India Inc logs on to search portals for wider audience

NEW DELHI: Whether it’s planning a trip, buying merchandise or even finding a suitable loan, more and more Indians are turning to search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN et al for help.

With regular internet users already reaching a sizeable 40 million this year, search engines are becoming a significant marketing tool for Indian companies—anything from thematic brand advertising to selling goods and services directly to consumers.

Everyone from start-ups to well-established players across sectors—ICICI Bank, HDFC, Taj Hotels, Godrej et al—are making sure that they adopt search engine optimisation-led marketing (SEM) to net the online Indian. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a technique that provides better reach and greater visibility to companies by sponsoring links on search engines, paying search engines to include websites in the search index or by altering a website code.

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SEM industry is likely to double in size to $225 million by 2009-10 . While financial sectors marketers like ICICI, HSBC and HDFC use SEM to maximise their geographical reach, technology-oriented companies like HCL, Sony India, Wipro have been successful in using SEM in making masses part of product innovation on the web. Major hotels like Taj and Jaypee counted on SEM to tap global consumers. For NGOs and social organisations like UNDP, UNAIDS and CRY, site optimisation helped them garner donations for various projects.

For Sony India, SEM expertise has supported company’s continued growth. The company wanted to showcase its products online , be more responsive to customer needs and support long-term growth. Says Sony India head (marketing-communications ) Cyril Mani: “Having recognised the contribution of online marketing to our overall business strategy, Sony has made a substantial investment into this activity—over 200% compared to the last financial year.”

According to a recent report by internet research firm JuxtConsult, Indian market has seen 19% increase in the regular internet users this year over 2007, and boasts of an active 8-million online buyers. While mobile and computer products were the most searched last year, books, clothes and CDs/DVDs are the most bought products.

Among travel products, 80% of regular users have bought train tickets whereas 52% has bought air tickets in the last six months. Since most internet users now avail search services and buy online, SEO is becoming an active advertising model for result-oriented projects in India.

With Indian online industry headed towards Rs 2,000 crore, takers of SEO have increased in the past 4-5 years. Says Anjali Hegde, co-founder of Interactive Avenues, which does site optimisation for the likes of Coca-Cola and ICICI:

“Most companies today are aware of the significance of ranking high on search engines. While this is an imperative for web-based businesses, others are also realising that they cannot afford to do without it. Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) players use the technique for specific projects like we are doing one for Coca-Cola India’s CSR project for ‘clean water’.”

Brand building is the common thread across various sectors to opt for SEM. For instance, Godrej, a prominent FMCG player, has initiated a portal Godrej Lifespace, which will solely focus on brand building on web. On the other hand, HSBC’s purpose of integrating SEM in company’s advertising strategy is reflected in its slogan ‘The World’s Local Bank’.

Says HSBC marketing head Maitri Kumar: “The company continues to take SEM services to monitor traffic, click through behaviour, lead generation and takes prompt action to optimise site performance.”

In the times when companies are experiencing huge cost cuts in traditional media advertising budgets, SEO has provided much-needed edge to internet marketing. Says Indigo Consulting technology head Anurag Bhagat: “SEM is quick, cheap and far less intimidating for marketers. Online marketing will soon become the preferred mode of advertising for many business in India.”

The advantageous role of SEO has even convinced corporates to have in-house team of SEO experts. Reliance ADAG’s gaming portal,, has an in-house SEO team of about 5-6 experts who work constantly towards technologically optimising the site.

Says Rohit Sharma CEO: “Optimisation is essential in our line of business. We have a team of 30 people who are constantly reviewing the site hits on an hourly basis. This helps us in keeping tab and maintaining success rate.”

Original Copyright: Jyoti Johar & Purva Bhatia, ET Bureau

Srinivas Katam

Do you need help growing your business? Srinivas Katam is a Digital Marketing Strategist and Consultant with over 200 successful SEO and Social Media client engagements completed. I’ve worked with brands across the world as a digital marketing consultant to deliver revenue growth from content-focused inbound marketing campaigns. He is an Innovative Marketer who specializes in digital marketing, specifically in social media, SEO and online strategy.

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