Search engine optimisation or paid placement systems - user preference.

Neethling, R.

Published Online

Neethling, R. 2007. Search engine optimisation or paid placement systems - user preference. Unpublished Masters Thesis, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town.

The objective of this study was to investigate and report on user preference of 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 strategy for online advertisers, creating confusion for advertisers considering a SEM campaign. Furthermore, not all advertisers have the funds to implement a dual strategy and as a result advertisers need to choose between a SEO and PPC campaign. In order for online advertisers to choose the most relevant SEM strategy, it is of importance to understand user perceptions of these strategies. A quantitative research design was used to conduct the study, with the purpose to collect and analyse data. A questionnaire was designed and hosted on a busy website to ensure maximal exposure. The questionnaire focused on how search engine users perceive SEM and their click response towards SEO and PPC respectively. A qualitative research method was also used in the form of an interview. The interview was conducted with representatives of a leading South African search engine, to verify the results and gain experts' opinions. The data was analysed and the results interpreted. Results indicated that the user perceived relevancy split is 45% for PPC results, and 55% for SEO results, regardless of demographic factors. Failing to invest in either one could cause a significant loss of website traffic. This indicates that advertisers should invest in both PPC and SEO. Advertisers can invest in a PPC campaign for immediate results, and then implement a SEO campaign over a period of time. The results can further be used to adjust a SEM strategy according to the target market group profile of an advertiser, which will ensure maximum effectiveness.
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