Searcher Behavior Research Update

Aug 7, 2006 - 1:35 pm 1 by

I have covered this session quite a few times since it started and it usually has some excellent information on searcher behavior studies in the search engines. This time around it looks like we have a few new people presenting. The session starts off with Greg Sterling as moderator talking about the significance of this research is that the data is pretty concrete and it can be used to influence marketers approach to advertising in the search engines.

First up is Ann Frisbie from Yahoo Search Marketing. She is going to talk about the Power of Search in reaching and engaging the empowered consumer. She talks about how Yahoo has been fortunate to conduct some in depth research studies in search marketing about empowered consumers who are using technology to help make their decisions.

The new consumer paradigm is about the evolution of the shopping process through the use of technology. They followed consumers from start of purchase to end, who were technologically on the up and up, broadband access, and all touch points along the way (tv, media, etc..). This study covers the full range of a consumer making a purchase not just on the search side. She keeps calling the landscape the “new world” as it is different place than 10-20 years ago.

Information is gathered throughout the purchase process. There is not a purchase funnel! We need to rethink whether we should be looking at a purchase funnel in the first place. Technology these days allows people to research along the full length of the purchase process. She says we should be challenged to think about whether is a funnel a good idea to think about the purchase process. Half of all consumers are still gathering information from a variety of sources right up to their point of purchase. The interest is the most utilized source of information of each stage in the purchase process.

She recommends if searchers are looking for something you offers, start a conversation. Consumers have also integrating search into their purchase process in a big way. Millions of people are researching their future purchase using search, even though the vast majority of purchases are still being made offline. Searchers are looking to be influenced. Being more engaged and investigative shoppers, searchers are the shoppers most open to discovery. At the beginning of the purchase process, they consider more brands than non-searchers. She puts up a graph that says searchers generally consider 2.5 brands when making a purchase. Searchers are knowledge seekers, not bargain hunters. Well, they are bargain shoppers, but no more so than non-searchers. Searchers truly distinguish themselves as being more engaged and active shoppers across a variety of metrics. Ann says that searchers are more engaged on your website by researching you. One of the interesting things is searchers make up their minds online and are less likely to change them offline. Building their expertise prior to purchase, searchers were less likely to change their mind about the product they wanted while shopping online. She says people that do their research online often time sometimes know more about the product than the person in the store trying to sell it to you. Searchers can be more engaged in the shopping process but at the same time quicker to change their mind.

So what’s the value of controlling the conversation? With searchers more open to influence at the start of the shipping process but less likely to change their mind once they reach the stores. So some brand new data from Yahoo about Search Brand studies. Yahoo has setup a survey capability that enables near immediate responses from active in market shoppers of your products. The capability is coupled with click stream data as well to monitor behavior.

What they found. 1. Message internalization can occur from the simple text-only ads. Statistically significant lifts in brand awareness & perception occurred in some studies from exposure alone to search ads. 2. The real power lies in search’s ability to move brand perceptions when you get the searcher to click. 3. Search advertising can change consumer behavior & increase the amount of time that they spend with your brand.

Bill Barnes from Enquiro is up next filling in for Gord Hotchkiss who is on vacation in Europe. He first starts talking about “Pre Mapping”. It is basically you imaging what a search page will look like before they conduct the search. Before they even launch the search, they already know where the relevant information is. Questions. What is the cause of high click through rates and conversions on paid branded terms? Does cannibalism occur on branded terms where paid and organic are used together. Searchers in the research phase are more likely to go directly to organic. Searchers in the purchase phase are more likely to sponsored listings.

In order to test this theory, they got 80 people and split into 2 groups. Group 1 was instructed to do research. Group 2 is instructed to purchase. He puts up a heat map next of the two groups, one is researching and one is purchasing. So some things they observed. The researcher after 2.0 seconds is still focused on the first sponsored link. Interesting. So they found, there is no real difference between purchasers and researchers in how they search on the page. This is great news for the search engines and top sponsored links. There is no real difference. In fact, researchers seemed to linger on the top sponsored. Cannibalizing is probably happening. More proof that the top sponsored is the best position provided the ROI is there.

Something else that came out of this. This is specifically to sponsored ads. Where is your highest likelihood of conversions to a lead, sales, etc.. #1 position is top, #2, and #3 are good spots. But interestingly #7 & #8 are the next best converting spots in the ad group. He thinks that people get down in the organic results and then switch back over to the sponsored results (or last ads) number 7 and 8.

Next up is David Williams from 360i and talks about some very good studies they have been doing. There are some measurement challenges. He says studies look at searches not searchers. In the their first study, they found that conversion rate nearly identical for consumers starting search process with brand or non-brand terms and finished with a brand term. Brand search ending with a brand page will end with a higher conversion to a branded purchase. They also found that consumers that click on an ad ten times are three times as likely to cover than users who lick an ad just once.

Their second study objectives where to determine the true value of paid search in assisting natural search conversions and vice versa. They only looked consumers that converted, and studied 250,000 conversions during Q2, ’06. Of all the clicks leading to a conversion there was a close breakdown between paid and natural search. Because all clicks in the study led to a conversion there was a stronger skew towards paid than in other 3rd party studies. The next thing they looked at is consumers using both natural and paid search results are most involved in the search process with an average of 3.9 clicks on average. The users that were just natural search clicked an average of 1.7, paid search, 1.6 and all users together were 1.8. Multiple clicks leading to a transaction accounted for 66% of total clicks and 37% of transactions studied. Only 46% of all users that started with a paid non-brand terms converted through a paid non-brand keyword. Over 40% of users starting with a paid non brand terms converted on a natural listing and 12% converted on a paid brand listing. Indicates that paid non brand keywords have significant influence over natural search conversions. They next look at the users that switched between natural and paid search. 12% of searchers switched.

Good take aways. Monitor customers search patterns, remove obstacles to conversion, ensure strong branding elements for non-brand keyword landing pages. Non brand keywords are potential undervalued. Measure real ROI of non brand terms (including assists) and adjust ROI metrics as necessary. Bid on breadth, range of relevant non brand related keywords; reach 7 frequency impacts awareness consumer interaction and conversion rates.

Robert Murray from iProspect talks about trends in search engine user behavior. Jupiter Research and iProspect partnered to conduct this study. Jupiter conducted the survey using their database of 2 million consumers, about 2300 returned surveys. They have 4 years of trends to discuss to today. 62% of search engine users would only click on a result on the first page. 90% of search users said they would click on the result on the first 3 pages. What they are finding is that they know what they want and they want it now. So its more important than ever to optimize your site. Only 10% of users go past the first page. Percentage is expected is continue to decline. 36% of search engine users believe companies at top of search results are top brands in their field (33% in 2002). Brand equity is being bestowed upon entities in top search results. Users ascribe industry leader to brand within top results. Reinforces the importance of being found in the top results.

Next finding is about search result abandonment. 41% of search engine users who change engines or change their search term if they don’t find what they are looking for. What this means is that marketers need to take action to ensure their copy is compelling. Finally the importance of the long tail. 82% of search engine users re-launched an unsuccessful search using the same search as they used for their initial search but add more keywords. Users are showing a preference to a favorite search engine. Re-launching a search has been significantly increased (only 68% in 2 years).


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