Half of all customers turn to organic search to find out about specific retailers, according to a new study by BloomReach.

Showing up in organic search isn’t just a competitive advantage anymore – brands that don’t engage in some kind of SEO run the risk of missing out on the bulk of their potential customers. This is the main takeaway from a study by BloomReach, which discovered half of consumers (49 percent) first turn to search engines to look for retailers before buying.

Another interesting finding from the study that asked a group of UK consumers how they use organic search as a research tool is people don’t seem to consider online research to be impersonal. In fact, 60 percent said it was more personal than physically going to a store. This makes sense, as customized content and segmented search strategies offer customers resources based on their needs.

And at SMX East, President and CTO of Chiefmartec Scott Brinker said “67 percent of consumers say content is more important to their purchase decision than conversations with sales reps,” which means brands need a strong search presence and content strategy to get deals in general. 

Search: The first step in the sales pipeline

This research echoes findings from other sources about the primacy of organic SEO. According to a survey by BlogHer, 88 percent of US consumers research products online before buying. Taken together, these findings should reinforce how important it is for brands to use search as a first step in the sales funnel. It’s possible to route visitors through other channels, like social or email, but because search is so important, it represents the easiest place to grab readers attention and move them closer to conversion.

Here’s an example of how this works: A client that provides swimming pools and related products needed to step up its organic traffic game. To help capture more visitors, we created:

 Location-specific landing pages
 Daily blog content
 Content targeted at specific customer pain points

What we saw was a 30 percent increase in visitors, and an 84 percent increase in traffic to the news and blog section. Additionally, 16 percent of all conversions were coming from organic visitors who viewed this content.

No strategy is complete without a unified plan that includes other channels like social and email, but search is usually the first place customers go to research email products. With a strong presence on Google SERPs (thanks to targeted relevant content), it becomes easier to reach prospects and get them into the sales funnel.

Alex Butzbach is a Marketing Writer at Brafton. He studied Communications at Boston College, and after a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he entered the world of content marketing. When he isn't writing and researching, he can be found on a bike somewhere in Metro Boston.