The Hostway Blog

SEO Series Part 2: Pick an Engine

You understand you should optimize your website so that it will appear near the top of the search results for keywords related to your business. You also know that the major search engines use different ranking methods, so tactics that boost your placement in one may not help with the others.

So which search engine should you optimize for? The one your target audience prefers, of course. Naturally, it’s not quite that simple, because you need to figure out which one that is. Many Web masters default to optimizing for Google, simply because it dominates the search industry. In many cases, this works, but it may not always be the best strategy.

Search Engine Loyalists Show Certain Characteristics

Recent research from Wunderman, BrandAsset consulting, ZAAZ and Compete suggests that users loyal to a particular search engine view brands differently and show different behavior while on the site compared to users of other search engines.

Some interesting findings in the report:

  • Google produces higher conversions in the travel industry than do either Yahoo or Bing.
  • Wireless goods and service providers get more sales from users loyal to Yahoo!
  • In the automotive industry, Google users prefer Lexus websites while Bing searchers gravitate toward Toyotas.

What does this mean? It means you need to really understand your target market when choosing how to optimize your website. While reports like this one can provide valuable insights, don’t neglect data you are already collecting, your site analytics. Analyze this data to see where you visitors are coming from and which source(s) is providing you with the most conversions.

Bing is Growing

Bing is barely a year old, so it’s too early to really tell what impact it will have over time on the search landscape. For the moment, Bing users seem to be mostly the early adopters, those people who like to try out new technology as soon as it arrives. If that describes your target market, you should consider optimizing for Bing.

In its first year, Bing has consistently increased its growth rate. In February 2010, it had 11.5% of the US search market share, a 44% increase over when it launched. Google also continues to grow, although possibly slower than it would have without Bing. Meanwhile Yahoo! keeps losing market share. Of course, since Bing will soon provide Yahoo!’s search results, you’ll be able to rank on both simply by optimizing for Bing.

There have also been rumors that Apple may make Bing the default search engine for the iPhone. While most people are skeptical that will ever happen, if it does, then any marketers targeting iPhone users will definitely want to rank well on Bing.

In the end, it pays to remember that the search engines are not your customers. Design your website with human visitors in mind first and search engines second. Good search engine ranking and traffic won’t matter if your visitors don’t like what they see.