Forrester, in its annual report on how consumers found websites during the past year, discovered that 54% of respondents found websites through natural search results in 2012, up from 50% in 2011. Social networks were the second-most preferred discovery resource, with 32% using them in 2012, up from 25% in 2011 and 18% in 2010.
Forrester surveyed 33,000 online users in the U.S. and Canada to collect its data.
A Paid Search Disconnect?
In what’s likely a surprise to many search marketers, just 18% of those surveyed said that they used paid search ads for website discovery. This despite the fact that paid search spending is still increasing, according to other studies that track marketing budgets.
Forrester attributes this to the mindset of many search marketers to prioritize sales over other goals. They also note that many organizations still silo their marketing groups, with sometimes literal physical barriers separating search, paid, social or other marketing teams, thwarting collaboration.
Links Aren’t Dead, Just Yet
Contrary to a popular meme that suggests link building isn’t as important as it once was due to changes in search engine algorithms, respondents said that links were an important means of website discovery, with 28% saying they found websites from links on other sites.
And offline sources were also important, with 18% saying they found websites via newspapers, and 15% from TV shows or news stories.
The report also has a surprising conclusion: that Apple, not Google, will be the dominant search engine of the next decade, asserting that as customization becomes more important to consumers, Apple will have an edge in better understanding searcher needs and intent by providing “data lockers” to customers. It’s an intriguing idea, and not entirely far-fetched, given the fate of the entire era of pre-Google search engines.
The full report, How Consumers Found Websites In 2012, is available for $US 499.