AN EXAMINATION OF THE UK ONLINE CONSUMERS’ PERCEPTIONS AND
 ATTITUDES TOWARDS SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING AND E-WORD-OF-
     ...
Declaration




No portion of the work referred to in this dissertation has been submitted in support of an
application fo...
Abstract




The present paper advances the understanding of the UK internet users’ behavior when in
presence of Search En...
Acknowledgements




Collecting all the data for the present research would not be possible without all my
colleagues from...
Table of Contents




CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION ..............................................................................
CHAPTER 3 - METHODOLOGY .....................................................................................................
3. Areas for further research ...............................................................................................
Table of Figures, Tables and Graphs



Figures

Figure 1: Heat-map of user’s scan of Google search results pages (Aula and...
Graph 5: Frequency of clicks Vs gender

Graph 6: Frequency of clicks Vs age

Graph 7: Frequency of clicks Vs hours spent o...
CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION



The topic of this research, “An Examination of the UK Online Consumers’ Perceptions and
Attitu...
This project aims to critically analyse on how UK online consumers perceive and act when in
presence of Search Engine Mark...
professional research, including practical recommendations, limitations of the findings and
areas for further research.


...
CHAPTER 2 – LITERATURE REVIEW




1. The Internet

1.1 The impact of the Internet on consumer Marketing


Examining the in...
a product/service is nowadays also made by a C2C basis, which is difficult to control but has
ways to manage (Mangold and ...
be answered is how far are users willing to engage with internet marketing campaigns, and
what motivates them to share the...
2.2 Online Consumers’ Attitudes Towards e-Marketing


Breitenbach and Van Doren (1998) identified five different types of ...
services. Users can now perform quick online searches by simply issuing queries made up of
search terms (Kumar and Lang, 2...
2.4 Attitudes towards Emails


Following a study by Habeas (2008), regardless of email and internet threat concerns,
consu...
company’s goals (Mangold and Faulds, 2009). These authors distinguished five different
social media platforms: Communicati...
Consumers are nowadays living a digital lifestyle, differentiating from the past consumer
behaviour through their active i...
state that the failure of the DotCom was due to a lack of traditional business and marketing
knowledge, and also to the la...
1. Google – 73,66%
   2. Yahoo – 15,55%
   3. Bing (MSN) – 5,64%
   4. Ask – 3,81%

These search engines have an interesti...
•   The web page title - has to be objective, relevant and include the most important
    keywords (Carrera, 2009; Google,...
very dynamic (Chaffey et al., 2009; EConsultancy, 2009). Carrera (2009) adds to these
advantages the fact that it is possi...
Figure 2: Organic and Paid areas in Google search engine




Source: Google (2008)




In early PPC programs, the ranking ...
per-click, controlling campaigns can be time consuming, and many people still do not trust
advertisements (EConsultancy, 2...
Lilien, 2008). Never before have people been as immune to advertising as they are nowadays,
as well as interconnected betw...
forward viral emails and how far do they give positive/negative recommendations in social
networks, is what remains to be ...
bypassed an important factor in social networking: the fundamental growth of these services
is due to its simplicity and e...
CHAPTER 3 - METHODOLOGY

This project was aimed to be completed until September 4th 2009, and it was expected to be
elabor...
The quantitative method presented several challenges to the researcher that had to be taken
into account: it requires imag...
The probable issue of some respondents not having internet access is not a relevant matter,
since the internet usage in th...
visualisation of results in real-time; analysis through graphs, charts and individual responses;
enables secure share of s...
probability of a sample member to be included in the sample cannot be measured. This type of
sampling requires less time a...
the heterogeneity of the sample limited the findings, since it belongs to a small group of
internet users that were at the...
CHAPTER 4 – ANALYSIS OF FINDINGS

1. UK Internet users’ general characteristics

1.1 Daily hours spent on the internet



...
Graph 1: Hours spent on the internet Vs gender




Graph 2: Hours spent on the internet Vs age




1.2 Daily usage of the ...
about 51 per cent of the respondents assuming they use it constantly. A study by the
University of Stanford validates this...
2. UK Internet users’ demographic and social characteristics



Internet users participating in this study were predominan...
Graph 4: Education level of respondents




3. Attitudes towards Search Engine Marketing
    ttitudes

3.1 Attitudes when ...
Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, where it is stated that a quality snippet can have a direct
impact on the chances of a we...
50 per cent). Research findings prove that there is a clear preponderance of “never” and
“rarely” answers (both with 40% o...
Graph 5: Frequency of clicks Vs gender




Graph 6: Frequency of clicks Vs age




                                       ...
Graph 7: Frequency of clicks Vs hours spent online




Considering the reasons behind the high tendency to never or rarely...
Table 7: Reasons for not clicking on sponsored links


                                                         Response  ...
Graph 9: Reasons for not clicking links Vs hours spent online




4. Attitudes towards company emails



When analysing th...
respondents to forward those emails, with a response rate as low as 3,7 per cent, remaining
here good news for email marke...
Graph 10: Factors for Email forwarding Vs age




Graph 11: Factors for Email forwarding Vs Hours spent online




       ...
5. Attitudes towards companies’ Social Network pages

To analyse respondents’ acceptance and participation with companies ...
Graph 12: Interaction with company pages Vs gender




Graph 13: Interaction with company pages Vs age




               ...
Graph 14: Interaction with company pages Vs hours spent online




After analysing how far respondents do or do not intera...
Master's Final Dissertation
Master's Final Dissertation
Master's Final Dissertation
Master's Final Dissertation
Master's Final Dissertation
Master's Final Dissertation
Master's Final Dissertation
Master's Final Dissertation
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Master's Final Dissertation
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Master's Final Dissertation
Master's Final Dissertation
Master's Final Dissertation
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Master's Final Dissertation

