Posts Tagged ‘IT’

The solution to search engine fatigue

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Internet users are tired of trying to use a search engine to find something that they want, and not finding that thing. This seems obvious, but it’s the conclusion that’s been reached following a recent survey of 1,001 U.S. adults called “State of Search.” The research was conducted by Kelton Research for Autobytel. The primary finding from the study is that 72% of searchers have “search engine fatigue” meaning that they become impatient or frustrated when they are unable to quickly find the exact information they need when using a search engine.

I’m actually surprised that the number isn’t closer to 100%.

Some statistics from the report (thanks to Search Engine Land for this information):

- 65.4% of Americans say they’ve spent two or more hours in a single sitting searching for specific information on search engines.

- When asked to name their #1 complaint about the process, 25% cited a deluge of results, 24% cited a predominance of commercial (paid) listings, 18.8% blamed the search engine’s inability to understand their keywords (forcing them to try again), and 18.6% were most frustrated by disorganized/random results.

Search Engine Land draws the conclusion that this is an argument for personalization in search, and in part it may be. But I think that these results also point to the need for comprehensive and information-rich vertical search alternatives to aid in the buying process – not as a replacement to the popular search engines, but as a supplemental tool.

The difficulty of using the popular search engines in the buying process is nothing new. This study was conducted to illustrate problems in the car-buying process, but the same issues happen in other product buying cycles, including the IT buying process. When I worked on the Web Buyer’s Guide, the goal of the site and technology that we built was to provide a better technology buying process for IT professionals. At the time, I would do a demonstration to explain to people why this type of vertical search engine was essential for the buying process – and why Google and Yahoo wouldn’t work for buyers who were trying to do the research that’s needed to make a product purchase.

I used the term “CRM” (customer relationship management) to demonstrate. First, I would type “CRM” into Google to see the results – 83,900,000. I then modified the search to CRM Products – 34,300,000. Still too many results. This is the #1 problem with search engines for the 25% of people who complained about a “deluge of results” and why, in the survey results, nearly 40% of Americans described finding the “right and relevant” information in the big search engines – Google and Yahoo – as “overwhelming and time-consuming.”

The next search that I did was with WBG’s top competitor – KnowledgeStorm, another IT product directory. For the search, I went to their CRM page and asked someone in the crowd to name a random CRM company. Different answers were given, but usually one of the top companies was named, such as Pivotal, Oracle or Salesforce.com. Typically, if I was to search for products from any of those companies in the KnowledgeStorm directory, they weren’t included in the list because they weren’t KnowledgeStorm’s paying customers. This type of situation causes two levels of frustration for users, both because all the results that are displayed are commercial (paid) listings, and because this forces buyers to go elsewhere to find a complete list of CRM products when 85% of buyers want to find a one-stop shop for everything related to their purchase.

To overcome the buying process issues that both the search engines and limited product directories have, we built a vertical directory based on technology product categories. This vertical directory included every bit of information that Ziff Davis had about each of those categories – editor reviews, articles, news, user ratings, etc. – combined with a comprehensive product directory and resource library with information from the IT vendors themselves, including white papers, videos, etc. By surrounding each technology category with all the relevant content in each category and a comprehensive product list, we allowed IT buyers to be able to get a complete view into the product that they were attempting to buy.

In the State of Search report, nearly 25% of respondents said that they actually put off purchasing a car because they found the overall car-buying process too overwhelming or frustrating. Autobytel built a vertical directory to try to solve those issues, and I think that they might have hit on a viable solution if they are able to execute.

~ Black & White ~

What's next for Internet advertising

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

Look into the futureGoogle revolutionized Internet advertising in 2000 when it launched AdWords and the pay-per-click (PPC) model. This program was ground-breaking not just because the small text ads that ran alongside Google search results were served up based on relevance, but also because, for the first time, marketers paid only for an action (a click on their ad) – they didn’t have to pay for the thousands of impressions that were not clicked. With AdWords, performance-based media was born.  

Once advertisers demonstrated that they were willing to pay for any click, it was a short leap to believe that they would be willing to pay even more to know exactly who it was that was clicking. Today, lead generation and pay-per-conversion models (Google calls this cost-per-action) have joined PPC as viable business models, providing even more information to marketers who are trying to reach their customers.

 

Lead generation and cost-per-action pricing models are already popular in the B2B world. In the IT market, for example, Web Buyer’s Guide, KnowledgeStorm and Bitpipe are providing lead generation services to the biggest technology companies, which pay anywhere from $20 to $120 per lead to reach the specific individuals that they think are most likely to buy their products.

The Internet advertising market is going to continuing to move from static advertising to performance-based media. According to the just-released IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report, approximately 50% of 2007 second-quarter revenues were priced on a performance basis, up from 47% reported for the second quarter of 2006. Lead generation revenues accounted for 8% of the 2007 second-quarter revenues or $408 million, up from the 7% ($284 million) reported in the second quarter of 2006. Contrast those statistics with the fact that approximately 46% of 2007 second-quarter revenues were priced on a CPM or impression basis, down from 48% for the same period in 2006.

Performance-based media is the future. We have already seen the movement with traditional Web content. Blog content, podcasts and video are all moving toward incorporating PPC pricing models, as well. I think the next move for these newer content formats is lead generation and cost-per-action. Let’s take video as an example. Silicon Alley has a write up about how advertisers are starting to take video more seriously, but that CPMs are declining. There is a debate going on around how money is going to be made on video advertising – what kind of ads will be used, the length, the format, etc. Applying the move toward performance-based media, I believe that someone is going to develop a lead generation engine around online video that will provide advertisers not only with the information on what videos were watched and how many times, but by whom and what their demographics are. Web Buyer’s Guide has a product on the market that does this, and I think it’s just a matter of time until one of the major video providers offers this type of advertising package.

And looking even further down the road – what’s the next wave of performance-based media? Right now companies pay for leads, but what if in the future companies begin to pay only for customer acquisition, and after an individual makes a purchase the lead provider gets a percentage. A large percentage. Sound like the affiliate programs that are widespread in the consumer market? Sort-of. But what happens when the technology is developed for a video provider to track an individual from the first video that they watch that peaks their interest in a product, all the way to the buy, and the video provider gets a portion of the sale?

Now that’s performance-based media worth talking about.

Disclosure: I used to work for Web Buyer’s Guide.

 

~ Foggy Autumn ~