Search engine optimisation or paid placement systems: user preferences.

Neethling, R. & Weideman, M.

Proceedings of the 9th Annual Conference on WWW Applications. 4-7 September. Johannesburg, South Africa.

Neethling, R. & Weideman, M. 2007. Search engine optimisation or paid placement systems: user preferences. Proceedings of the 9th Annual Conference on WWW Applications. 4-7 September. Johannesburg, South Africa. Online:

The objective of this study was to investigate and report on user preference of natural search results, thus search engine optimisation (SEO), versus pay per click (PPC) results. This will assist online advertisers to identify their optimal search engine marketing (SEM) strategy for their specific target market. Research shows that online advertisers perceive PPC as a more effective SEM strategy than SEO. However, empirical evidence exists that PPC may not be the best SEM strategy for online advertisers. Not all advertisers have the funds to implement a dual SEM strategy and therefore advertisers need to choose between a PPC and SEO campaign. In order for online advertisers to choose the most relevant SEM strategy, it is crucial to understand user perceptions of SEM strategies. A quantitative research design was used to conduct this study, with the purpose to collect and analyze data. A questionnaire was designed and placed on a website for gathering data. The questionnaire focused on how search engine users perceive SEM and their click response towards PPC and SEO respectively. The data was analysed and the results inspected. Results showed that the user perceived relevancy split is roughly 40% - 60% (PPC results to SEO results), regardless of demographic factors. This indicates that websites should invest in both PPC and SEO. Failing to invest in either one could cause a significant loss of traffic. For websites that cannot afford a dual SEM strategy, advertisers should correlate the results of this study with their target market to establish their optimal SEM strategy, or invest in SEO as results showed more users click through on SEO results than on PPC results.
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