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October 14, 2009

Searcher Behavior and Search Marketplace Mature

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If you subscribe to the adage “Lies, dang lies and statistics,” maybe numbers aren’t worth much to you at all.

If you’re a search marketer or business owner, numbers likely hold a major stake in the decisions you make every day.

For the sake of this post, let’s assume the latter, shall we? That numbers — be it click through rate, conversion rate, total sales, and so on — contribute to the information we use to make informed decisions when marketing a business or managing a marketing campaign.

And so I present to you the following studies, one on searcher behavior and one on search advertising trends.

Long-Tail Searches on the Rise

dogs
CC BY-ND 2.0 Wag those tails, pups!

Word on the street is that longer searches are on the upswing. During August, the number of six-word queries increased two percent. Seven-word queries saw a three percent bump while queries of eight words or more increased six percent. Queries using five words or less held steady.

There are several causes for this new searcher behavior that come to mind. I’ll share my thoughts here, and I hope you’ll add your interpretation of the findings in the comments below.

Expansion of the content pool: With more and more content producers entering the arena every day, the pure generation of content is on an exponential incline. A searcher who is trying to find a single fact or story in an ever-growing pool of content may be unable to find the exact content they’re looking for with shorter, generalized queries. Faced with irrelevant results, a searcher may refine their query with additional words in order to narrow down the results pool.

Increased savviness of Web users: Alternately, a searcher may forgo the shorter queries altogether. Experienced searchers may realize that the chances of finding the content they’re looking for increases when queries are qualified by additional descriptors and long-tail searches. Searchers have moved beyond a familiarity with search to become advanced-level searchers, not content with having to search several times to find what they’re looking for. So, savvy searchers end up using every possible descriptor they can think of to find the right information on the first search.

Increased adoption of optimization practices: It was suggested to me by Anand Srinivasan of Tech Crunchies (thanks, Anand!) that long-tail query growth may be attributed to businesses’ mounting adoption of search engine optimization. Armed with the methodology and tactics for increasing Web visibility through targeted content, businesses and brands are optimizing their sites for a range of relevant topics. Knowing the value of providing useful information to their consumers, commercial Web sites are being built as a resource on their topic of expertise. Similar to the first point, the greater availability of content may cause a searcher to refine their search and use a long-tail query to filter out content that doesn’t meet their exact needs.

Judging by the evidence, the long-tail represents a growing opportunity for highly relevant search engine visibility and for avoiding the back clicks of searchers who end up on a page deemed irrelevant by them — which brings us to our next study on the maturity of the search marketing industry.

SEM Industry Hits Early Stages of Maturity

flower in various stages of maturity
CC BY-SA 2.0 From blossom to full bloom

According to an AdGooroo study, the search marketing industry has reached the third (of five) stage of the high-tech maturity cycle. In the first stage, new adopters discover a new technology and that technology is adapted for commercial uses. In stage two, the technology becomes a product leveraged by an “early majority” of commercial organizations. During stage three, growth slows down, and from that, success is redefined from percent of growth to percent of market share.

If AdGooroo’s theory is sound, we’ve reached this third “late majority” stage. As a result of the maturing marketplace, we’re seeing the search engines actively seeking to differentiate themselves from one another. Indeed, the strengths of Google, Yahoo! and Bing are clearly differentiated today.

Google is the volume leader. Attracting roughly 70 percent of U.S. searches (according to the Hitwise study linked to above), the engine can afford to charge a premium for its ad space. Competitor Yahoo! offers less expensive clicks and higher conversion rates than Google, but at a lower volume (more than 16 percent).

Bing, meanwhile, captures just below 9 percent of U.S. search volume and boasts a better conversion rate than both Yahoo! and Google. Consider as well the exceptional performance in the categories that Bing has focused on, such as comparison shopping and travel.

There seems to be a definite momentum shift in the trends around searcher behavior and the search marketplace. Queries are getting longer while we marketers are getting older — ahem, more mature. With maturity comes wisdom, and if numbers are knowledge, what do these findings mean to you?





One response to “Searcher Behavior and Search Marketplace Mature”

  1. Polprav writes:

    Hello from Russia!
    Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?



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