Search Engine Marketing
By Gord Hotchkiss - The 70 / 30 Rule of Search Engine
I'm beginning to
believe that search marketing has its own naturally
reoccurring ratio, and I've dubbed it the 70/30 Rule.
I can't help thinking that many of us are missing the boat
when it comes to search marketing. Perhaps not the whole boat,
but 70 percent of it. Every day, new research is coming out
which points to there being a vast, untapped potential in
search. We've picked the low hanging fruit, but there's a
whole tree full of rich marketing results that we have to
reach a little further for. And when analysts like Safa
Rashtchy and the gang at JupiterMedia point to doubling,
tripling, and quadrupling revenues from search over the next
five years, it's based on assumptions that marketers will
figure out ways to better tap into the full potential of
As I write, I know there's a posse of irate search marketers
who are whispering, "How dare he refute our expertise in this
area! Low hanging fruit, indeed. The nerve!" As back up to my
observation, here are just three examples that come to mind of
where the 70/30 rule seems to apply.
70% percent organic 30% percent sponsored. A little while
back I was presenting a session at Search Engine Strategies
about balancing organic and paid search strategies. I had a
typical search results page from Google up on the screen.
I asked the audience which section of the page they normally
look at first. Almost every hand in the audience went up when
I got to the top organic results. This was no great surprise.
From our research into search user behavior, I was pretty sure
this would be the case.
Then I asked who in the audience dedicated at least 30 percent
of their search marketing budget to organic optimization. Very
few hands went up, probably less than 3 percent of the
Does anybody else see the disconnect here? This is not a new
message. Study after study has shown that about 70 percent of
all search engine clicks happen on the organic results. Yet
sponsored search continues to take the spotlight and the
lion's share of the budget, while for many, organic
optimization seems stuck as a little understood and even less
trusted tactic only fully utilized by online casinos and porn
Companies using search have to understand their consumers are
going to look and click on organic listings more often than
sponsored, and you can't just ignore the fact. Yes it's
harder, yes it's not guaranteed, and yes it may require some
changes to your site, but 7 out of 10 people can't be wrong!
Seventy percent researchers 30 percent purchasers. When is a
consumer likely to use a search engine? When they're ready to
buy? No! It's when they're researching the buy. And most
likely, they're very high in the consideration phase, just
checking out the competitive landscape. This varies with the
type of purchase, but usually the search sweet spot is for a
product where there is little familiarity, where there is a
significant amount of consumer research and consideration, and
where there is a lead time of a month or two before the
purchase. This is not true all the time, but it is true
about... well, look at that... 70 percent of the time!
Driving consumers to a hard purchase conversion and leaving
them without another option is not going to be a successful
online tactic for the majority of your consumers. We have to
understand the mindset of the consumer when they're likely to
use a search engine. If you always aim for the easy
conversion, or the low hanging fruit, you're probably missing
70 percent or more of your market. Take some time to gain a
better understanding of the consumer and what they're looking
for. Adjust your search marketing strategies accordingly.
Extend your reach beyond the low hanging fruit.
Seventy percent by luck, 30 percent by design Recently,
JupiterMedia released findings of an extensive survey with
search marketers. In it, they found that only about 25 percent
(close enough to 30 for me) of the respondents actively used
landing pages and other on-site tactics to increase conversion
The majority of a search marketer's time is spent in trying to
influence position on the search engine results page. This is
true whether you're working on the sponsored side or the
organic one. As marketers try to squeeze more return from
their marketing investment, there are three points at which
they can influence the ROI equation.
They can reduce the investment by intensive bid management or
tapping into the organic potential of search. They can
increase impressions and click-throughs by extending the
keyword basket or improving their position on the page. And
finally, they can increase the conversion rate on the site by
making sure the search visitor finds what they were looking
for and that an appropriate conversion path is present.
It's the last of these three that offers the marketer the
greatest degree of control, yet it's the one most often
overlooked. Usually, we have complete control over what
happens on our own site. But often, we have never really asked
our visitors what they're looking for. We haven't tapped into
the existing (and extensive) body of knowledge on usability
design when it comes to Web sites. This is one area that could
have huge payoff not just in search, but also in all areas of
We can't move forward as an industry until we start doing the
research required to better understand the 70 percent of the
market we're missing. The big winners in business have never
been the companies that go for the easy wins. They're the ones
that figure out how to pick the fruit that's just out of their
Gord Hotchkiss is president and CEO of Enquiro, a major North
American search marketing firm. He can be reached at email@example.com.