July 27, 2005, 12:00 AM

Audience demographic differs slightly among search engines

The major search engines differ slightly in audience demographic. But the bigger difference marketers could see in immediate paid search results on one engine versus another may have more to do with other factors such as audience intent, says comScore.

The major search engines have some differences in audience demographic, but the bigger difference marketers could see in terms of their paid search results on one engine versus another have more to do with factors such as audience intent, says James Lamberti, vice president of search solutions, at comScore Networks Inc.

In June, comScore data showed that the audience at engines Yahoo, MSN, AOL and Ask Jeeves, to varying degrees, skewed slightly toward women, versus Google, which was used by a slightly higher percentage of males. The audience breakdown for the month of June by gender at Google was 51.5% male, vs. 49.7% at Yahoo, 49% at MSN.com, 48.1% at AOL Search, and 46.3% at Ask Jeeves.

“The percentage differences aren’t that great, but when you talk about 48.5% of Google users being female vs. 52% at AOL, that’s a pretty big difference when you are talking about the entire Internet population,” says Lamberti.

One other area of difference among engines is in an index comScore has developed to indicate the buying power of visitors to sites. ComScore data indicate that in June, visitors to Google sites were 42% more likely to buy online than the average Internet users, versus Yahoo visitors who were 31% more likely to purchase; MSN users who were 48% more likely to purchase; AOL users, 3%; and Ask Jeeves users, 17%.

“That`s important to the value of the consumer and the fact they have money in their pockets, which is noteworthy," says Lamberti, adding that among areas of slight difference between one search engine and another, gender differences and differences in buying power were the two of greatest interest of marketers.

But other factors may make a bigger difference to marketers in search results among different search engines, at least in terms of direct conversions. “What we do see are some suggestions of consumer intent in the different engines,” says Lamberti. The portal search sites-AOL, MSN and Yahoo-tend to get more simple search queries, in contrast to Google, where users tend to type in more complex search queries, he says. The more specific the term, the more likely that it will result in a direct conversion, he adds.

However, he cautions, “We have seen a lot of evidence to suggest that marketers need to be present in all types of terms, from the broad to the specific.” Lamberti notes that while specific terms have higher conversion rates, there is tremendous traffic across engines on broader terms among users who may use those broad terms exclusively in online search, and who may make a purchase later or even offline based only on broad-terms online research. “For example, 85% of conversions are latent in the consumer electronics category, occurring days or weeks after the initial click has occurred," he says. “There’s a lot of latent value to search marketing that is still not fully captured today.”

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