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Searching for SEO

Searchers prefer organic results.

Online search has become so efficient that most Internet users are now impatient with anything less than great results.

The finding emerged from the iProspect-sponsored "Blended Search Results Study," conducted by JupiterResearch and The NPD Group.

Nearly seven out of 10 respondents said they clicked a search result within the first page of results, and 92% clicked a result within the first three pages of search results.

More search engine users surveyed clicked the first page in 2008 (68%) than did so in 2006 (62%).

At the same time, fewer search engine users surveyed were willing to click results past the third page in 2008 (8%) compared with 2002 (19%).

Respondents did not abandon the hunt altogether. Instead, nearly half of search engine users who continued their search process after not finding what they wanted changed their search terms and/or search engines after reviewing just the first page of search results. More than nine out of 10 respondents did so if they did not find what they wanted in the first three pages of search results.

That's good news for retailers as a whole, but bad for those which do not rank highly in organic search results.

The ongoing need for high search rankings partly explains increased spending on search engine optimization (SEO).

eMarketer estimates that in 2007 SEO spending contributed about 18% to all of search ad spending.

By 2011, a greater focus on SEO will give it a nearly 23% share.

eMarketer senior analyst David Hallerman notes another reason why SEO is growing more popular.

"SEO tends to be less expensive than paid search," Mr. Hallerman said. "Therefore small increases in SEO spending can indicate outsize changes in marketing effectiveness relative to paid search."

"Behind that spending shift is the recognition that, even though many people are willing to click on relevant paid search ads, they prefer organic listings," he said.

Learn how SEO fits into the big search marketing picture. Read eMarketer's Search Engine Marketing: User and Spending Trends report.

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