Search Engine Marketing Firm iProspect Survey Confirms that Search Engine Click-Through Behavior can be Predicted by Gender, Education and Other Factors

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Findings Include Women More Likely To Click On Search Advertisements than Men

iProspect®, the Original® Search Engine Marketing Firm (http://www.iprospect.com), today announced more key findings from its recent Search Engine User Attitudes Survey that confirm that knowing the characteristics of your target audience plays a significant role in a successful online marketing campaign.

These characteristics include:

  • Gender
  • Employment Status
  • Education Level
  • Frequency of Internet Use
  • Years of Internet Experience

Looking at the gender survey participants, the results clearly show that women find paid search advertisements to be more relevant to their online queries than men. Looking at the four largest search engines, according to market share (Google, Yahoo!, AOL, and MSN), 43.1 percent of female respondents chose a paid search advertisement as the most relevant result to a sample query, compared to just 34.6 percent of men who selected a paid search ad.

However, despite this finding, the results unmistakably indicate that marketers who target a predominantly female audience must focus on both paid search results and natural search results or they will neglect 40-60 percent of potential online customers. Sites that target women include the highly competitive cosmetic, home fashion, personal care and online toy markets; examples range from Avon.com to Linens ‘n Things to PotteryBarn.com.

The survey results also show that search engine users who are employed full-time find natural search results to be more relevant than users who are employed part-time or not at all. Nearly 65% of fully-employed respondents chose a natural search result as the most relevant result to a sample query, compared to users who are employed part-time at 60.8 percent and just 55.1 percent of unemployed users. For employment companies whose websites target partially employed and unemployed users; such as Robert Half International, Manpower.com, Administaff.com and Monster.com; it is more important that they incorporate paid search advertising as opposed to sites in other niche markets, but it’s still critical to employ both paid search and natural search opportunities to be certain to reach their entire audience.

“Based on the survey results, it was obvious that Internet users identified natural search results as more relevant to their searches than paid search ads – and that was to be expected,” said iProspect CEO Fredrick Marckini. “But because of the roughly 60-40 percent split between natural search engine penetration and paid search ads, it was equally clear that failure to be found in both types of search results would be costly. If your website is only found in one or the other type of result, and your competitor is found in both, you’re ceding either 40 or 60 percent of potential traffic, conversion and online business.”

Other key findings in the survey illustrate how education plays a role in search result click-through behavior. Results show that 64.8 percent of college graduates found natural search results more relevant, compared to 56.2 percent of non-college graduates.

Looking at how often a user gets online and how long they have been using the Internet overall are key findings as well. Over 65 percent of respondents who said they use the Internet four or more times a day selected a natural search result as more relevant, compared to 56.3 percent of users who identified their Internet use as being less than four times a day.

Focusing on how many years a respondent has been using the Internet, survey results showed 63.2 percent of users who have been online for more than six years indicated a natural search result as more relevant. For respondents who have been online four to six years, 60.6 percent chose natural search results as being more significant as well. Only 54 percent of users who had less than three years of online experience chose a natural search result over a paid search advertisement.

“Our sense is that there is a correlation between education level, frequency of Internet use and years of Internet experience that indicates that the more savvy the Internet user, the more likely they are able to differentiate between a paid search advertisement and a natural search result,” stated Marckini. “As a result, that percentage of the population who avoid advertising in general may be reluctant to click on paid search advertisements in greater numbers, regardless of their feeling about the ad’s relevance.”

ABOUT THE SURVEY

During the survey, respondents were first asked if they use one search engine more than any other. Those who answered “yes” were asked which search engine they use most often. Those answering Google, Yahoo!, MSN or AOL were provided with a sample search result screen from their preferred search engine, displaying the results of a search for “used cars” and were asked to click on the result, on that page, which they found to be most relevant had they been in the market for a used car.

According to iProspect Director of Business Analytics, Dr. Naga Krothapalli, “this methodology ensured that these users were allowed to select a search result from the search engine with which they were most familiar. It ensured the greatest degree of accuracy by guaranteeing that a Yahoo! user was not asked to select a search result from AOL search results or a Google user was not asked to select a search result from an MSN search. In theory, each searcher who indicated a ‘preferred’ search engine, would be familiar with the layout of the search results from their engine of choice.”

The iProspect Search Engine User Attitudes Survey was developed through a partnership between iProspect, WebSurveyor, Strategem Research, and Survey Sampling International (SSI). Completed in March 2004, there were 1,649 survey respondents. Data was collected using WebSurveyor’s online tool, and analyzed by both iProspect’s research department and Strategem Research. Proper attribution requires that the survey is clearly identified as “The iProspect Search Engine User Attitudes Survey.” Copies of the survey results can be obtained by contacting Deborah Hickey at dhickey@iprospect.com.

ABOUT iPROSPECT

iProspect® is The Original® Search Engine Marketing Firm. The company helps many of the world’s most successful brands maximize their online marketing ROI through natural search engine optimization, paid inclusion management, pay per click management, Web analytics and website conversion enhancementSM. iProspect has published three books on search engine positioning, including Achieving Top-10 Rankings in Internet Search Engines, and most recently, Search Engine Positioning. Distinguished as a 2003 Inc. 500 and Deloitte & Touche Fast 500 fastest growing company in America, iProspect is located in Watertown, Massachusetts and can be reached at 1 800-522-1152, or by visiting http://www.iprospect.com.

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Deborah Hickey
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