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Britain’s major high street retailers are losing sales and customers on the internet, by failing to invest properly in understanding search engines, according to a recent report from Screen Pages, the UK’s leading dedicated e-commerce solutions provider and Verio partner.

Research already shows that search engines direct 80% of all Internet traffic. 60% of web users would use search engines to research a purchase, and 67% would choose a natural (as opposed to paid for) link to pursue a purchase enquiry, making it vital to invest time and effort to perform well in this arena.

In summary, this new primary analysis sponsored by Verio and conducted by Screen Pages report shows that:

• UK retailers have inconsistent coverage in the major search engines (Google, Yahoo! And MSN);
• There is very little evidence of search engine strategy and planning;
• Whilst brand names perform well, very few products and categories are well represented;
• Only two boasted top three results for general, descriptive searches (e.g. “supermarket” or “department store”);
• Technical execution for search engines is of poor quality;
• Important Internet directory listings are badly managed.

*** Quantative data is provided below

“A better understanding and execution of a search engine strategy by online retailers will result in better brand visibility, more relevant visitors, more purchases and improved financial performance,” said Roger Willcocks, Managing Director Screen Pages. “The efforts shown by high street retailers to take advantage of the online footfall available through search engines are characterized by an absence of strategy and planning, a lack of technical and internet understanding and poor implementation.”

Screen Pages selected a representative sample of 18 well know high street retailers including Tesco, Asda, Debenhams, Marks & Spencer, Boots, TopShop and Next amongst others. By measuring the key benchmarks of search engine optimization in these industry leading sites, Screen Pages has for the first time provided standard metrics focusing on search engine optimization in shopping/e-commerce websites in the UK. By looking at search engine optimization in an online shopping environment, these benchmarks provide an insight into how retailers can take a more strategic approach to e-commerce.

“A clearly defined and comprehensive search engine strategy offers huge revenue generating potential for retailers,” said Martin Davis, Vice President Sales and Marketing Verio Europe. “Recent research from IDC indicates that in the UK alone, online sales grew 20% in 2004, amounting to £4 billion in revenue, an equivalent to 7% of all UK retail sales. If retailers could exploit search engine technology they would stand to acquire a lot more visitors and increase sales exponentially.”

For a free preview copy of the report please visit: http://www.screenpages.com/seo_report.asp

The full report costs £98+VAT.

The report’s key statistics include :-

1. Only 28% of high street retailers have broad coverage of their websites’ pages in all the major search engines.
2. While 83% are well indexed by Google, only 44% enjoy good coverage in MSN and 56% in Yahoo!
3. Only 50% of those surveyed showed evidence of a search engine strategy.
4. However, of those that did, only five had page one search results in Google.com for lucrative generic search terms and only two made it into the top three results for their primary search term.
5. Less than 40% had no keywords in their category and product pages and only 22% had internet-friendly page titles (a major element in search engine indexing).
6. Only two have taken full care to ensure that all their pages are indexable by search engines and only 22% are paying attention to indexing robots .
7. Only 22% have “high street” grade “page ranks” in Google (its measure of site importance).
8. 28% have included their primary keywords in the most important directory listings. Only two have taken the trouble to ensure that their directory listings are consistent and focused.

For more info:
Roger Willcocks, MD, Screen Pages
E: roger@screenpages.com
T: 01932-359 160

Published on: 12:00AM on 16th March 2005