More than 65 per cent of online merchants believe search engine marketing is the best-performing tool they have to drive sales, a new report has revealed.

Online resource Internet Retailer surveyed 200 retailers and discovered that more than two-thirds believe search engine marketing is vital to their business.

More than half of the businesses questioned reported that at least 25 per cent of all their sales come from pay-per-click and natural search campaigns and of those, almost 30 per cent report that at least half their business is generated by such techniques.

Jeffrey Pruitt, vice-president for corporate partnerships with marketing agency iCrossing and also a board member of the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization, told Internet Retailer that merchants are beginning to understand search engine optimization.

"They understand that striking the right balance between paid and natural search is going to net them better sales results and higher rankings," he added.

However, a study published by JupiterResearch last year suggested that many US companies are failing to successfully target foreign consumers as their global search efforts often rely on direct translations of the website.

Such a tactic is unlikely to ensure a site is filled with the most commonly searched-for phrases, it noted.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.