In a struggling economy, many Americans felt they lost control over their personal finances, but it seems they gained control over the online research experience to determine how to spend their limited funds. A study from e-Tailing Group shows that 57 percent of consumers use search engine results to make purchase decisions. For businesses looking to increase sales in 2010, this indicates a sound SEO strategy combined with well-constructed web content is needed to make sales.

The study, entitled 5 Social Shopping Trends Shaping the Future of Ecommerce, shows that keyword searches are an influential starting point for 98 percent of online product researchers. Making content easy to find through SEO is essential to getting a brand on consumers’ radar.

At the same time, 87 percent of consumers claim landing pages are an important feature in the research experience. Research starts with a search, but it happens on websites, says e-Tailing Group. When perusing business websites, consumers most carefully consider customer reviews and ratings on products. This information was a top priority for 71 percent of respondents. Thus, nurturing user-generated content is clearly key to winning prospective clients’ trust.

As consumers are becoming increasingly experienced in online research, it’s important for marketers to cater to sophisticated shoppers by delivering desired information. In his blog, Matt Cutts, head of the webspam team at Google, says to avoid "keyword stuffing" in favor of offering searchers relevant content.