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Search Engine Optimisation

By The Drum, Administrator

March 26, 2004 | 5 min read

Faster results, faster profits, faster growth. If the internet can accelerate the commercial cycle. Search has evolved as the super charged engine for growth and change. In this dynamic environment, search marketing has consistently outperformed the sluggish traditional offline sector and changed the marketing landscape for ever.The reason is simple: value for money.

It costs 27p to generate a qualified lead from search marketing compared with £9 from direct mail. (Source: US Bancorp Piper Jaffray)

And search habits have changed from the early days. Surfers no longer browse aimlessly looking for trivia or ‘good’ sites. They search for specific products, services or information and they want quick, accurate, relevant results.

Search marketers predicted this change in behaviour and developed the sophisticated techniques needed to meet this need.

Search is a complex marketing discipline. It is not about ‘being seen to be seen’ on Google. It is about powerful strategies that deploy combinations of search techniques that work together to generate the traffic needed to meet business objectives and deliver strong returns on investment (ROI).

Over the last two years the search industry has polarised and now operates at two different speeds. Only a handful of specialist search marketing companies have made the transition to the fast track by developing the skills and having the professional experience of operating at the cutting edge of search to run the new generation of search campaigns today. It is this kind of company that can run campaigns for Boots, Channel 4, Hasbro, Autotrader and Kwik Fit Financial Services.

Search does not stand still. Search marketers have to keep up with changes and predict trends as the technology, the markets and the providers move forward.

Search marketing is the biggest thing on the internet right now. 2003 saw the key players, Google, Yahoo! and MSN, emerge after a dramatic series of acquisitions that pushed search into the media spotlight.

Last month, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and global business advisors Pricewaterhouse Coopers, revealed that online advertising is growing faster than any other advertising medium.

Online adspend reached a record £151.6m in the first half of 2003 with year-on-year growth of 85 per cent. The IAB now predicts that online advertising for the year 2003 will top £300m for the first time with paid-for search listings accounting for 36 per cent of the market.

This incredible record of growth has been achieved in the midst of an advertising recession which has seen many marketing companies posting losses and making cutbacks.

And, running parallel to online advertising growth, internet sales are booming. NOP World reported that half of all British web users bought their 2003 Christmas presents online and the average shopper is predicted to double their online spend in 2004. Again, according to the IAB, searching for goods and services is now the most popular activity on the internet with 70 per cent of all e-commerce transactions originating from search.

Search opened up the internet to the mass market five years ago. Alta Vista was the first engine to take the internet to mainstream surfers and engines like Inktomi first commercialised the market when it introduced pay for inclusion.

When the internet bubble burst in the spring of 2000 and banner advertising was discredited, advertisers demanded measurable results and strong return on investment.This need was met with the launch of Overture and E-spotting and the pay for performance model where Overture and E-spotting provide sponsored links for portals like MSN, AOL and Yahoo!.

To date search marketing has been largely confined to the US and the UK. Early adopter advertisers included travel and finance with retail and automotive fast catching up.

A year or so ago, search wasn’t seen to be important, now it is pivotal to most blue-chip marketing strategies. With internet usage higher than ever, audience levels are now comparable with other traditional media, making search a vital element of the marketing mix.

In October 94 per cent of buyers and managers forecast an increase in online advertising spend .

Search is the undisputed success story of internet advertising, revitalising an industry many wrote off after the dotcom bust.

Search marketing will continue to move at light speed. Maturing and growing increasingly complex as search providers diversify into sophisticated new products, particularly contextual search and local advertising.


1. Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Seen as the ‘purest’ form of search marketing, the natural or organic results come from a website being made attractive to the search engines.

ForSurfers see it as untainted by commerce.

AgainstNo guarantee of placement and ROI difficult to measure.

2. Pay for Inclusion (PFI)

Websites pay a fee to be included in a search engine’s sweep of the internet.

ForSet price.

AgainstNo guarantee of placement and PFI links run alongside organic links making it difficult for the consumer to know what is paid for and what is not.

3. Pay for Placement (PFP)

Key words are auctioned to the highest bidder to guarantee placement in sponsored results.

ForCost effective straightforward model. ROI is easy to measure.

AgainstCompetition is forcing the price of keywords up.


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