  1. 1. AN EXAMINATION OF THE UK ONLINE CONSUMERS’ PERCEPTIONS AND ATTITUDES TOWARDS SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING AND E-WORD-OF- MOUTH - IN THE WEB 2.0 CONTEXT By TIAGO FARIA # 08975251 Supervised by ADRIAN THOMAS Submitted to Manchester Metropolitan University Department of Food and Tourism Management as part of the requirement of the MA Strategic Consumer Marketing Word Count: 14.413 4th September 2009
  2. 2. Declaration No portion of the work referred to in this dissertation has been submitted in support of an application for another degree or qualification of this University or any other institution of learning. 2
  3. 3. Abstract The present paper advances the understanding of the UK internet users’ behavior when in presence of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and e-Word-of-Mouth (WOM) activities, considering the present active role of the online consumer who uses Web 2.0 tools such as Blogs and Social Media. An online questionnaire survey, reaching 108 respondents who actively use the social network site “Facebook”, examined the respondents’ general and socio- demographic characteristics, online behavior, and level of engagement with SEM and WOM activities. It also identified the most popular and the most frequently used internet tools. The survey findings were by and large consistent with similar studies conducted in the United Kingdom and North America. The analysis of the collected data enabled to note relevant relationships between variables, comparing answers through gender, age, and hours spent on the internet. The findings will give internet marketers a degree of insight into their target users, and will enable them to formulate strategies to cater for the identified segments effectively. In addition, this study will provide a vital point of reference for future research into internet marketing, which will certainly be useful considering the current trends and growth of this particular marketing activity. 3
  4. 4. Acknowledgements Collecting all the data for the present research would not be possible without all my colleagues from Manchester Metropolitan University, who gave their time to complete the survey, thus many thanks go to them. I wish to thank my supervisor Adrian Thomas for the excellent support and guidance throughout the project, and for all the positive thoughts transmitted all through the year. Many thanks go to my family, especially my Parents for their unconditional support, devoted attitude and faith in me. Finally, a big blessing to all my friends for the support, inspiration, and partake when the ride was pretty rough for all. 4
  5. 5. Table of Contents CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................ 10 CHAPTER 2 – LITERATURE REVIEW ............................................................................................ 13 1. The Internet ................................................................................................................................... 13 1.1 The impact of the Internet on consumer Marketing ................................................................ 13 1.2 Web 2.0 ................................................................................................................................... 14 2. The UK Internet User .................................................................................................................... 15 2.1 Online Consumers’ Perceptions Towards e-Marketing .......................................................... 15 2.2 Online Consumers’ Attitudes Towards e-Marketing .............................................................. 16 2.3 Attitudes towards search engines ............................................................................................ 16 2.4 Attitudes towards Emails ........................................................................................................ 18 2.5 Attitudes towards Social Media .............................................................................................. 18 2.6 The Web 2.0 Consumer ........................................................................................................... 19 3. Internet Marketing ......................................................................................................................... 20 3.1 Search Engine Marketing ........................................................................................................ 21 3.1.1 Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ..................................................................................... 22 3.1.2 Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Marketing (PPC) ................................................................... 24 3.2 eWord-of-Mouth (eWOM) Marketing .................................................................................... 26 3.2.1 Viral Marketing .................................................................................................................... 26 3.2.2 Social Media Marketing ....................................................................................................... 28 5
  6. 6. CHAPTER 3 - METHODOLOGY ....................................................................................................... 30 1. Primary Research .......................................................................................................................... 30 1.1 Online Questionnaires ............................................................................................................. 31 1.2 Sampling ................................................................................................................................. 33 1.3 Data Analysis .......................................................................................................................... 34 1.4 Challenges and Limitations ..................................................................................................... 34 2. Secondary Research ...................................................................................................................... 35 CHAPTER 4 – ANALYSIS OF FINDINGS ........................................................................................ 36 1. UK Internet users’ general characteristics..................................................................................... 36 1.1 Daily hours spent on the internet............................................................................................. 36 1.2 Daily usage of the different internet tools ............................................................................... 37 2. UK Internet users’ demographic and social characteristics .......................................................... 39 3. Attitudes towards Search Engine Marketing ................................................................................. 40 3.1 Attitudes when performing a query on a Search Engine ......................................................... 40 3.2 Attitudes towards Sponsored Links......................................................................................... 41 4. Attitudes towards company emails ............................................................................................... 46 5. Attitudes towards companies’ Social Network pages ................................................................... 49 6. Attitudes towards companies’ official blogs ................................................................................. 52 CHAPTER 5 – CONCLUSIONS .......................................................................................................... 56 1. Conclusions and Recommendations.............................................................................................. 56 2. Limitations .................................................................................................................................... 59 6
  7. 7. 3. Areas for further research .............................................................................................................. 60 REFERENCES ...................................................................................................................................... 61 CYBEROGRAPHY .............................................................................................................................. 69 BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................................................................................................................. 70 APPENDIXES ...................................................................................................................................... 71 Appendix A – Sample of how the survey looked like to the respondents ......................................... 71 Appendix B – Facebook page of the pilot survey ............................................................................. 72 Appendix C – Survey response summary ......................................................................................... 73 Appendix D – Survey Monkey upgrade - payment receipt ............................................................... 74 Appendix E – Gantt Chart ................................................................................................................. 75 Appendix F - Questionnaire Structure .............................................................................................. 76 7
  8. 8. Table of Figures, Tables and Graphs Figures Figure 1: Heat-map of user’s scan of Google search results pages (Aula and Rodden, 2009) Figure 2: Organic and Paid areas in Google search engine (Google, 2008) Tables Table 1: Daily hours spent on the internet Table 2: Gender of respondents Table 3: Age of respondents Table 4: Respondents’ search habits Table 5: Search result elements in order of respondents’ preference Table 6: Frequency of “clicks” on sponsored links Table 7: Reasons for not clicking on sponsored links Table 8: Factors for company email forwarding Table 9: Interaction with company pages on Social Networks Table 10: Type of interaction with company pages of Social Networks Table 11: Interaction with official blogs of companies Table 12: Type of interaction with company blogs Graphs Graph 1: Hours spent on the internet Vs gender Graph 2: Hours spent on the internet Vs age Graph 3: Internet tools frequency of usage Graph 4: Education level of respondents 8
  9. 9. Graph 5: Frequency of clicks Vs gender Graph 6: Frequency of clicks Vs age Graph 7: Frequency of clicks Vs hours spent online Graph 8: Reasons for not clicking links Vs age Graph 9: Reasons for not clicking links Vs hours spent online Graph 10: Factors for Email forwarding Vs age Graph 11: Factors for Email forwarding Vs Hours spent online Graph 12: Interaction with company pages Vs gender Graph 13: Interaction with company pages Vs age Graph 14: Interaction with company pages Vs hours spent online Graph 15: Interaction with official blogs Vs gender Graph 16: Interaction with official blogs Vs age Graph 17: Interaction with official blogs Vs hours spent online List of abbreviations eWOM – e-Word-of-Mouth PPC – Pay-per-Click SEM – Search Engine Marketing SEO – Search Engine Optimisation WOM – Word-of-Mouth 9
