The Value of Search Optimization to Your Business Website

By Jan Zimmerman

Even for online retail sales, search engines remain consumers’ primary method of locating sites (see the illustration below). As Compete reports in its online shopper intelligence study in February 2010, consumers remain heavily dependent on search engines when researching purchases. The report also noted that online shopping behavior varies significantly by industry sector.

A Compete study found that consumers still depend on search engines when shopping online. [Credit:
Credit: Courtesy of — Driving digital intelligence
A Compete study found that consumers still depend on search engines when shopping online.

In its study published about a year later, “How Consumers Find websites in 2010,” Forrester hypothesizes that social media may be gaining at the expense of paid advertising, not at the expense of search, especially with younger buyers.

With competition from more than 266 million registered websites worldwide in December 2010 (of which 108 million are .com or .net sites), you might think you need either a miracle or a million dollars to be found in search engines. Although barely half of registered names are active, a site that doesn’t appear in the first page of search results remains practically invisible.

Indeed, an Optify study in 2010 of all Google searches in the United States showed that “60 percent of clicks are generated by the top three SERP (search engine results page) results while the average CTR (click-through rate) for the top spot is 36.4 percent.” That makes ranking near the top of the first page of search results far more valuable than appearing on any other page. Sobering, isn’t it?

Marketers recognize appearance in search results as a factor important enough that search engine optimization remains a vital area of spending for online marketing, second only to improving websites. (For details, see