Many Fortune 500 companies, retailers included, have plenty of scope to improve their natural search ranking for main keywords.

While these firms are spending plenty on search ads for their targeted keywords, 72% of Fortune 500 firms were not even in the first five pages on organic search results for these terms, according to a US study (PDF) by Conductor and SkyFu.

The study compared the keywords that firms were bidding on with the organic results for the same terms.

Retailers spend most on paid search of all categories of firms, but rank poorly for natural search visibility; partly due to the competitive nature of the market.

Gap was the highest scoring retailer for natural search on the list; its US site has improved since we looked at it in 2007, though it still hasn’t bothered to launch in the UK.

The report concludes that, with limited paid search inventory and the vast majority of clicks occurring on the organic results, Fortune 500 firms should be paying more attention to natural search.

This matches what we have seen for some retailers in the UK; Kevin Gibbons recently found that, though they are bidding for the term, no major UK supermarkets rank above #9 in Google for ‘supermarket’.

A recent Hitwise article echoes this view, with more than 80% of supermarket’s traffic for their biggest terms (laptops, washing machines etc) coming via paid search ads, suggesting they are paying less attention to SEO.

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Related articles:
Why you need to know PPC to be great at SEO
SEO commitment essential as consumers go organic

Related research:

UK Search Engine Marketing Report 2008

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Best Practice Guide