  10. 10. CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION The topic of this research, “An Examination of the UK Online Consumers’ Perceptions and Attitudes towards Search Engine Marketing and e-Word-of-mouth – in the context of Web 2.0”, raises several thoughts. Firstly, an understanding of what Search Engine Marketing and e-Word-of-Mouth are is essential for the contextualization of the project. Carrera (2009) and Chaffey et al. (2009) define Search Engine Marketing as an activity that involves promoting companies through online search engines, in order to meet marketing objectives by delivering relevant content in the users’ search results, and motivating them to click on a specific link. As for e-Word-of-Mouth Marketing, Park and Kim (2008) define it as the most measurable, controllable and strategic way to build active and mutually beneficial consumer-to-consumer and consumer-to-marketer communications around a certain product, service or company (The Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association, 2009). Secondly, identifying the main characteristics of the Web 2.0 is crucial to comprehend the reason of this research: the understanding on how users engage and participate with search engines and social media, focusing particularly on the marketing activities involved in those web tools. Web 2.0 is a term introduced in 2004 by the American company O’Reilly Media, in order to define a second generation of communities and services based on the Web, such as blogs and Social Networks. This term does not mean a new version of the web, but a change in the way it is used by customers and creators (O’Reilly, 2005). Consumers have now an active role on the web, where their opinions and interests truly count, but the main power is the users’ possibility for content creation (Microsoft, 2007; Fu et al., 2007; Cheung and Lee, 2009). It is widely acknowledged in the marketing field that it is the knowledge of customers, the prediction of their behaviour, and the meeting of their expectations that is the key to success. Therefore, internet marketers need to recognize detailed characteristics of online users and their internet habits in order to effectively identify and reach their target segments (Carrera, 2009; Chaffey et al., 2009). From the consumer marketing perspective, analysis of internet users’ decision-making process should be based on users’ characteristics and their online behaviour. 10
  11. 11. This project aims to critically analyse on how UK online consumers perceive and act when in presence of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and e-Word-of-Mouth (eWOM) activities, and the main objectives are: • To contextualize the impact of internet on contemporary marketing • To investigate the current context of the Web 2.0 consumer, and its active role on the web • To analyse the contemporary internet users’ behaviour towards marketing • To explore key concepts in Internet Marketing, focusing specifically on Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and e-Word-of-mouth (eWOM) • To evaluate the way UK online consumers perceive SEM and eWOM activities, and assess their attitudes towards it • To make recommendations for future research or strategies in the internet marketing context During the secondary research process, several key research questions were raised, which would be the basis of the questionnaire elaboration: • How far are trust issues a concern when analysing internet marketing activities effectiveness? • How do users perform searches in search engine pages, and what do they consider more important in a search result? • Why do internet users prefer massively the organic results in a search engine page, rather than sponsored links? • What motivates internet users to forward marketing emails to other users? • How far are users engaging with company blogs and social network pages? • How do users mostly interact with those blogs and social network pages? This paper is organised as following: firstly, an exploration of the previous research and documented evidence takes place in the literature review (chapter 2). Secondly, an explanation on how the research was carried out, including research design, sampling, data collection methods, method of analysis and limitations (chapter 3). Moreover, the answer to the research questions comes about on chapter 4, with a thorough analysis of the survey results. Finally, the conclusion of the research is consummated on chapter 5, where research findings are analysed through the point of view of their impact on further academic or 11
  12. 12. professional research, including practical recommendations, limitations of the findings and areas for further research. 12
  13. 13. CHAPTER 2 – LITERATURE REVIEW 1. The Internet 1.1 The impact of the Internet on consumer Marketing Examining the internet in the perspective of consumer marketing is crucial to understand and contextualize this project. Here arises a straightforward question: What are the major implications of the Internet on consumer marketing? Chaffey et al. (2009) claim that the internet has transformed marketing since the first website was created in the early 90’s (http://info.cern.ch/) (CERN, 2008), and nowadays, with over one billion people using the internet regularly, the way companies market their products and services and the way consumers behave has changed dramatically. Peterson et al. (1999) reinforce this idea, arguing that the World Wide Web possessed the most potential for marketing. Success in business already depends on technological knowledge, and this competitive edge has to be achieved in a continuous process. There are several authors that believe that the Internet had a significant impact in all of the Marketing mix 4 P’s: in the Product Mix, the digital brought new products and services (e.g. software) and added new features to existing ones (e.g. music on the internet) (Carrera, 2009). Avlonitis and Karayanni (2000) include the fact that the internet facilitated the discovery of consumer needs, customization and product testing; In the Price Mix, Carrera (2009) states that there was a significant reduction of costs, which originated companies selling their products or services at a low price, using only their web sites (e.g. low-cost airlines). However, the customization of products also allows companies to charge premium price, since they comply better with buyer’s tastes (Chaffey et al., 2009); As for the Place, services like home-banking facilitated the interaction and significantly reduced the costs comparing to other distribution channels. Also, the ability to retain information about the clients is much more efficient than traditional channels, for these give information about themselves unconsciously; Considering the Promotion, in the digital context the advertising adapts instantly to the needs of the consumers, since it collects information about these (e.g. IP address detection and buyer profile suggestions) (Carrera, 2009). Moreover, the promotion of 13
  14. 14. a product/service is nowadays also made by a C2C basis, which is difficult to control but has ways to manage (Mangold and Fauls, 2009), as will be analysed further in this project. All these factors have changed the way consumers interact with companies, bringing a much wider choice from different suppliers, and also the means to select and purchase items turned out to be much easier and quicker. But how far customers are engaged and confident of this new way of marketing is one of the issues to be explored in this project. 1.2 Web 2.0 A report by Microsoft (2007) goes even further, stating that web 2.0 is transforming the internet into a powerful and influential social medium, changing the way society thinks and behaves. The report affirms that especially the social networking phenomenon is gathering people online in communities, acting as a channel for personal expression. This is consistent with Fu et al. (2007) view, where it is said that the use of collaborative technologies results in an extraordinarily fast growing virtual community, where people communicate and share information. These authors also agree with the fact that the World Wide Web is shifting to a social web, where users have an active role in every aspects of business – here remains the main focus of this research paper. Consumers left the passive role behind and embraced the role of an active agent, who expresses himself through new tools, such as blogs, wikis or social networks (Carrera, 2009). Similarly, Cheung and Lee (2009) argue that the web has shifted from being mere information medium into a platform of content creation and sharing. Chaffey et al. (2009) add to these arguments that with the widespread adoption of high-speed broadband world-wide, rich media experiences are increasingly used to engage consumers with each other and with companies – more people will discuss online and interact with the brand campaigns, in a sort of “viral effect” that will be explored in this research. These authors complement Carrera’s definition, by adding that Web 2.0 is a collection of web services that promote interaction and user generated content through virtual community or social network participation, mashups, content ratings, widgets and tagging. The viral effect referred here is shared by Thackeray et al. (2008), who argue that web 2.0 enhances the power of viral marketing by increasing the speed of experience sharing in progressively larger audiences. Nonetheless, what remains to 14
  15. 15. be answered is how far are users willing to engage with internet marketing campaigns, and what motivates them to share the latter. 2. The UK Internet User 2.1 Online Consumers’ Perceptions Towards e-Marketing Online consumers lack the physical comfort of the offline stores and face-to-face communication. This fact is associated with the stories of fraud and security problems on the internet commerce (Chaffey et al., 2009). Therefore, online consumers usually look for evidence of trust when they are on a website, which include brand familiarity, site appearance, quality of the content, official recognition and recommendations by other users. Ha (2004) completes this argument, by explaining that as consumers have become more internet savvy, they insist on only interacting with companies they trust. Other trust factors can be added such as privacy (risk of providing personal information), security (payment risks), navigation (quick and fulfilling access to information) and order fulfilment (confirmation of orders to give evidence to consumers in high-involvement services) (Bart et al., 2005; Ha, 2004). Nonetheless, consumers do not purchase online only in company websites: other online sources are equally important, or even more important to the purchase choice. Following a research by AOL UK (2006), 77% of the respondents agree that if they saw a negative review on the internet about a product, it would make them reconsider their purchase, and 42% assumed they have switched to a different brand. The most important sources of online information were firstly the search engines, followed by websites of famous retailers, price comparison websites, reviews/opinions on the internet written by experts, and customer opinions/reviews on websites. An important factor to add to these findings is that these online sources of information reduce the time spent in evaluating product quality before purchase - a common aspect in an offline context (Huang et al., 2009). Therefore, what is important to retain here is that trust factors have an important role in consumers perceptions towards online marketing, and that consumers have access to different sources of information about the products they intend or are motivated to buy. How far do they think about these issues when in presence of internet marketing campaigns, and how the Web 2.0 era has shortened these concerns? 15
  16. 16. 2.2 Online Consumers’ Attitudes Towards e-Marketing Breitenbach and Van Doren (1998) identified five different types of internet users, which are agreed by other academics to remain valid nowadays (Chaffey et al., 2009): • Directed information seekers: Those who seek for product, services or leisure information, that usually do not buy online • Undirected information seekers: Usually referred as “surfers”, these users like to browse and constantly change web sites through links, looking for interesting or unexpected things – these are more likely to click on banner ads • Directed buyers: These users are usually online to buy something specific. Websites that compare products play an important role here • Bargain hunters: Those who want to find offers and promotions, in order to justify their investment in online shopping • Entertainment seekers – These users seek for pure online entertainment in contests such as quizzes, puzzles or multi-player games, or just to interact with animated features in a web site More recently, a report from EConsultancy (2004) identified a similar classification of online consumer behaviour, but stating that it does not imply that behaviours are applied to different people – depending on the product or occasion, individuals may behave differently. The report identified the “Tracker” (who knows what he is looking for), the “Hunter” (who searches, compares, and seeks for help), and the “Explorer” (who can have a shopping objective or just to satisfy its curiosity). But what remains to be explored in depth, is the type of consumer that doesn’t have a buying intention, but that is exposed to an internet marketing action (such as Search Engine Marketing or a Viral Marketing campaign), resulting or not in an unexpected conversion. 2.3 Attitudes towards search engines To perform product or service searches, users mostly utilize search engines. These have emerged as powerful consumer tools that retrieve relevant information about products or 16
