RealTime IT News

Search Engines Here to Convert You

Hunting for something on America Online's search site? Beware. You may be converted.

And it's not a religious thing, although advertisers do seem to see it that way. "Conversion" in marketing speak refers to people who start off as window shoppers and are transformed into customers.

According to a study conducted by WebSideStory, a Web analytics solutions provider, AOL Search in January generated the best conversion rate at e-commerce sites (6.17 percent), followed by MSN (6.03 percent), Yahoo (4.07 percent) and Google (3.83 percent).

The results, made public on Wednesday, were culled from the millions of users that visit Web sites using WebSideStory's analytics technology, HBX Analytics. The study includes traffic from both organic and paid keywords.

"Not all search engines are created equal," Ali Behnam, senior digital marketing consultant for WebSideStory, told internetnews.com. "Each search engine has different demographics. Google, we feel, is more male-oriented and computer savvy. Yahoo is more family-based. AOL, MSN and Yahoo tend to appeal toward a more buyer friendly demographic.

Benham said many advertisers divide their ad budgets according to overall site traffic at search engines. But they should also keep demographics in mind when deciding where to run their ads.

However, he noted that most search engines don't provide demographic data to advertisers.

"If portals can start providing demographic information to customers, they can make better decisions about how to allocate their budgets," Benham said.

Each of the search engines included in the WebSideStory study posted conversion rates well above the median average for all search engines, which was 1.97 percent for the month of January, according to the index. This compares with a median average of 2.3 percent for the last three months of 2005.

And what were most consumers in search of in January? According to statistics complied by comScore Media Metrix, people wanted to take trips, improve their health and career and file their tax returns.

According to MediaMetrix stats released Monday, the site that saw the greatest visitor increase in January was HRBlock.com with 4.3 million visitors, an increase of 171 percent compared to December.

CareerBuilder climbed 74 percent over the prior month to 21.2 million visitors while eDiets more than doubled during that period. And cheap last-minute travel deals drew 73.9 million visitors to sites, such as Travelocity, Expedia.com, Trip Network and Priceline.com.

Media Metrix also ranked the top three most visited Web sites. Yahoo topped the charts, followed by MSN and the Time Warner Network. Google was ranked fourth.