Marketing experts say you should be. Instead of flipping through phone books, today’s consumers search for information on Google, Yahoo, and MSN.
According to March 2006 data from Search Engine Watch, consumers execute 213 million searches a day, with Google receiving 91 million. Trying to reach this click-happy demographic in 2006, marketers spent $9.45 billion on improving search rankings and search advertisements, according to Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization.
Those numbers are likely to increase significantly over the next few years, because everybody uses the internet, says Kevin Lee, SEMPO chairman and co-founder of Did-It.com. Less than a decade ago, web users had a “high income, high education, and it used to skew male. But that’s gone away,” Lee says. “The internet has crossed the generation gap.”
Search is broken up into two categories: search-engine optimization and search-engine marketing.
Search-engine optimization refers to improving traffic to your web site through “natural” search. Experts say the best way to maximize your search rankings is to use audience-relevant keywords and have other sites link to yours. But don’t expect to be indexed in the first organic page right away.
“It actually takes a while for it to work,” says Michael Gray, author of Graywolf’s SEO Blog. “The site’s success depends on how complicated it is and how much competition is out there for the same keywords. But it usually takes anywhere from a couple weeks to a few months.”
As for search-engine marketing, your keyword ads appear almost immediately on the right-hand side or just above the search bar.
In the quick-service restaurant segment, major brands are buying consumer-relevant keywords from 5 cents to $1 per click. For the Google term “fast food,” a consumer term, Quiznos and Domino’s Pizza are the only restaurant sponsors.
“Pizza companies are a great example of how to effectively use search,” says Jim Byrd, a search-engine optimization consultant and founder of TwinCitiesDiningGuide.com.
For Papa John’s and Domino’s, search engines have become another sales channel. That’s because “online ordering is so big for them,” says Sam Sebastian, vertical head of classifieds and local for Google.