  17. 17. services. Users can now perform quick online searches by simply issuing queries made up of search terms (Kumar and Lang, 2007). Nevertheless, it is important to notice that not all users are searching for specific products; users mainly look for information on search engines. In fact, as Smith (2009) states, Google’s (world’s largest search engine) primary objective is to provide relevant information about the words queried. Moreover, information websites always rank higher than profit-driven sites, remaining here an important challenge for Search Engine Marketing. To better understand consumer search engine behaviour, Search marketing company iProspect (2006) conducted a research on how consumers use search engines. The key findings were that 62% of search engine users only look at the first page of search results. Aula and Rodden (2009) complete this finding, by showing that users evaluate search results very fast and mostly make unconscious decisions, focusing mainly on the first two results of a search (Figure 1). iProspect also states that when users do not find what they are looking for, 41% change search term or search engine, and 82% refine their search with complementary words. As for prestige, it was found that 36% consider that the companies listed at the top of the search are the best brands in the market. The final finding was that comparing to the sponsored area, between 60% to 80% click on the natural (or organic) listings of a search page. What remains to be explored is why users massively prefer organic links, and the reasons behind not clicking on the sponsored links. Figure 1: Heat-map of user’s scan of Google search results pages Source: Aula and Rodden (2009) 17
  18. 18. 2.4 Attitudes towards Emails Following a study by Habeas (2008), regardless of email and internet threat concerns, consumers are still and will be in the future dependant on email, either for their relationships with businesses or with each other via web 2.0 applications. The study revealed that 69% of the users expressed concern about email fraud scams, and that many of them still do not know how to distinguish between potentially dangerous and trustable emails. It also revealed that the majority prefer companies that offer choice of opt-in, content and frequency of emails. Mintel (2008) added that users trust the emails that come from familiar companies who deliver relevant information with minimum of effort. In a seminar by dotMailer (2009), it was stated that despite the current context of the web 2.0 era where consumers have all the power, email is the gateway to consumers’ digital lives – every single user has an email account (or more), remaining here a great tool for spreading word-of-mouth, as will be analysed further. However, what motivates users to forward marketing emails is another key point in this research. Lin et al. (2006) argue that users might have stronger intention to forward a certain email if it gives them positive emotions, gives relevant information, are greater in length, or include interesting multimedia. On the other side, Phelps et al. (2004) distinguished between Infrequent Senders and Viral Mavens: the first ones select rigorously which emails are relevant and - if decide to forward - to whom they send; while Viral Mavens are frequent senders who feel excited, helpful, or satisfied when they forward emails to people who they think will like the message. In another perspective, a report by Mintel (2008) shows that nearly half of the respondents open emails with special offers if they come from someone they know, and are mostly in the age of 25-44 years. 2.5 Attitudes towards Social Media The appearance of web-based social media has facilitated the communication between one person and hundreds or even thousands of others, for the spreading of products or companies. This consumer-to-consumer perspective has gained tremendous power among the business world, but also a new opportunity for companies to communicate closely to their consumers was created (Sinha, 2008). Nevertheless, due to its uncontrollable nature, the challenge for companies lies on the ability to shape consumers’ discussions in order to align them with the 18
  19. 19. company’s goals (Mangold and Faulds, 2009). These authors distinguished five different social media platforms: Communication (blogs, micro-blogs, and social networks – which will be focused in this project), Collaboration (Wikis, Social Bookmarking, and Opinion Sites), Multimedia (Photo, Video, and Audio Sharing Sites), Opinion Sites (Product Review sites, and Question & Answers sites), and Entertainment (Virtual communities and Games). Research by iProspect (2007) found that several social media sites are visited by a quarter of the internet users; very few perform searches in those sites for companies or brands; that 34% of the users of these sites have been influenced to purchase a product through them; the majority still do not have the habit to add user generated content; and that the younger the user, the more apt is to visit and engage proactively with social media sites. Ramos (2009) improved these findings in a study by Forrester Research, by showing how consumers use social media to make buying decisions: it was found that the vast majority (69%) are “Spectators” that read and watch user-generated content; 37% are “Critics” that contribute with comments; and 29% are “Collectors” that use social technology to collect information. The main finding of this study was that it is not the social media application that influences their buying behaviour; it is their online peers’ opinions. Therefore the main issues that remain to be researched in this project are how users engage and recommend company blogs, micro-blog pages and social network pages. 2.6 The Web 2.0 Consumer Carrera (2009) argues that if consumers are studied in the same way as before, it is a fatal mistake – exploring only their needs is not enough anymore. The Web 2.0 consumer is now the “Prosumer”, i.e. a mixture of producer and consumer; someone who has a direct connection with the R&D department of the company. In a video recording, Prometeus (2007), the current power of the professional consumer is underlined, predicting that in the future the virtual worlds will dictate the new reality - experiences. Chaffey et al. (2009) support this analysis, by adding that the rise of the web 2.0 consumers came not only by the outbreak of new internet tools, but also because of the human wish to socialize and share experiences instantly. 19
  20. 20. Consumers are nowadays living a digital lifestyle, differentiating from the past consumer behaviour through their active interest, intelligence; they are technology savvy, and with lack of time. They want to instantly access and participate in all the information anytime and anywhere, evolving from passive consumers to autonomic, active and empowered consumers. The internet cannot be seen as “the virtual world” anymore, since people are experiencing emotions in reality, and sharing them online – transforming the internet into a “mirror” of reality (Microsoft, 2007). This report focuses on Social Networking experiences, and claims that over 23% of European internet users visit a social networking web site at least once a month, predicting exponential growth in this area. More importantly for marketing purposes, it also states that social networkers trust their communities’ opinions and information sharing, many of them recommend comment and share advertisements, and that most of them engage with companies personal pages and are opened to include sponsored content on their own pages (Microsoft, 2007). Web 2.0 consumers retain satisfaction in the usage of virtual communities by achieving purposive value and self discovery, and that satisfaction exerts a strong impact on the intention to continuously use the communities and recommend it to others. This satisfaction is normally achieved through online discussion forums that facilitate information exchange and experience sharing between users (Cheung and Lee, 2009). Hence, it is of most interest for this paper to analyse how far consumers are engaging with companies in social networks, blogs and micro-blogs; i.e. sharing companies’ content with other users or actively participating with user generated content in company pages. 3. Internet Marketing Carrera (2009) argues that in the end of the 90s there was a belief that web sites would be financially supported by advertising, in the same way it was used by the offline channels. The same tactics were used for the online, with static banners without interactivity which did not work at all (advertising income was not enough to support the new business models), leading to the dot-com bubble burst in 2001. But this idea is not shared with Razi et al. (2004), who 20
  21. 21. state that the failure of the DotCom was due to a lack of traditional business and marketing knowledge, and also to the lack of knowledge of online consumer behaviour and perceptions. This difficulty originated a higher level of demand, followed up by unusual imagination levels (Google, 2009). This imagination led, therefore, to new paths of promotion through the internet: interactive banner advertising, web site sponsorships, Email Marketing, Search Engines Marketing and Social Media. These new promotion tools originated several advantages for the companies: better cost-benefit balance; no limits to market reach; Instantaneous communication; and real time statistics (Jensen, 2008). Nevertheless, there are still certain disadvantages that have to be considered: difficulty to attract customers due to increase of online advertising; and there is still certain unwillingness towards the digital world (Razi et al., 2004). But this author did not mention an important factor, introduced by Chaffey et al. (2009), who claim that for internet marketing to be successful, it is still necessary to integrate its techniques with traditional media support, and that the investment in Internet Marketing should be determined by the achievement of marketing objectives. 3.1 Search Engine Marketing Carrera (2009) states that until the generalization of Google, the search for information about companies, products and people had not evolved considerably, i.e. the main source of information was the traditional telephone lists or advertisements. Nowadays, the strength of this search engine is so obvious that the term “google it” has replaced the term “search”. The verb “Google” has also been officially listed in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006 (Foley, 2006). While Carrera (2009) states that 90% of the internet users use search engines to find information on the web, research by AOL UK (2006) shows that 71% of the people use online search engines when considering different information sources to chose a product. Therefore, ignoring the positioning of a company and its products in search engines can cost many contacts and possible sells. According to SEO Consultants (2009), in May 2009 these were the top 4 search engines, dominating together with a 99% share of market: 21
  22. 22. 1. Google – 73,66% 2. Yahoo – 15,55% 3. Bing (MSN) – 5,64% 4. Ask – 3,81% These search engines have an interesting way of searching for web pages, generally within 0,07 seconds per search. They use spiders (also called robots or webcrawlers), which can be identified as automatic explorers, that search the entire web for occurrences of a specific subject in a web page. These spiders will then feed the database of the search engine with the keywords found in that web site, referencing its location and frequency of usage. Finally, the user types the keywords in the search box of the search engine, and the latter searches in its database to find corresponding links (Sen, 2005; Carrera, 2009). Search Engine Marketing involves promoting companies through online search engines, in order to meet marketing objectives by delivering relevant content in the users’ search results and motivating them to click on a specific link. There are two different types of Search Engine Marketing, that should be integrated in marketing activities: Search Engine Optimization (achieving the highest position/ranking in the natural or organic listings of a search page, within a combination of specific keywords) and Pay-Per-Click Search Marketing (placing text ads with a link to a company web page that will be displayed in a specific area of a search page – usually “sponsored links” – when users type particular keywords) (Carrera, 2009; Chaffey et al., 2009; Google, 2009; Klaassen, 2009). 3.1.1 Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Carrera (2009) argues that it is said that the secret to be on the top ranking of search engines exists, but it is religiously hidden. The algorithm that originates the order of the web sites after a search is not known, and therefore it is only possible to discuss the techniques that help position a web site in the top rankings. Nevertheless, Chaffey et al. (2009) states that there is not only one algorithm – for instance, Google claims to use more than 200 factors within its search ranking algorithms, including positive and negative factors. The main techniques used to improve the rankings include the optimization of: 22
