their previous ranking, with that figure doubling to six times previous traffic during the second month. Conversion rates for a site that moves onto the first page of listings will jump 42% the first month and 94% the second month.

These figures give search marketers and decision makers a bit more to work with than simply looking at estimates of how often a term is searched for. Because most Web sites already have some natural rankings, it should be easy enough for a company to look at their currently search traffic and gain a conservative estimate of the amount of traffic that a strong organic optimization campaign could produce. Since a good search marketer will work to not only increase existing rankings, but to find new phrases to seek rankings for, traffic nearly always increases exponentially for long term campaigns.

It's important for businesses to realize that long term organic optimization isn't simply about buying traffic, it's about building an online presence. A good search marketing firm will not only help your site gain rankings, it will help your site build strong, relevant content that is presented in an easy to use format. It will help generate relevant incoming links to your site that will serve as traffic generators in their own right. It will help your site to better reach and service the online community, and ultimately, that's where the true value of organic optimization lies.

View the complete study at the Oneupweb site.

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February 9, 2005

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Study Demonstrates Impact of Ranking on Search Engine Traffic