Search Engine Optimization By

Search Engine Optimization By


Search engines are an important way of obtaining information on the Internet. According to Alexia Traffic Rank, is the most popular web site in the United States as well as in the world, and in May 2011, it was the first web site to achieve one billion monthly unique visitors.1 Many people use search engines as a starting point for navigating the Web, making search engines a crucial link in connecting content providers and users.

This has spurred a sizable literature on search marketing that studies clicking behavior at search engines. To date, most of this literature has concentrated on the sponsored links that are typically displayed alongside organic links when consumers conduct searches. Although most of the economics and marketing literature on search engines has focused on paid clicks, the bulk of the traffic retailers receive through search engines is actually through unpaid clicks on organic links (Jerath et al., 2014).2 For this reason, more advertisers engage in search engine optimization (SEO) to improve organic clicks than purchase sponsored links to get paid clicks (Berman and Katona, 2013).

To the best of our knowledge, the present paper is the first to provide search marketers with information on drivers of organic clicks to aid in SEO. Existing studies of sponsored search are typically based on a modest number of search terms and the corresponding number of paid clicks received by a single retailer. Our research complements these studies by focusing on the organic clicks that 759 retail sites received from more than 12,000 search terms. There is considerable cross-sectional variation in our data: It includes Web-only retailers as well as traditional retailers and covers 15 different retail segments including apparel, electronics, and mass merchants. For each of these search terms, we observe which retail sites received organic clicks as well as the number of clicks.

We also obtained data from the first five pages of search results on Google and Bing for each search term, and this ultimately permits us to quantify the impact on organic clicks of a site’s rank (position) in the search results. Our data also include several different measures of the accumulated brand equity of online retailers. These data allow us to determine whether consumers are more likely to click the link of a retailer who is perceived to operate a high-quality site (as a result of the retailer’s current and past investments in advertising, the depth and breadth of offerings, secure payments, one-click purchases, returns policies, and so on). Ultimately, this permits us to quantify the benefits of SEO strategies that attempt to gain traffic by improving a retailer’s rank in organic search results, versus gaining traffic by improving the quality and brand awareness of a site. Not surprisingly, we find that a retailer’s rank on a results page is an important driver of its organic clicks: Exclusion from the first five pages of results for a search leads to a 90% reduction in organic clicks. For retailers that are listed on the first five pages of results, a 1% improvement in rank leads to 1.3% more organic clicks for that search.


  1. Alexa Traffic Rank is calculated by combining a web site’s average number of daily visitors and page views over the past month.
  2. Our data are consistent with this finding.


Search Engine Optimization :-highlights the avenues that retailers have for gaining traffic through search engines. This screenshot shows the search results that appear following a search for “shoes online” using Google Search. In this particular example, three different types of links appear: top ads, side ads, and organic results.3 The top ads (marked by the red box in Figure 1), if any, are the highest listed search results and appear against a yellow background. For this particular search there are three top ads; the maximum number of top ads that may be displayed is four. The organic results (marked by the blue box) are listed below the top ads. Up to ten organic results can appear on a search result page. Finally, the side ads (purple box) appear on the right-hand side of the screen; Google allows for up to eight side ads to be shown on a result page.

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