If your service or website isn't included within the first three pages of a search result, you need to act fast.

Jupiter Research has revealed new research (sponsored by iProspect and called, "The iProspect Search Engine User Behavior Study") which shows that 62 per cent of search engine users click on a result within the first page of results, and a that 90 per cent of users click on a result within the first three pages of search results.

These figures were just 48 per cent and 81 per cent, respectively, in 2002.

Branding and the power of search

"Search engine marketers should take note of these findings and the implications to their businesses that are detailed within the study," Jupiter explained in a press release.

The research also found that 36 per cent of search engine users believe that the companies whose websites are returned at the top of the search results are the top brands in their field. This underscores the essential nature of high search results on a company's branding.

Web surfers are growing more accomplished at using search technology. 41 per cent of users who continue their search when not finding what they seek will change engines or change their search term if they don't find what they seek on the first page of results. This figure was 28 per cent in 2002.

The number of users who will use the same search engine but with new data if they fail to get the results they want has climbed from 68 per cent in 2002 to 82 per cent.

Climb up or climb out

Analysts stressed that the findings confirm the importance of being found on the first three pages of search results. Citing another recent survey, the researchers pointed out that 87 per cent of commercial clicks come from natural (rather than sponsored) search results.

iProspect president Robert Murray said: "This study clearly shows the increased importance of being found in the top search results. If you're site is not found on the first page – or within the first three pages of search results – you might as well be putting up a billboard in the woods."

Murray went on to explain: "As search engine effectiveness improves and search becomes ubiquitous, users have become more adept at searching, and their expectations have risen. They know what they want, and they want to find it immediately, and the majority want to find it on page one. And that majority is growing. We've witnessed this percentage climb over the last four years, from 48 per cent in 2002, to 62 per cent today."

Murray advised that search engine marketers must work hard to make sure their company is found within the top search results on a broad range of terms, not just single word terms. "If no one can find it, no one will use it," he said.