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Search surveys reveal gaps in SEO implementation

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Although search engine optimization delivers a bigger punch than paid search inclusion, the majority of marketers are falling short when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), according to several recent studies sponsored by SEO firm iProspect.

This summer, iProspect, in conjunction with research firm Jupiter Research, took on search ROI with interesting results. According to the study, 35% of marketers found that SEO delivers higher ROI than paid placement, 9% said the venues were about equal and 21% haven’t measured ROI for either option. Another 25% said they were unable to calculate or distinguish between SEO and paid search. Only 11% said SEO produced lower ROI than paid placement.

These results came on the heels of an earlier, independent Jupiter Research study that said 62% and 66% of marketers, respectively, have participated in organic SEO and paid search within the last 12 months.

What’s surprising is that according to a second iProspect study, 64% of marketers that outsource natural search fail to implement changes suggested by their SEO firms. The reason, said 48% of respondents, is that they come up against internal problems and roadblocks that keep them from completing the changes such as lack of Web staffing (33%) and budgetary issues (16.8%). And half of the respondents said they underestimated the resources that will be required to implement their SEO firm’s recommendations. Other reasons for failing to make SEO changes include timing of updates (15.4%), upper management’s decision not to make changes (9.4%) and lack of agency support (8.7%).

“Companies engage SEO firms for their expert guidance and recommendations to remedy rankings shortfalls,” said Naga Krothapalli, iProspect’s Director of Algorithmic Search. “However, internal obstacles regularly delay or derail site changes related to search engine optimization, handcuffing what would otherwise be a successful SEO campaign. It’s akin to going to the doctor when you’re sick and then failing to fill the prescription. If a Web site cannot be found in search engines, it is not going to get better on its own. If the site doesn’t change, the rankings won’t either.”

Marketers can improve their chances of following through by doing their own careful pre-planning, said Peter Sargent, research director and senior analyst at Jupiter Research.

“The study results should be a calling card for further preparation,” Sargent said. “In many cases marketers are willing to invest, but can’t follow through. In that case, you can argue that their efforts [and money] are being wasted.”

Either way, SEO is a useful exercise since it can help rule out other potential shortcomings that have nothing to do with design, Sargent said.

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