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Hitbox released conversion stats by search engine. However, those statistics only tell part of the story. When determining where and how to advertise, those are not statistics one should rely upon to make financial decisions.

All traffic converts differently by industry, offer, search engine, paid, organic, b2b, b2c, etc. While averages are good to know for benchmarking your own success, it should not be used as a solid figure until you have all the facts associated with any study.

Here are the conversion numbers from the Hitbox Press Release:

Search Engine Median Conversion Rate
AOL 6.17%
MSN 6.03%
Yahoo! 4.07%
Google 3.83%

Hitbox did make note of the following two items:

  • Study examines only the conversion rate, not the ROI generated by each major search engine
  • E-commerce sample: The select business-to-consumer e-commerce sites used in this study generate more than $3 billion in annual online sales

One other important consideration to note in this study, WebSideStory officials said, is that the conversion rates are likely higher than industry averages because the sample sites are using best-of-class web analytics to improve their search engine marketing and optimization.

Source: Hitbox Press Release

What this table doesn’t show:

  • PPC vs Organic Conversions
  • Content Match vs Search Conversions
  • Rich media & Banner Ad Conversions

If one considers the Organic vs PPC Click Through Rates on any search engine results page from this ClickZ Article:

Engine Natural Search Results % Paid Ads %
All Engines 60.5 39.5
Google 72.3 27.7
Yahoo! 60.8 39.2
AOL 50 50
MSN 28.8 71.2

It is possible, the PPC vs Organic Conversion Rates could look like this:

Search
Engine
% Organic Traffic Organic Conversion Rate % PPC Traffic PPC Conversion Rate Overall Conversion Rate
Google 72.3 3% 39.5 7.27% 5.04%
Yahoo! 60.8 5.1% 27.7 3.51% 4.07%
AOL 50 3% 39.2 11.91% 6.17%
MSN 28.8 5% 71.2 6.44% 6.03%

Note: The above chart is for explaining a point – it is not based on any factual numbers.

In the above chart, we suddenly have a very different picture of what could be the potential highest converting traffic sources for each search engine.

While, with any numbers, we could make assumptions (like on Google, due to the PPC relevancy factors, PPC conversions are higher than organic listings or maybe, due to how Yahoo appears on those with a 800×600 screen resolution, surfers click a lot of ads at the top of the page, but the higher conversion rates come from those looking further into the search results) – they are just that: assumptions.

Test your traffic by source. Not just by engine. Not just by PPC. Test traffic by source (PPC, organic, banners) by engine by keyword.

Only by drilling down into the conversions can one really understand how various traffic streams convert for your particular website.

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