Searching Beyond the Paid

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Searchers Can't Spell, And Other Musings

I have to agree with this article by David Berkowitz in MediaPost's "Search Insider" column today, which was prompted by the infamous leak of individual searcher data by AOL late last week. What's so interesting about the AOL data is the fact that you can drill down vertically by individual. Web logs and search tools such as Overture, WordTracker, et al let you know what people are searching for in aggregate, but never before has the data been so readily available to allow us to drill into the path individuals take when searching. It's fascinating stuff.

My favorite of Berkowitz's observations is this one: "No one can spell." How true! And in the PPC world, this is the gold mine of the long tail. I am continually amazed at how few PPC marketers take advantage of common misspellings, which often are out there for much cheaper CPCs than the correct spellings. For example, "glamor magazine" (the correct spelling is "glamour magazine") is one of our most popular, and inexpensive, keywords. Even better is this example, which I ran across yesterday, for Rachael Ray's magazine. Rachael is one of my favorite Food Netword hosts, so naturally I follow her magazine with interest. Her mag's site is running their own PPC ads, as is the usual cadre of agents like us. But, Rach's marketing folks apparently don't know that only one in 10 searchers knows her name is spelled Rachael, not Rachel. They're not using "rachel ray magazine," or any form thereof, as a keyword. Which is fine with me! Ha ha! Note to Rachael's (or is it Rachel's?) marketing team: We'll discuss my fee later, thank you very much.

The other cool point Berkowitz makes is how many people use the search bar for direct navigation. I think this practice is actually increasing, although I don't have data to prove that. I know I have to make "www" and ".com" negative keywords in our PPC campaigns, or we'll get lots of non-converting clicks for people who are looking for a magazine's web site. (One more observation for ya, Mr. B - "No one can read," since our ads clearly state we are SELLING the magazine, not serving content from it.) I even find myself using the search box this way more and more. Just today, I was doing a little prep for our family trip to Chicago next week. I couldn't remember the address of the hotel we're staying at, so I typed "hotel name chicago" into Google. Voila - there's the hotel web site at the top of the SERPs, along with a handy map pointing it out, and links to related locations such as restaurants and attractions. Google must figure that lots of folks like me want this info, and there it is with one click of the mouse. Great for the user.

When the AOL story first broke, I thought, "so what?" Now that folks have had a chance to wade through the data, I'm much more intrigued by the impact this could have on the search industry in general.


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