Thursday, April 06, 2006

Anne's Blog: Two New Studies Show Google Clicks Don't Convert as Well

Anne's Blog: Two New Studies Show Google Clicks Don't Convert as Well

Funny, the biggest Net marketing trend these days I hear when interviewing people is Google hate. "Everyone loves them, they have the best brand in the world, but really they stink!" is a typical rant. I think most of it is due to human nature more than any research.

You know: Google is massive, Google is insanely powerful, Google and Bill Gates both have a "G" in their names... Jealously and fear are very powerful.

Last week, not one but two separate research studies were released revealing "Ta da!" that Google clicks are not quite up to snuff compared to other search engines. (Links to more info below.)

First BIGresearch released a study with the key finding, "Yahoo Tops Search Engines for Influence to Purchase." (Note: These folks mainly study the consumer marketing world, not B-to-B.)

The next day, Web analytics firm WebSideStory released a study showing the following conversion stats across their many clients:

AOL traffic 6.17%
MSN traffic 6.03%
Yahoo traffic 4.07%
Google traffic 3.83

However dramatic this data, you should also realize (as I do) that the average marketer is often buying up to tens of thousands more keywords from Google than they are, in particular, from AOL or MSN so of course conversions would be lower. Broader terms equals lower conversions (but often cheaper CPC and better ROI).

Also, whether or not clicks from Google's non-search AdSense network are included is not noted. If they are (and I bet they are), lower conversions would make sense as contextual ads almost invariably pull lower conversions than search ads. Duh.

OK, while I'm not the biggest Google fan in the world (it's hard to unwaveringly adore a company that holds massive power over your bottom line -- as Google does for those of us who rely to some degree on search traffic) I suspect this anti-Google research is in some part a very human backlash against its gargantuan-ness.

My recommendations in response to these studies?

#1. If you're focusing ONLY on Google get thyself onto additional mainstream search engines, niche engines, and/or shopping engines. As we've documented for two years now in our Search Marketing Benchmark Guide, a sizeable portion of the online marketplace doesn't use Google, or only Google.

A smart direct response marketer would never mail only one list unremittingly. Why focus on a single search engine?

#2. If you are lumping in contextual ads with your search ad buy, as far too many marketers are, split these campaigns and track them separately.

Contextual ads which appear on non-search-results pages can get strikingly different conversion rates than search ads. Your clicks are in a profoundly different psychographic. Just because a campaign has the "Google" name on it (i.e. AdSense) doesn't mean it's going to perform as well as listings that actually appear on Google will.

#3. Search optimization (SEO) is generally far less expensive than an aggressive paid search campaign to get the same amount of traffic. Plus, the effects are longer lasting, and conversions are frequently in the same range (or even higher) than paid ads on engines.

This year marketers will spend roughly 1/8th of their search budgets on SEO, and 7/8th on paid search ads. That's really stupid. (Lemmings, cliff ... you get the picture.)

#4. Don't use any search engine's complimentary tool service to track your conversions. Why would you give someone who sells you ads all the data they need to decide if they should put the price up higher?

It astonishes me that marketers who would never publicly reveal their conversion data will hand over the keys to the data castle in exchange for a little comp software. Google may be an awfully nice brand, with awfully nice people, but this is business, remember?

Since when do you allow an ad rep inside your books?

Anyway, rant over. Here's a link to my other Blog over at ContentBiz where I first discussed this data last week and gave links to studies:

Anne Holland - Publisher

P.S. As always, our Case Studies and articles are open access for about 10 days. Then they go into SherpaLibrary where you can research for a small fee. The links always remain the same.


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