The Role of Search in Business Buying Decisions
By Shari Worthington
When it comes to the Web, we're certainly not lacking for numbers. Log reports
from corporate sites as well as information portals generate more data than
most people know what to do with. Of the analysis that is done, most focuses
on the larger consumer markets where the emphasis is on eyeballs and online
The world of business-to-business operates differently. Purchasing decisions
are made by a team: technical experts, service personnel, financial analysts,
purchasing agents, and various levels of management. Marketing programs must
reach all the purchasing influencers in a cost-effective manner.
Enter search engines, one of the lowest cost vehicles for target marketing.
Prospective customers tell you what they're interested in by the phrase they
enter into the search engine. But how can you best take advantage of both the
reach and the specificity available through web-based search?
A new study available through MarketingSherpa highlights some of the more important
considerations when creating a search engine marketing campaign. 1500 business
executives and IT professionals were asked how they interact with a variety
of search engines. Here are the key findings.
- Business people use search engines. 93.2% of respondents indicated
they would go online to research a business purchase. Of those, 63.9% said
they would begin the research process on a search engine while 18.9% would
go to a known manufacturer's web site.
- Most business people start their search engine research 3-6 months prior
to purchase. Not surprisingly, the larger the purchase, the longer out
they start. For budget items of $50,000 and more, 53.7% of purchasers use
a search engine 3-6 months out. For smaller purchases of $500-$1000, 77.4%
use a search engine a week to a month prior to purchase.
- Natural search listings are chosen more often than sponsored listings.
About 70% of respondents chose a natural search listing prior to a paid advertisement.
Google users show the strongest preference for natural search listings, by
a margin of 76.7% to 23.3%. Other search engines like MSN have a 50/50 split
between natural and paid search.
- Position counts for both natural search and paid search. For natural
search, 59.7% of respondents chose one of the top 3 links. For paid search,
51% of respondents chose the top link.
There are variations in the way people use search engines. Prior research indicated
four types: Deliberate researchers carefully read all listings before deciding
which to choose. Fast scan and clickers quickly scan the page and choose the
first thing that catches their attention. Two-step scanners do a quick scan,
but if nothing jumps out they go back and do a more deliberate scan.
So here is your list of to-dos, based on this information:
- No matter what you do with your marketing budget, natural search optimization
must be a part.
- Paid search is useful and can generate respectable traffic, but make sure
you're in a top spot.
- Understand that people use search engines in the early stages of the buying
process. Don't try to sell on the search engine. Focus on attracting the right
people to your site so you can capture their contact info and integrate them
into the longer-term drip marketing process.