Plenty of research has already been done on various aspects of web usage and currently more and more surveys track the use of search engines and how users find information. Market researchers have found out that search engines are an important contact point for Internet users in every stage of the purchase decision process.

A study on the subject “Searches on the Internet” proves that more than half of the Internet users prefer the normal search result list (algorithmic index) instead of clicking on paid text announcements such as Google AdWords (so called sponsored links). However, one third of the people surveyed note that whether they click on index results or announcements depends on the content of their search enquiry.

Search engines are used by Internet users in every stage of their purchase decision process. Almost two thirds of the respondents say they use search engines at the beginning of their search to receive an overview of the offer on the Internet. One third use search engines mainly at the beginning of their search as well as shortly before the final purchase.

On the question, how search engine users would react if at the end of a product search (i.e. shortly before the purchase decision) they would come across a supplier in a search result list who has already got their positive attention at the beginning of their search due to detailed product information, almost half of them reply that they click on the result again because of the good product information. Nevertheless, a quarter of the users purchase from this specific supplier only if the product offer is in addition low priced. After all, 10 percent of the users are willing to pay suppliers with good product information even a little bit more.

Another interesting result is that one third of the search engine users surveyed are convinced of the fact that suppliers who appear with several search enquiries of a product over and over again on top of search results, are leading suppliers in this area. Unfortunately, another third of the people assumes that these suppliers are rather expensive as they spend a lot of money for search engine advertisements.

If a supplier, whom a search engine user would have expected to find after a search enquiry, isn’t listed in the result, one third of the users take for granted that this supplier doesn’t have the article in stock. Some believe that this supplier is obviously no leading supplier in this area, and others believe that the supplier has financial problems and therefore can’t run search engine advertisements.

What this means for online vendors is that their products and services have to be found. Be it by the use of generic search enquiries (e.g. mobiles), used mostly at the beginning of the search process, or by the use of specific search enquiries (e.g. Nokia 7260), used quite often shortly before the final purchase. Hence, even well-known brands must make sure that they are found through search engine marketing and in fact not only under their branding keywords, but also under general search words to leave no potential buyers to the competitors.

The results of latest studies emphasizes how important it is for all online vendors to be found in search engines – namely in the index as well as in the text announcements. Depending on the contents of the search enquiry, the search engine user selects results from the index or from the sponsored links. It’s as simple as who can’t be found in the result lists, doesn’t exist for potential online buyers. This applies to known brands as well, because if the user doesn’t find the vendor with his initial product search, he assumes that the supplier does not lead with this product at all –even if it isn’t true.

Therefore take my advice!  Search engine marketing gives you the unique chance to find customers in every phase of their purchase cycle (the search, the price comparison and finally the purchase). Make sure that you provide relevant and detailed information about your products and services on your website. Internet users have a high opinion of vendors that offer detailed background information to their products. If you can offer then in addition, a low price, you’ll most likely win yourself a new customer.

By Daniela La Marca