  23. 23. • The web page title - has to be objective, relevant and include the most important keywords (Carrera, 2009; Google, 2008). But that is not the only variable: Chaffey et al. (2009) add that since it is the call-to-action hyperlink that is shown on the search engines page results, it is essential to be strong enough to have more clicks • the Meta Tags - portions of text inserted in the HTML code of the page, invisible for page viewers but visible to search engine spiders – useful for controlling in some degree how the web page is described by a search engine (Carrera, 2009). Here again, Meta Tags also denote the information that will be displayed in the search engine results page, after the hyperlink (Chaffey et al., 2009; Google, 2008) • URL structure – creating descriptive categories and filenames to the website documents will organize better the site and facilitate spiders’ crawling; moreover it creates a user- friendly URL for other people who intend to link to the site (Google, 2008). • Structure of the site - Carrera (2009) states that because spiders are automatic web navigators, they need to easily get into a website and navigate through it. Therefore, a clean, simple, well linked and well structured web site will have more chances to be better ranked, and also help visitors find quickly the intended content (Google, 2008). • Site linking - calculated by the number and quality of links associated to the web site (Carrera, 2009). Boosting external links is vital for optimum page ranking and it is considered as the most important factor of success in search engines. But Chaffey et al. (2009) consider that the internal linking structure is also important, by linking internal links to pages that are intended to be well ranked. • Keyword analysis – there are two alternatives: including many keywords to get more visits but less conversions, or less keywords to get better results (Carrera, 2009). Chaffey et al. (2009) use the term “keyphrase” rather than keyword, since search engines attribute more relevance when there is a phrase combination between keywords typed by users and a web site phrase. • Use of Keywords in the content - keywords should be consistently repeated in the content of a webpage, without the use of synonyms (Carrera, 2009). Nevertheless, Chaffey et al. (2009) state that the keywords (or “keyphrases”) should not be repeated too many times, as it might be considered as “search engine spamming”. There are several advantages and disadvantages connected with the usage of SEO. The main advantages are that it is a highly targeted marketing approach, it is potentially low cost, and 23
  24. 24. very dynamic (Chaffey et al., 2009; EConsultancy, 2009). Carrera (2009) adds to these advantages the fact that it is possible to have real time statistics – it is possible to know the reaction of the market every minute, enabling readjustments if results do not turn up. Nevertheless, the SEO practice is not that straightforward: the results are many times unpredictable, may take time to be implemented, and the complexity of the factors of page rank (Chaffey et al., 2009). What remains to be researched in this paper is how online users perform searches: whether they type one, two or more keywords on the search engines or whether if they type phrases or random words; and what do they consider more important in the results page (the title, the description or the repetition of typed keywords in bold). 3.1.2 Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Marketing (PPC) Buying keywords in search engines completely revolutionized the online advertising, since these generalized the concept of Cost-Per-Click – the client of this type of advertising only pays when a visitor clicks on the specific advertisement (Carrera, 2009). Comparing to SEO, PPC gives much more control on the appearance in search pages, due to the amount bid and the relevance of the text advertisement (Chaffey et al., 2009). Instead of spending time manipulating site codes and contents, marketers can therefore pay for positioning in search results (Sen, 2005). Carrera (2009) states that nowadays, the main search engines have advertising schemes associated to searches (Google Adwords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and Microsoft adCenter). When a visitor writes in the search box one or more keywords, the search page shows not only the organic search results, but also a group of sponsored links acquired by companies. The advertisements are produced by the advertisers, with a maximum of 25 characters in the ad title and 35 for the text lines and web address. As shown in Figure 2, these advertisements are placed in the sponsored results area of searches – the paid search (EConsultancy, 2008). However, several authors point out that many times consumers do not notice the difference between sponsored and organic links, clicking in relevant links for their query but with biased content (Sullivan, 2007; Sen, 2005; O’Connor, 2009). 24
  25. 25. Figure 2: Organic and Paid areas in Google search engine Source: Google (2008) In early PPC programs, the ranking of sponsored listings was based on the highest offer of cost-per-click for a specific keyword. But nowadays, this is not necessarily the case: search engines also pay attention to relative click-through rates of the ads – ads with fewer clicks will drop down the listing (Sullivan, 2007). This analysis is part of the Quality Score, a concept shared by the major search engines, which also analyses the match between the keyword and the occurrence of it in the text, the historical click-through rate, the engagement of the searcher when clicking on the ad, and also the loading speed and relevance of the web page associated (Chaffey et al., 2009; Google, 2009). The main advantages of this advertisement system are that it directs the ads only to the target that searched for those specific keywords, and the client only pays when users clicks on the ad. It also allows clients to change the contents in order to improve results, plan the maximum amount of campaign investment and cost-per-click, and control and refine campaigns on a daily basis through search engine control panels (such as Google Analytics). The ad stays online until the initial budget reaches the end (Google, 2009). Chaffey et al. (2009) include the fact that PPC is very accountable, results are predictable, simpler to use than SEO, quicker to get posted in search pages and has a branding effect (even there is no click, users see the ads). But it has a negative side as well: it is getting highly competitive and expensive costs- 25
  26. 26. per-click, controlling campaigns can be time consuming, and many people still do not trust advertisements (EConsultancy, 2008). Therefore, the challenge of this paper is to investigate on how UK internet users distinguish between organic search and paid search results, and how often do they click on paid results. 3.2 eWord-of-Mouth (eWOM) Marketing The Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association (2009) defines word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing as the act of “giving people a reason to talk about your products and services, and making it easier for that conversation to take place. It is the art and science of building active, mutually beneficial consumer-to-consumer and consumer-to-marketer communications”. It is not about creating WOM among consumers, it is about finding the best way to take the best out of it in order to meet marketing objectives. The best way to promote WOM is to encourage and facilitate it, by educating people about products/services, identifying social influencers, providing the best tools to facilitate communication, finding the right context and being a good listener (Chaffey et al., 2009). Different from traditional WOM, eWOM is measurable, controllable and more strategic (Park and Kim, 2008). Understanding how word-of-mouth can be generated and influenced is essential, since recommendations from other online users are trusted and capable of influencing consumers’ product/service choice (Chaffey et al., 2009). Carrera (2009) goes even further by arguing that the internet allowed word-of-mouth communication to overcome geographical barriers, accelerate the speed of transmission of those messages, and guarantee the integrity of the original message. 3.2.1 Viral Marketing Tim Draper’s idea to help launch Hotmail in 1996 was based a pattern of rapid consumer adoption by appending in every hotmail users’ outbound emails the message “Get your free email at Hotmail”. Every user became a salesperson from Hotmail, marking the birth of Viral Marketing (Jurvetson and Draper, 1997) through unintentional dissemination (Bruyn and 26
  27. 27. Lilien, 2008). Never before have people been as immune to advertising as they are nowadays, as well as interconnected between each other through social networks and instant messaging tools. Therefore, in the latter remains the greatest opportunity for companies to improve their brand presence (Carrera, 2009). Kirby and Mardsen (2005) agree and complete this idea, arguing that people no longer use the internet only for shopping or research – new technologies have turned the interest into the entertaining side of the web. Online Viral Marketing is a form of eWOM marketing that uses discussions about brands or campaigns and promotes transmission through pass-along email or discussion in a social network. It harnesses the network effect of the internet, reaching quickly a large number of users in the same way as a virus (Chaffey et al., 2009). Kirby and Mardsen (2005) consummate this thought by stating that this type of marketing focuses on personal experience of brands, trusting on the power of consumers to promote the brand unconsciously – who deliver additional user-oriented information and recommendation (positive or negative feedback) (Park and Lee, 2008). Viral Marketing is based on motivating consumers to pass a certain message to others, in order to create a significant increase in visibility and influence of a brand. The success of a Viral Marketing campaign does not depend on the budget; it is more likely to depend on creativity and assertive targeting. Carrera (2009) argues that the critical success factors of these campaigns are based on creating a proper and facilitated consumer-consumer environment, exploring motivations, using existing communities and using humour as a sharing motivator. Nevertheless, the challenge remains on erasing the spam and virus issues that have cluttered the electronic communications (Bruyn and Lilien, 2008). Carrera (2009) also points that the right people to be targeted are those who have the social role of distributors of information (hubs) in their social network, and who have an acknowledged power of influencing others. Chaffey et al. (2009) complete this theory by stating that effective hubs can reach large audiences in a cost-effective way, and act as highly influential agents by rating the opinions of others. That is the reason why effective research on online social networks is an important aspect of this type of marketing. However companies need to be careful, since in the same way positive feedback can be quickly spread, negative feelings can also have a destructive power over companies. How far do UK users 27
