Search Behavior Research Update - Live From Chicago!

Dec 5, 2005 - 11:18 am 1 by
Filed Under SES Chicago 2005

Interpreting searcher behavior can be a subtle science, the experts in this panel plan to address the issues of how much we know about the user and what we can gain from looking at their behavior. First up is Mark Neal from Galleon Systems. I am looking forward to the presentations in this session, the last several times I have attended they have failed to disappoint.

Mark discusses the data they will present they have been tracking since 2002. Is it increasing important to be on the first page of the search engine results? Seems an obvious question, but it’s really a no-brainer. Is the importance increasing or decreasing over time. He goes into talking about Galleon, they sell brick and mortar type products selling computer equipment and maintain primary B2B business. Couple years ago 82% of sales where offline and not over the internet, they needed to change this. They wrote there own tracking system, monitoring search page delivering each visitor. Things have changed in the last 3 years. Over the next three years there found that the first search result page has become more and more important as more traffic arrived to those on the first page than those on other search result pages. They want to look at the numbers, is the 5% of traffic going to first search result page matter? This is primarily with organic traffic, and PPC relates similar results. So in essence he is saying over time more and more people have visited the results on the first page than those on second or third pages. He puts up a geographical reach chart, saying 74.37% are from United States, and UK next and so on. He says he doesn’t know why it’s important to get your website on the top page of the search engine. I am confused with this guy’s presentation, not what I expected. There determination is that 90% of all visitors delivered from search engine will be delivered from the first page results.

Gord Kotchkiss from Enquiro is up to present about the Eye Tracking Studies they do. Love this type of information. He goes into talk about the Golden Triangle of a search result page and how to read an eye tracking map. They used 48 participants and 5 scenarios and limited interactions with Google only to begin with. The initial findings were released at SES NYC this year. He presents 3 eye tracking maps from each of the major engines. With MSN the eye pattern stretches further down the page. Yahoo data showed that participants navigated further down the page, it became an elongated F shape. He says the scan activity of the participant was more diverse. The take home is that results indicate that the search engine cause different scan activity and not the people using the search engine.

With MSN, there is a lot of bouncing around the page, looking at sponsored listings, too much stuff to look at. He calls MSN users the “accidental tourist”. He goes into Yahoo and says the those users typically look at the sponsored listing and quickly move down the page. MSN and Google are similar in terms of their one-box results. He jokes that MSN obviously spent some time looking at Google when building there engine. The question asked is which is more relevant. Typically results show that Google is. The research backs some this conclusion ups as scan activity is more concise. Yahoo on the other hand showed quite different results, the users navigated and scanned down the page below the fold, which is not typical. Gord then explains they lined both the search listings up and compared them. Yahoo pushes organic results further down the page, which pushes scan activity further down the page as well. Interesting.

Entry points are also important and generally when you come to an entry point your eye traditionally stays at one point in Google. With MSN is a different story, it’s a lot more confusing. There is a correlation with where the eye starts at the entry point and where the eye begins when given the search result page. He says they looked at where the eye rested once they clicked the submit button. Conclusion is that if the search engine can give the user what they are after then they will not search to far. If they have to search for what they are looking for then it’s a possibility they will search elsewhere. Scan patterns on MSN and Yahoo seems to indicate deeper scanning on the page than on Google.

Jonathan Mendez from Digital Grit is up to present some case studies and analysis. Jon presents a pathway analysis of searcher goals with a detailed chart of where they begin and where they end. Its starts with a goal motivation, moves to whether the search is a recovery search or a discovery search. Is the searcher using the search as a navigational tool or information search? There are many things people have reasons for using a search engine.

The first case study was on the Sony Vaio notebook. There was consistent creative messaging across all channels. The goal of the campaign was to increase awareness of the notebook. The performed some rich media buys on WSJ,, and so on. Complete different types of ads and banners. The messaging is consistent between all the creative. The landing page has no calls to action, its only to educate the user about the laptop. Sony spent 83% on media, and 17% on search. The clicks however told a different story, media was on 46% and search got 53% of clicks with only 17% of the budget for the campaign. Even though this was just a branding campaign, they received a good deal of orders. The continued to do some more campaigns and each time search continued to outperform regular media. The missed opportunity for Sony was they they didn’t spend enough on search and less branding and more on selling. People online were ready to buy and they would have experienced a better ROI is the landing page wasn’t just a branding website.

Jonathan goes into explaining on how they “get behind the keyword”. The way he does is, is a strategic focused behavior observation. He sat down with small business owners to find out their behavior. What was behind the keyword? 9 of 15 users began their search looking for box software. Incredibly valuable business insight. The learned that they can’t judge the goal by the keyword, you really need to listen to the searcher. Good presentation.

Search as the New Portal is presented from Jon Stewart from Nielsen/ NetRatings. He presents an overview for his presentation. First up is looking at search engine, portals, and communities. Search along with portals and communities has a huge reach. Over the last 3 years search has remained saturated. Portals and communities has seen steady growth over search. Roughly 40 per searches per searcher occurred according to their data, this is increase from month to month. Moving forward this year, 28% more people at home started their web session with a search. At both home and work, 49% of all active searchers started a session with a search at least once in October. From a year to year comparison, active searching when up at both home and work places. Direct navigation searching has increased as well. Some of the surprising things is that some of the type search terms is “” or “”. Kinda funny when you think about it. So why is this happening? Is the search box so compelling that people feel they need to type something in there. People don’t want to be wrong, a search result page won’t give you an error or disrupt your good mood as you are searching. Search becomes more of a comfortable activity.

Jon goes into some case studies by looking at content aggregation. He said that a lot of people don’t know they are looking at an RSS feed or such. For the user they thinking all they are doing is searching. Personalization is another factor. Amazon has done an amazing job as this, and have entered the search space as a result. Tagging is also important, and allowed user generated indexing. Next is the OS, such as Windows Vista. Search is no longer used only to find web sites. The sedarch landscape is being dramatically shifted as it moves toward personalization, content aggregation, and user community collaboration. Ultimately, search will serve to drive a user’s session.


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