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It makes frantic hype around getting search engine top rankings on a handful of keywords look a bit expensive. Yet, half competion battle is won by being somewhere first. So companies, even though they don't know exactly where they are, will monopolise all those keywords they deem useful. Huge portions of marketing budgets are spent on purchase of search keywords.
The result is commercialisation of search engines. This is going on with rapid speed, and they are increasingly seizing significant portions of companies' marketing budgets.
Pay Per Click-only engines are starting to attract large numbers of listings. The main risk is failure of conversion of increased traffic into sales.
Not everyone is convinced of merits of Pay Per Click campaigns. Garrick Saito who is one of many small business owners on web says his company Respree.com, selling reprints of art works, largely abandoned his campaign. "I still use Pay Per Click today for a very limited purpose, bidding on terms that I will only pay $.01 per click on. Of course, traffic is not nearly as great as if you were to bid $.25 or $.50 per click, but then again, advertising dollars don't add up nearly as fast either", he says.
Saito is one of many small business owners that are looking to optimise free organic listings by changing search keywords. It is his experience here that enables him to do that somewhat effectively and without help of an outsider. "I am trying to optimise my pages so my products, categories and artists rank well", he says. Saito is not sure if his own company is representative of his branch. "I can see competitors with deeper financial resources spending money (perhaps a lot of money) on PPC campaigns and other placements. However, [...] larger players are more exception than rule," he says.
So commercialisation of search engines might not necessarily be succeeding in attracting small to medium size businesses, vast bulk of internet population. But free lunch is probably over very soon come what may. Search Engine Trends reports that demand for free listings has recently risen in relation to what engines offer; demand for free listings is 80% and what is offered is 75%.
Companies wanting reasonable visibility might soon have to fork out. Further evidence to this point is this; 44% of search engines offers paid listings, whereas demand is merely 4%. Pay Per Click advertising is a similar story with 33% of engines offering this and demand at 4%. This looks meagre, but if you think of it as a new trend, 4% is quite convincing.
Meanwhile, one wonders what good newly emerging order is to customers. How are we going to see forest amid trees? A recent study into various kinds of searches people type into their browsers are indicating consumers still are somewhat overwhelmed by what they are offered, despite some five years or so of experience with medium.
Apparently, more questions you type into your browser, more autonomous a user you are, according to sponsors of one such study, ComScore Media Metrix. So called 'sophisticated' markets include (in descending order) UK, Canada, US, France and Germany. But even in these countries, people are not overfacing their browsers with innumerable questions. In UK, people entered on average 40 queries per month. And this is highest scoring country of list.
Perhaps everyone wonders where to start. Or maybe we've taken web for what it offers with most of our information sources safely bookmarked and ready for use independently from search engines.
It's another question whether companies are actually ready for intensified relations with their customers. JupiterResearch found that only one out of five companies that have access to statistics on consumer behavior actually also optimise their targeting.
Perhaps Don Quixote was not so totally outlandish, trying to slay windmills - at least he spotted them, went after them and changed his approach rather than gave up when he discovered he was totally mistaken!
Angelique van Engelen is a writer at www.contentclix.com, a Netherlands based content writing agency. Email her at AngeliquevanEngelen@contentclix.com