  28. 28. forward viral emails and how far do they give positive/negative recommendations in social networks, is what remains to be analysed in this paper. 3.2.2 Social Media Marketing Bhargava (2006) has created the term “Social Media Optimization” in order to define the changes made to optimize a website so that it is easily linked to, highly visible on social media searches, and more frequently included in relevant communication platforms. That can be done by increasing the linkability of the site through blogs and micro-blogs, facilitating tagging and bookmarking, rewarding inbound links by listing them back, submitting content to relevant sites to increase visibility and links, and encouraging co-creation mashups. But optimizing a website is just a part of the social media influence: Mangold and Faulds (2009) state that shaping consumers’ discussions is vital, and that it should be achieved through the creation of own social network platforms, engaging customers through blogs, providing honest information about the company, being original and outrageous, personalizing the communication, designing products/services that leverage word-of-mouth, and utilizing the power of stories. Microsoft (2007) added to these the ability to identify influential social network members, and to behave like the best social networkers, by being continuously creative, honest, and conscious of the community inserted. However, as Vasishtha (2009) points out, if companies are too casual in web 2.0 environments, it can diminish them in the eyes of users. Focusing on the most influential applications of communication – starting with Social Networks - Boyd and Ellison (2007) define them as “web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (p. 211). But this definition lacks an important point of social networks: the interactive capability to post comments or other content: Carrera (2009) includes it, by stating that Social Networks are communities of people who share the same interests and activities, or that are interested in exploring those of other people, through inserting text, image and video contents on social network websites. These websites are based on personal profiles with all the multimedia contents, and in commentaries and contributions of other members of the social network. Even so, both these authors 28
  29. 29. bypassed an important factor in social networking: the fundamental growth of these services is due to its simplicity and ease of use, but fundamentally due to its incredibly addictive nature (Microsoft, 2007). Considering the blogging application, it is in the origin of an accelerated democratization of content distribution. Blogs can bring several advantages to businesses: it is simple and inexpensive to create; it is a good way to share experiences in an intimate way, promoting therefore the word-of-mouth; it helps companies to increase credibility by sharing all the activities the company is involved in; and it helps to interact with the market, by encouraging experiences’ sharing and users commentaries (Carrera, 2009). Vasishtha (2009) complements this theory, stating that blog readers can exchange ideas with companies, but also with other bloggers, giving them a sense of community and of relationship building. This form of marketing can also be extremely effective in generating interest, driving call-to-action, creating brand friendliness, and showing that the company has expertise in a certain subject (Kirby and Mardsen, 2005). Finally, the micro-blogging is a phenomenon that is increasingly growing among individual users. The obvious and most remarkable example – Twitter – is also expanding into the business area. The main function of this site is to send and read other users’ updates – Tweets – which are short based posts of what they are doing at the moment. It represents nowadays a marketing channel and as a source of what customers and non-customers are saying about the company (Ginovsky, 2009). Jansen et al. (2009) complete this idea arguing that micro- blogging can be a powerful tool to forward potential customers to websites or blogs, and also to receive positive brand exposure via followers who micro-blog about the company. If there are negative postings, companies can immediately intervene and get feedback through monitoring tools. Twitter can aggregate several applications other than the users’ updates: useful for sharing links, works as powerful news feed, and as a valuable opinion site (Wilson, 2008). Regarding to the current project, what is interesting to research here is how are users of social networks, blogs and micro-blogs engaging with companies through these applications. 29
  30. 30. CHAPTER 3 - METHODOLOGY This project was aimed to be completed until September 4th 2009, and it was expected to be elaborated in due time (3 months), even though the researcher opted to change the research topic in a rather advanced stage of the course. The research methodology was planned considering the context of the research topic, the type of information required, and the time and resources available for completion. This research design guided the investigator in terms of following the appropriate methods of data collection, in order to answer the proposed title of research. Considering the limitations of the project, one can argue that the secondary data research was limited to the literature available in the MMU library resources (academic journals and books), and that the research for primary data was limited by the sample number, due to restrictions of time to complete the project and resources to support it. Another important issue was the fact that no research project can be conducted without running into ethical concerns (Burns, 2000). Regarding to this project, several ethical issues should be taken into account: Informed Consent (clear exposure of the nature and purpose of the research to respondents); Privacy and confidentiality (clear mutual understanding of the use that will be made of the data collected); Right to Discontinue (respondents must be free to refuse to respond to a questionnaire or parts of it; and Publication of findings (the researcher has the obligation to open with the results of findings, allowing colleagues to vet the research and its implications). 1. Primary Research The primary data was collected through the quantitative research method of survey, conducted by online questionnaires sent to internet users in the UK, during the months of June and July 2009 (see Appendix A). Potential respondents were given an identical array of closed questions in a set order about their internet habits and their perceptions/attitudes towards the various methods of internet marketing. These questions were elaborated bearing in mind certain aspects that were not found in the literature available; the research questions that were arisen in the introduction; and the relevancy to the research topic. 30
  31. 31. The quantitative method presented several challenges to the researcher that had to be taken into account: it requires imagination, patience and discipline in the planning stage; the data collection may present technical problems, requiring persistency and continuous attention; and the tasks of data analysis and critique are determined by the way the project was planned (Davies, 2007). Quantitative method was chosen over the qualitative method since the purpose of the project was to assess the way consumers perceive and act towards internet marketing, and not understand why they do it. Qualitative method requires rich textual data and in-depth understanding of the issues regarding the research (Polonsky and Waller, 2005), which was not the objective of the researcher. Finally, the researcher opted for the usage of online questionnaires, rather than structured interviews, due the time and resources available, and also because of its relevancy for the specific topic chosen (internet). Other advantages of this type of data collection are the absence of interviewer influence to the answers of respondents, and its convenience to interviewees, who can respond the questions when they want and at their own pace. On the other side, the main disadvantages over the structured interviews are the fact that the interviewees have no help in questions they have difficulty to understand, and they get tired very easily, which makes the task of the researcher harder – cannot ask too many questions, which limits the data collection (Bryman and Bell, 2007). 1.1 Online Questionnaires As for the use of internet to deliver questionnaires and receive replies, it represents several advantages to the researcher, especially with the time limits imposed by the change of route. It is easy to structure the questionnaire, send it electronically, include click-button response opportunities and incorporate visual and multimedia elements. This method can shorten the period of data collection considerably; however, outside a framework of a group to which the researcher belongs, the response rate can be disappointing (Davies, 2007). Other negative aspects include the fact that internet based surveys are very often seen as SPAM, which can reduce the response rate, and also the fact that technical malfunctions might arise in some respondents’ computers, which are out of control of the researcher (Burns and Bush, 2006). 31
  32. 32. The probable issue of some respondents not having internet access is not a relevant matter, since the internet usage in the United Kingdom reaches practically 80% of the entire population (Internet World Stats, 2009). The questionnaires were delivered through the usage of the social network site “Facebook”, leader in the UK (Brandrepublic, 2008). A link of the questionnaire landing page was sent to the members who belong to the researcher’s “friend list” (about 50, consisting only of UK residents), who were also encouraged to forward it to other members; additionally, the same link was posted in the discussion wall of Facebook specific groups (such as Google UK – 115 members; UK Internet Marketing – 78 members; UK Blogger – 46 members; UK Facebook – 272 members). The fact that the researcher’s friend list is composed by multi- cultural backgrounds, adding to the fact the Britain is a melting pot of different origins, might enable this research to generalise the findings to other countries outside the United Kingdom. Before this, a pilot survey was conducted on Facebook, through the creation of a specific page of this project, entitled “UK Web 2.0 Project”, promoted in groups of professionals and the researcher’s “friend list” (see Appendix B). This helped to evaluate the competency of the questionnaire, and estimate precisely the time to take the survey (Iarossi, 2006). The pilot survey was essential to find possible mistakes and change questions or answer choices that were not as easy to perceive as they were supposed to. The usage of a social network site as a means of spreading the questionnaires is highly related to the topic of the research, considering the Web 2.0 era; it can be considered as less intrusive than email; but it also puts in practice the “viral effect” analysed in the literature review, following the principles of Viral Marketing. Furthermore, in order to achieve the highest response rate, which can be a critical disadvantage of using Social Networks, incentives were applied together with the questionnaire link, such as humoristic and futuristic videos about the usage of social networks. These incentives were also useful to contextualize the purpose of the survey, and served as motivators for the completion of the questionnaire. The chosen software utilized for the creation of the questionnaires was Surveymonkey.com, the leading provider of online survey solutions (Reuters, 2009). The software is user-friendly, with both free version and professional version (the researcher opted to upgrade to professional version, since the free version was too limited – see Appendix D), enables personalization, and has powerful statistical and reporting results. The latter include 32
