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Consumer Research


Top brands misusing paid and natural search

Top brands misusing paid and natural search

Major brands across the retail, travel and financial services sectors are squandering online marketing budgets by failing to achieve the right balance between paid and natural search, according to the ‘2007 Searching Sectors Report’ from Tamar, the search conversion agency.

The report analyses the paid and natural search strategies of the top 20 brands in each of the financial services, retail and travel sectors to determine how well each industry is using the search channel.

The report assesses each brand’s presence on the first page of search rankings for a combination of over 40 of the most popular generic and specific search terms for each sector.

Search director at Tamar, Neil Jackson, said, “As the cost of paid search continues to rise very few brands in each sector have actually realised that a balanced paid and natural search strategy can drive down the overall cost of the search marketing campaign while also increasing conversion rates.

“As marketers across all sectors continue to be pushed to demonstrate greater return on investment they need to understand that search marketing is not just about eyeballs, but converting those into leads and sales.”

The ‘2007 Searching Sectors Report’ reveals that leading financial services institutions such as Barclays and Citibank have failed to strike the right balance between paid and natural search and are paying through the nose bidding on generic search terms.

Leading financial services brands are 50 per cent more likely to be targeting generic search terms such as ‘insurance’, ‘mortgage’, ‘credit card’ and ‘bank account’ via paid search, paying up to £8.65 per click for ‘mortgage’ and £8.24 per click for ‘insurance’ instead of using natural search engine optimisation.

Neil Jackson, added, “Generic search terms such as ‘mortgage’ are far less likely to generate quality leads and sales than specific terms such as ‘low interest, tracker, repayment mortgage’, yet financial services brands continue to pay through the nose bidding on generic terms instead of tackling them more affordably with natural search engine optimisation.”

Overall financial services brands are most active in search marketing, 26 per cent more likely to be using paid or natural search than retail brands, and 24 per cent more likely than travel brands.

The 2007 Searching Sectors tells two contrasting stories about retailers, with the savvier online retailers such as Amazon getting their approach right, while the rest of the sector still relies too heavily on paid search.

As a sector, retail brands are three times less likely than financial services brands to be using paid search to bid on generic search terms such as ’clothes’, ‘books’ and ‘music’, but this is also representative of the fact retailers are less active in search than financial services brands.

Behind the savviest online retailers using a joined-up search conversion approach, only one in ten of the leading 20 retail brands appears regularly on the first page of search results for the most popular retail search terms.

Neil Jackson comments, “The retail sector shows a dramatic split between super brands such as Amazon and Tesco whose presence is consistently high by using natural and paid search intelligently, to the rest of the sector whose profile on search is sporadic at best.”

The top 20 travel brands analysed by the 2007 Searching Sectors Report showed that travel brands are twice as good as financial services brands at using paid search to target potential customers with specific, high-conversion search terms such as ‘economy flight to New York’, ‘winter sports Switzerland’ and ‘clubbing holiday Ibiza’.

However the lure of the high traffic generic terms such as ‘cheap flights’ continues to prove irresistible for travel brands who continue to spend up to £2 per click on such terms that are far less likely to convert into sales.

In the travel sector, search listings are dominated by scheduled airlines and online travel agents. The report reveals that two in three of top brand listings on the first page of paid and natural search results belong to either scheduled airlines or online travel providers.

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