Posted March 11, 2009 5:26 pm by with 13 comments

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A study published recently by Conductor, Inc. and reported in MediaPost today gives some interesting insights into the world of big business and organic search. It seemsfortune-500 as if they either haven’t been introduced completely or they simply don’t get along.

The report can be highlighted by this finding alone: Fortune 500 companies spend $51 million per day in aggregate on 88,792 keywords–yet only 20.82% rank in the top 100 of natural search results.

The company did a similar study in November of 2008 but looked at a much smaller subset of keywords. The findings were broken out based on company sector using the NAICS (North American Industry Classification System). While the findings of the report spoke to the overall lack of real success for these biggest of the big firms there were some winners including MGM Mirage (accommodations & food services); Whirlpool (manufacturing); Viacom (information); Amazon (retail trade) and IBM (professional, scientific & technical services).

Seth Besmertnik, Conductor CEO said,

“It remains alarming that although we included branded keywords in the study for the Fortune 500, more than the lion’s share are not showing up anywhere in search results for their most important keywords, including their own names.”

Some other highlights (or low lights depending on your point of view)

  • Only 1.41% of the domains surveyed show significant number of their terms in the top results
  • 10.14% of Fortune 500 companies studied showed mid-to-strong presence for their most advertised keywords, and 41.69% of Fortune 500 companies have low to mid presence. Visibility decreased as search queries grew in length
  • Fortune 500 companies did worse as keyword searches became more complex and longer.

So what’s the takeaway here? If you have ever worked on one of these campaigns from the agency side you are probably all too well aware that the pace of change and implementation for big companies is often slow or non-existent. In addition, there are so many people / departments that have some ownership stake in the company site that it can take a committee meeting to decide the next time the committee meets to set a committee meeting. These big companies are still not moving at Internet speed and getting hurt in the process.

Also, with a significant push toward developing in house teams at many companies, not just the Fortune 500’s, the question begs if this is working?  It’s not fair at all to make any blanket statements based on this study but it is interesting to consider the implications for those more nimble and flexible than the big boys. What better place than the search engines can a smaller player both look bigger and, in essence, clean the clock of the industry behemoths? Goliath meet David and look out for that slingshot!

  • SEO is dead or dying? Hardly just look above.

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..Information Doesn’t Need Devices?

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  • Big business is just starting to realize the big potential and long-term value of SEO. I say, two more years till it really starts to become a ‘must have’. Another 3 or 4 years till it trickles down to med. sized business though.

  • This is a good sign. I think pretty soon the playing field will level off, and huge companies will be down sized to give way to all the other entrepreneurs out there .

  • This is an amazing article and good news for potential in-house SEO specialists like myself. I bet a few of these companies spent a lot of money outsourcing their SEO and just got taken for a ride.

  • Its not dying, but some faulty methods only just put short term achievements.. so we really need to target long term goals..

  • It’s scary to see how many of this companies do not even have a clue of what search engine optimization is. I can’t understand how their marketing teams do not pay attention to the search engines importance now days. All big companies should at least care about having their brand in the first positions.

  • Leaves room at the top for all of us little guys. It is encouraging that we can make a difference.

    seo web design colorado’s last blog post..Web Development in a Web Standards Compliant Sort of Way

  • I recently conducted SEO research for a local manufacturer and asked them to name their top 10 competitors ranked by company size as well as the keywords relevant to their industry. In all but a hanful of cases, the larger companies didn’t rank on the first page for specific geographic phrases for which they should have ranked. The sites that did rank best were from companies of the same size or smaller than our client. Indeed, the larger organizations are lagging behinf in SEO.

  • Large companies consistently fall short compared to smaller companies in terms of their SEO efforts. Smaller companies beat the pants off the big guys because they can be so much more agile.

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  • To sum it up, it takes courage to reach the top. It takes courage to be the topnotcher.

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