Inside The Searcher's Mind

Aug 2, 2004 - 3:40 pm 0 by

This session is moderated by Danny Sullivan with some of the most recognized SEM individuals in the industry. Danny says he has been looking forward to this session for a while, so have I.


Gordon Hotchkiss of Enquiro was up first. He started off saying he is hoping to make history. This session talks about the big picture, "users". We are talking about behavior of the searcher, what is going through the mind of the searcher. Ultimately search is a channel, connecting your business to your target audience. We need to understand the customer and how they react to your business. He said, "we" as SEMs do not do enough of this. Ask you customers these 10 questions; (1) Which engine they use (2) where do they look in the search results page, (3) looking for product or service (4) when do you look at search during your buying process?, (5) why would you use it? etc...

What an actual search is? Based on a person's search, they might change the search phrases used. Search is circular. The "Search Funnel" was explained through a focus group. Person one was looking to go on a cruise. She searched for "cruise" first. Then she refined her search to "Caribbean cruise" to narrow down the search. She then sees a "Panama Canal Cruise" in one of the pages that interests her. So she goes back to Google and searches on "Panama Canal Cruise" and is now looking for 3rd party reviews. Now she learns she likes the Princess cruise line and then does a search on "Princess Pananma Cruise" and obtains information. Then she purchases offline. That is the "Search Funnel." As you get closer to the bottom of the search funnel, conversion rates will increase. "Cruise" has 1.3m searches per day but very low conversions, as you go deeper the conversions but reach is lower.

People search differently based on hundreds of variables. So you need to review these diverse population and you start segmenting out your consumers based on search. Segmentation is marketing 101.

The "Anonymity Threshold", anonymity appeals to the searcher and your Web visitor. Once you step over that threshold of giving up your information, you are closer to the buying process. So do not ask to step over that line (of anonymity) if they are no ready for the purchase or close to it. The buy cycle is very correlated to when you can obtain information. Consumer always must be in control, when they feel they are losing control - they will leave you in the dust.

Fredrick Marckini from iProspect talks about the Search Engine Users Attitude Study conducted by iProspect. They had 4 partners; iProspect, WebSurveyor, Strategm, Survery sampling International. They were able to serve people a screen capture and see where the user clicked on the screen. The findings said; 77% use search engines to find what they are looking for, 55% say they use it daily, 57% say they are loyal to same engine, Internet users rarely go beyond the 3rd page of search results. Females don't dig as deep into search results as men. Older people also don't go as deep as well. Unemployed search less deep as well.

This leads us to data driven search engine marketing. 72% of all clicks occurred in natural results, not the paid results on Google. 60% of clicks on Yahoo occurred on natural. AOL was 50/50, and MSN 29% of clicks were natural. Add these up, 60% of clicks were natural and 40% were paid clicks. Yahoo recently changed the search results page, so you expect more clicks on natural results. An SEM campaign has to include both paid and natural search results.

The tech team at iProspect put 5 years of data into a data mine. Expected monthly traffic that Google can provide based on position. Position 1 brings in 80k, 2 and 3 are 20k. If you can move a position 2 or 3 position to a position one, that is huge. 2nd and 3rd page listings provide traffic. MSN outperformed Google last holiday season for number of traffic driven to his client base.

Liz Edison from Vividence will provide interesting studies they have collected over the years. They evaluated the top search sites, sampled 2,000, 400 panelists in the US age 18+ between April 10 - 16 2004. Tasks performed (1) open Web search, (2) General site search, (3) local search, (4) product search, (5) complex search.

Google is the number one engine, then Yahoo, AskJeeves, Lycos and then MSN. Google led in brand preference, then Yahoo, MSN, Ask, and then Lycos. Ask and Lycos lead in sponsored paid clickthrough. But user's self-intent desire to click on paid ads were higher on Google then other engines (they make it very clear).

Internet users are not exclusive to one engine, 3 in 4 have a primary engine, 1 in 2 will use another engine and 1 in 3 search with different engines depending on what they are looking for. Overall, over 85% of searches on Google and Yahoo lead to a success rate for "general searches". But with complex search were not as high but they still loved Google (on a percentage level) more then other engines even though they were not successful with the complex results.

Key Finding; (1) top sites are not top performers when it comes to sponsored link clickthough, (2) there is a trade off between generating a high number of cickthroguhs and maintaining long term user satisfaction, (3) search engines are at performance parity, when success is measured objectively, (4) sorry, i missed the last two - couldn't keep up. :(

Marissa Mayer from Google. Users early on didn't know what to do with Google's homepage, it was too blank. Very funny presentation... She searched on "the born supremacy" but the results came up as irrelevant. Google has at the top "Did you mean: the bourne supremacy". Most people complained about the results because they spelled it wrong, so Google made the "did you mean" more noticeable. Google says the search doesn't notice the news result at the top, they don't notice the sponsored links, the tabs at the top and the notice about the stop words. They just look at those blue links in the middle of the page. She then added to her search "trailer" to find the trailer on this movie name. People get more specific. She also talked a bit about Danny's invisible tabs concept (but didn't talk about it too much).

Q & A: Google: Do people retype the keyword search or add on to the search keyword phrase? More people add on but the data isn't great to support that.

Google: Is the "I am Feeling Lucky" button used? Not really but they don't know what it does. They asked the user, should we take it away? The user said no way! Its fun and they keep it there for that reasons.

Google: How popular is Google Images? They don't release that information, but its the second most recent used Google property.

Google: Are searcher getting more specific? Yes. People are quick to learn how to use a search engine. Google is for the "expert searchers", because the Google users learn very quickly how to be more specific. Gordon adds to that, talking about his search funnel.

Fredrick: How do you balance paid versus natural? You need both, 30 - 40% of search results are from paid results. But as long as there is a positive ROI with paid, do both.

Google: Generally you see higher clickthrough rates on Froogle then Google. The majority of Froogle traffic comes from froogle results inclusion.

Google: Clustering search technology, how does it help searchers? Google said that clustering is not as useful as when people use refine the searches. Example; jaguar (animal or car?).

What are kids searching on? Google responds that kids pick the engines and the parents follow suit. People liked that, they laughed.


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