A Web-hosting firm in the U.K., Fasthosts, conducted an online survey of 2,000 U.K. small businesses in January and February (as a marketing vehicle for its own services). Indeed, one must always take such surveys with a "grain of salt" because the respondents are typically self-selected. Yet the results of the survey are interesting. The survey offers several conclusions about small-business behavior online. But what’s far more intriguing is the consumer behavior that it reflects — and confirms.
Again, I don’t want to put too much emphasis on this, but the survey confirms that most people don’t go beyond the first or second page of search results. A third of respondents said they drill down "three pages or more." However, I’m skeptical about people accurately reporting their behavior; I believe they view far fewer results than that (see Enquiro’s "heatmaps" research). (Microsoft’s new Live.com site uses Ajax to avoid the concept of clicking on pages entirely.)
The market-share numbers the survey reveals are striking:
- Google — 89%
- Yahoo! — 6%
- Ask — 3%
- MSN — 2%
By contrast Hitwise reported that Google UK and Google.com together are responsible for 70% of U.K. Internet searches. MSN.co.uk Search, in second place according to Hitwise, had an 8% share.
We have long believed that SME behavior, when they act as consumers, is a leading indicator of their future behavior as advertisers. But the discrepancy between the heavy search-engine user behavior and the fact that "49% of respondents admitted that they do not submit their website to search engines" is consistent with the confusion and inertia about online marketing that still permeates the small-business marketplace.