  33. 33. visualisation of results in real-time; analysis through graphs, charts and individual responses; enables secure share of survey results; and personalised filtering and cross tabulation, which provided powerful tools for the researcher to analyse and compare data. Collecting responses is obtained by sending a link to the survey via email, or posting it on websites – as will be done with this project (Survey Monkey, 2009). Concerning the questionnaire design (Appendix F), it was developed according to the research questions developed in the literature review, and the researchers’ objectives. As for the structure of the questionnaire, one can divide it by six parts: firstly, questions about the users’ general internet usage habits take place. Secondly, an array of questions about the respondents’ search engine routines comes by, focusing on organic and sponsored links. Thirdly, a question about the users’ email forwarding habits arises, considering what motivates them to forward a business email to other users. Fourthly, two questions about social networking habits are asked, taking into account how users interact with business pages of social networks. Fifthly, questions about users’ blogging behaviour occur, in order to analyse how respondents’ engage with company blogs. Finally, a group of socio-demographic questions takes place, including gender, age, and education level. 1.2 Sampling Considering the size of the sample, questionnaires were planned to be sent to a minimum of 100 respondents, in order to validate this type of academic exploratory research, and the total of responses reached 108 (see Appendix C). The sample frame enquired included UK internet users, with an active account on the social network site “Facebook”, with an age between 18- 30 years, and which were linked within the researcher’s “friend list” or a specific Facebook group (related to the topic). These variants were chosen in order to be appropriate for the objectives of the research and for the time and resources available, to obtain data in a setting to which the researcher has access, and to improve sampling quality through two different subsamples (Davies, 2007). This sampling is inserted in the convenience sampling approach, which is characterized by a “non-systematic approach to recruiting respondents that often allows a potential respondent to self-select into the sample” (Schonlau et al., 2002, p. 33). It is a sample in which the 33
  34. 34. probability of a sample member to be included in the sample cannot be measured. This type of sampling requires less time and effort, and fewer costs. In the case of this research, an uncontrolled instrument distribution will take place, by posting the survey on the web – participation in this type of survey in entirely voluntary and self-selected (Schonlau et al., 2002). 1.3 Data Analysis In the case of this research, as stated before, the web-based survey tool “Survey Monkey” was used to collect data, but also to analyse the data, as it includes both design and analysis features. Therefore, the use of traditional statistics software “SPSS” was not needed, since all the statistic analysis tools were available on Survey Monkey, such as browsing responses individually, filter responses to desired variables, cross-tabulate answers, build graphs and tables easily in various formats, and download all the content for Excel or PDF files (Survey Monkey, 2009). The analysis of the data collected in the survey was analysed both individually and through bivariate analysis. This sort of quantitative analysis explores relationships between variables in order to find evidence of variations among them (Bryman and Bell, 2007). For instance, relationships between the age of users and the attitudes towards search engine advertising. These results were then utilised to answer the research questions, both statistically and theoretically. 1.4 Challenges and Limitations One of the main issues in the data collection process was the fact that this kind of sampling cannot be generalized. It is not possible to know of what population the sample is representative, other than the fact that all are internet users. Nevertheless, it still can be a catalyst for further research or allow a link with existing findings in the area (Bryman and Bell, 2007). Time and cost also represented a strong limitation, since the researcher had 3 months to complete the project, and limited resources. Therefore, the sample number could not be greater, which means that there was less precision in the findings and more probability of sampling error. There was also the issue of non-response rates, where there was a high probability of not all elements of the sample agreeing to participate in the research. Finally, 34
  35. 35. the heterogeneity of the sample limited the findings, since it belongs to a small group of internet users that were at the researcher’s reach (Bryman and Bell, 2007). Considering the limitations of an online survey, several can be pointed out. Bryman and Bell (2007) state that the invitations to take part in the research can be viewed as “spam”; there are concerns among participants about confidentiality, due to a widespread anxiety of fraud and hackers; and there is also a loss of personal touch between the interviewer and the interviewee. Also, the limitations of the web-based survey confines the researcher’s ability to analyse the data in a more thorough and statistical way, that could be achieved by using the traditional SPSS software. 2. Secondary Research The secondary data was accessed through Manchester Metropolitan University Library Services, using academic books and electronic databases (such as Emerald, Mintel, EBSCO Host, ScienceDirect and SAGE) for the review of relevant literature available in the Internet Marketing variants of Search Engine Marketing, electronic word-of-mouth, and Email Marketing. Also, literatures on consumer behaviour on the internet and on the Web 2.0 theories were reviewed, in order to contextualize and guide the elaboration of questionnaires for primary research. Relevant academic journals (such as the Journal of Marketing, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Journal of Consumer Marketing or International Journal of Market Research) and reports from internet users and internet statistics (in databases such as Mintel, Business Source Premiere and reports from major companies in the area) were also analysed and compared. The use of secondary data was important to contextualize the project, but it cannot be considered as valid and conclusive as the primary data (Burns, 2000). It is also a means of developing an argument about the significance of the research, and affirming the credibility of the researcher as someone who is knowledgeable in the chosen area (Bryman and Bell, 2007). 35
  36. 36. CHAPTER 4 – ANALYSIS OF FINDINGS 1. UK Internet users’ general characteristics 1.1 Daily hours spent on the internet The vast majority of the respondents of the survey use the internet for 1 to 6 hours per day, reaching 69,2 per cent of the total sample. Even so, it is also important to notice that a relevant percentage of respondents (18,7%) spend time online for 7 to 9 hours, and that 9,3 per cent use the internet for 10 or more hours, averaging out a significant proportion of 28 per cent. Therefore, it is possible to assume that the respondents of the survey were relatively experienced internet users, with less than 3 per cent claiming to spend time online for less than 1 hour. Table 1 presents the percentage and response count of survey respondents using the internet in those different amounts of hours. Table 1: Daily hours spent on the internet Response Response Answer Options Percent Count less than 1 hour 2,8% 3 1-3 hours 37,4% 40 4-6 hours 31,8% 34 7-9 hours 18,7% 20 10 - or more 9,3% 10 answered question 107 skipped question 1 Another important aspect of the data collected is that there is a considerable predominance of female respondents who spend time online for 7 or more hours, with a total of 31,7 per cent against 23,8 per cent of male respondents (Graph 1). Also interesting to notice is the fact that the younger respondents tend to spend less hours per day on the internet, with the age group of 18-21 years spending mostly between 1 to 3 (47,1%) and 4 to 6 (35,3%) hours per day online (Graph 2). These findings can be evidenced by a research by “Cyber Sentinel”, where it was found that UK teenagers spend an average of about 31 hours a week online, which makes it about 4 hours a day spent on the internet (Telegraph, 2009). 36
  37. 37. Graph 1: Hours spent on the internet Vs gender Graph 2: Hours spent on the internet Vs age 1.2 Daily usage of the different internet tools As regards to frequency of usage of different internet tools on an average day, respondents predominantly alleged that the most regularly and constantly used internet tool is Email, with 37
  38. 38. about 51 per cent of the respondents assuming they use it constantly. A study by the University of Stanford validates this finding (even if in a different country, but with similar trends) by illustrating that Email is by far the most common internet activity, even though it is not the main reason users go online (Nie and Erbring, 2002). This result is closely followed Erbring, by those respondents who also constantly use Search Engines (47,2%) and Instant Messaging (40,6%). The fact that Search Engines are used by almost half of the respondents can be supported by a report from iCrossing (2005), where it is affirmed that 53% of online users iCrossing spend most of the time searching. On a lower level, Social Networks are less constantly used, with the majority of respondents alleging they only use it regularly (42%). In a middle term, it is possible to identify Video and Photo sharing sites as the midmost internet tool in terms of ssible usage, with 42 per cent of the respondents selecting the option “sometimes”. Finally, at the bottom, Discussion Forums and Blogs are clearly the least regularly used internet tools, with a sum of “never” and “rarely” answers of about 76 and 67 per cent respectively. Graph 3 represents the ratings of each internet tool, according to the respondents’ frequency of usage. Graph 3: Internet tools frequency of usage 38
  39. 39. 2. UK Internet users’ demographic and social characteristics Internet users participating in this study were predominantly female (as seen on table 2), most of whom between ages of 22 and 25 (table 3). This trend is consistent with existing research by Fallows (2005), where it is stated that female users in the age gap of 18-29 are more likely to be online, and are further more enthusiastic communicators, which can explain the higher response of female respondents to this research. A high proportion of respondents was highly educated, with as many as 88 per cent having completed at least undergraduate studies (see graph 4). The fact that the respondents predominantly had this age gap and education can be explained by the fact that, since the survey was distributed through Facebook, a great part of those who responded were part of the researcher’s “friend list”. Table 2: Gender of respondents Response Response Answer Options Percent Count Male 40,0% 42 Female 60,0% 63 answered question 105 skipped question 3 Table 3: Age of respondents Response Response Answer Options Percent Count 18-21 16,2% 17 22-25 50,5% 53 26-29 27,6% 29 30-or more 5,7% 6 answered question 105 skipped question 3 39
  40. 40. Graph 4: Education level of respondents 3. Attitudes towards Search Engine Marketing ttitudes 3.1 Attitudes when performing a query on a Search Engine Regarding the internet users’ search engine habits it is obvious that the best part of respondents (about 75 percent) type a combination of keywords, when performing a query on a search engine site, like the given example in the survey “restaurants Manches Manchester”. To consider also that a slightly relevant percentage of respondents (16,2%) type a phrase when performing a query, remaining here an interesting challenge for SEO specialists, because the task to find the most relevant and used keywords is harder if users type long phrases with connection words (table 4). Findings on a study by iProspect (2006) also point out the need for marketers to not only target a few broad terms, but also an abundance of more specific keyword phrases, which many users query when are not satisfied with the results of an initial search. Considering the search results page, findings prove that there is a preponderance of respondents (40,6%) that consider that the description of a search result is the most important element, when considering which result to click. This finding can be validated through sidering 40
  41. 41. Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, where it is stated that a quality snippet can have a direct impact on the chances of a website being clicked, which might indicate that the description of the search result is the element which users consider the most (Google, 2007). Nonetheless, a close percentage of respondents (36,6%) believe that the title of the search result is the principal element (table 5). Hence, the first two and most obvious elements of search results are clearly the ones that captivate users the most. Table 4: Respondents’ search habits Response Response Answer Options Percent Count Type only one keyword 8,6% 9 Type a combination of keywords (e.g. "restaurants 75,2% 79 manchester") Type a specific phrase (e.g. "restaurants in the area of 16,2% 17 manchester") Other (please specify) 5 answered question 105 skipped question 3 Table 5: Search result elements in order of respondents’ preference Response Response Answer Options Percent Count The title of the search result 36,6% 37 The description of the search result (snippet) 40,6% 41 The website URL of the search result 17,8% 18 The repetition of queried keywords in bold 5,0% 5 Other (please specify) 7 answered question 101 skipped question 7 3.2 Attitudes towards Sponsored Links Survey respondents were asked about their perceptions and attitudes towards sponsored links of search engine websites, and there was a clear indication that users tend to not click on these links, or click on them very rarely. This tendency can be found in a report by iCrossing (2007), where it is stated that the vast majority of users prefer non-sponsored links (more than 41
  42. 42. 50 per cent). Research findings prove that there is a clear preponderance of “never” and “rarely” answers (both with 40% of respondents) to the question “how often do you also click on sponsored links?”, making a total of about 80 per cent of the respondents (table 6). Of these, slightly more were male respondents, mainly between 18 and 21 years of age, and spending between 1-3 hours on the internet per day (Graphs 5, 6, and 7). This represents a great issue for Pay-per-Click specialists, meaning that their target is a minority of the users that visit search engine sites – Only about 17 per cent of respondents claimed to click on sponsored links occasionally, and an irrelevant percentage stated to always click on them (table 6). Therefore, female respondents, between 22 and 25 years of age, and who tend to spend more time on the internet can be defined as the user that is more likely to click on sponsored links (Graphs 5, 6, and 7). Evidence of these findings can be found in the report by iCrossing (2007), where it is argued that female users in the 18-34 age gap tend to accept sponsored links more easily. Table 6: Frequency of “clicks” on sponsored links Response Response Answer Options Percent Count Always 2,8% 3 Sometimes 16,8% 18 Rarely 40,2% 43 Never 40,2% 43 answered question 107 skipped question 1 42
  43. 43. Graph 5: Frequency of clicks Vs gender Graph 6: Frequency of clicks Vs age 43
  44. 44. Graph 7: Frequency of clicks Vs hours spent online Considering the reasons behind the high tendency to never or rarely click on sponsored links, survey findings show that there was a preponderance of two answer options that had sim similar response percentages. Exactly 49 per cent claimed that sponsored links are not relevant for their queries, and 44 per cent do not trust those links (table 7). Therefore there is a clear trust issue that stray users from clicking on sponsored links, but also an issue of r but relevancy and context that does not attract them to those links. The latter issue might find evidence in a t survey by Web Advantage (2004), where it was found that more than a half of respondents claim that most of the time they do not find what they were looking for through sponsored find links. Moreover, only 7 per cent of respondents assumed to not click on sponsored links due to unawareness, meaning that the vast majority of users know where these links are located, and what they are for; nonetheless, this particular finding goes against existing research by iCrossing (2007), where it is stated that more than a half of search engine users do not know the difference between natural and sponsored listings. Finally, an interesting aspect of t the findings shows that those who answered “other” to the question have a clear compliance on the fact that they do not want to be distracted from their initial search. 44
  45. 45. Table 7: Reasons for not clicking on sponsored links Response Response Answer Options Percent Count I do not notice them 7,0% 7 I do not trust them 44,0% 44 They are not relevant for my query 49,0% 49 Other (please specify) 7 answered question 100 skipped question 8 Concerning the profile of the respondents who do no click on sponsored links due to file not relevancy reasons, survey results indicate that both male and female respondents have similar response rates, but the majority of the respondents are between 26 to 29 years of age, and spend 7 or more hours on the internet per day. On the other hand, those who proclaim trust On reasons are predominantly younger, and spend 1 to 6 hours a day online (Graphs 8 and 9). Therefore, one can argue that those internet users, who are more experienced, tend to have less trust issues and concern more about search skills, while the younger and less more knowledgeable internet users have a propensity to not trust sponsored links. Graph 8: Reasons for not clicking links Vs age 45
  46. 46. Graph 9: Reasons for not clicking links Vs hours spent online 4. Attitudes towards company emails When analysing the reasons that make respondents forward company emails to other users, it is possible to notice a slight preponderance of respondents who claim to never forward this kind of emails – about 40 per cent clicked on the answer “I never forward company emails”. This might indicate a serious threat to email and viral marketers, since there is a high volume of users who do not participate actively in email campaigns. On the other half, of those who assumed to forward emails, joy and entertainment was the most answered option, with about 35 per cent of respondents claiming that they only forward interesting and entertaining emails to others. In fact, previous research on this topic sustains this idea, for Lin et al. (2006) apprehended that users have a stronger intention to forward emails that give them positive have emotions and richer information. On a lower level, it is still relevant to notice that trust is an important aspect for a significant percentage of respondents (20,6%), making credibility and knowledge of the brand a crucial and factor for company email acceptance and sharing. Surprisingly, survey findings indicate that emails forwarded by friends of the users’ own network were not an essential factor for rwarded 46
  47. 47. respondents to forward those emails, with a response rate as low as 3,7 per cent, remaining here good news for email marketers: email forwarding does not depend on users’ interaction, but on quality content and brand trust (table 8). In addition, comparison with a study by Phelps et al. (2004) demonstrates similar findings, since it is stated that although users commonly only open emails from somebody they know, recognizing the source might also prompt a deletion if the sender is perceived as someone who constantly sends excessive and bad quality emails; furthermore, if users identify the subject line as one received before with “Fwd: Fwd:” written on it, they might delete that email without even reading the content. Table 8: Factors for company email forwarding Answer Options Response Response Percent Count If I enjoyed the advertisement or promotion 35,5% 38 If I trust the company 20,6% 22 If it was forwarded by another friend 3,7% 4 I never forward company emails 40,2% 43 answered question 107 skipped question 1 Considering the profile of the respondents for this section, there is a clear similarity of values between genders, with no relevant differentiation whatsoever. Nevertheless, there are some considerations that can be made when analysing the respondents’ age and hours spent online. Of those users who claimed to never forward company emails, there was a slight preponderance of younger respondents between 18 and 21 years of age, who spend mostly between 1 to 3 hours a day on the internet. Therefore, when comparing to other age and hour groups, there was an inclination for a higher percentage of young respondents with less internet experience who might give priority to other type of emails. Taking into consideration those respondents who only forward emails if they enjoy the content itself, there was again a preponderance of younger users, but in this case with more internet experience, spending 10 or more hours online. These users expect something more from company emails and demand quality to motivate them to forward. Finally, those who rely solely on trust are mainly between 26 to 29 years of age and spend 7 or more hours online. These can be considered as more mature and experienced users, who might know which brands should be relied on due to possible previous experiences (Graphs 10 and 11). 47
  48. 48. Graph 10: Factors for Email forwarding Vs age Graph 11: Factors for Email forwarding Vs Hours spent online 48
  49. 49. 5. Attitudes towards companies’ Social Network pages To analyse respondents’ acceptance and participation with companies through Social Networks the question “When using Social Networks (e.g. Facebook; Twitter), do you become fan/follow pages of companies you identify with?” was answered. Survey findings clearly demonstrate that the majority of respondents do not connect with company pages in Social Networks, with about 65 per cent of total answers (table 9). Of those who answered “yes”, there was a clear prevalence of male users (about 43%), mainly between 22-25 years and spending between 7 to 10 hours on the internet (graphs 12, 13 and 14). This might lead us to deduce that male users in the younger age groups, with more internet experience are those who tend to show additional interest in company pages of Social Networks. These findings are relatively consistent with existing research by Tom Chapman (2008), who in his report “Social Network Marketing, Engagement Marketing and Brands” showed that only 13% of UK Facebook users have added a brand as a profile friend, pattern noticed in the current findings, even if in different percentages; also, the fact that more than 50% of respondents were aged 18-24 is consistent with the majority of 18-25 respondents in the current research; but Chapman’s research was not consistent with the current research findings in terms of gender, since this author’s results show that the majority of those who become fans of company pages are female users, while in the current research there was a prevalence of male respondents. Table 9: Interaction with company pages on Social Networks Response Response Answer Options Percent Count Yes 35,5% 38 No 64,5% 69 answered question 107 skipped question 1 49
  50. 50. Graph 12: Interaction with company pages Vs gender Graph 13: Interaction with company pages Vs age 50
  51. 51. Graph 14: Interaction with company pages Vs hours spent online After analysing how far respondents do or do not interact with company pages on Social Networks, the next step was to consider how they interact with those pages. Only the respondents who answered “yes” to the previous question were considered here, and re results demonstrate that the majority do not participate actively; instead they only observe (about 46%). Nevertheless, a considerable part does participate dynamically, posting comments on those pages, with a total of about 24 per cent of respondents. Findi Findings reveal that small similar percentages of users participate in other ways, and that an irrelevant percentage (5,4%) invite other users to join company pages (table 10) Nonetheless, this finding is not consistent , with Chapman (2008) report, where it is evident that Facebook users predominantly would evident consider to encourage other friends to also add that brand to their profile. Hence, one can assume that companies still have not used social networks at its best potential, sume not and that there is a clear challenge and opportunity in the younger aged users, who obviously are the majority, have more propensity to participate further actively, and can be easily targeted in order to build a relationship with the brand right from the earlier years as an active consumer. Chapman (2008) goes even further, stating that brands should look beyond the “fan” and “follower” metric which is basically a numbers game, and set more emphasis on the quality of interactions. 51

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