June 9, 2006, 12:00 AM

4% of unique search terms account for half of all site searches

WebSideStory and the Patricia Seybold Group find that 4% of all unique terms across 34 million site searches represent half of all searches on the studied sites. That tells marketers which searches to leverage first.


Findings from a new study from WebSideStory Inc. and the Patricia Seybold Group reinforce site search’s importance to the online purchase process and underscore the fact that search engine marketing alone won’t deliver customers to the Buy button. Shoppers who use site search on an e-commerce site buy 270% more than shoppers who don’t, according to WebSideStory statistics.

“The site search box itself is a tremendous gift to you from your customers: they are telling you exactly what they want, in their own words, ” says report author Susan Aldrich, senior vice president and senior consultant with the Seybold Group.

Analysis of 34 million site search queries on more than 40 web sites using WebSideStory Search or HBX analytics suggests that marketers would be well advised to focus optimization efforts on the most popular queries versus a broader range of queries. The findings showed that a concentrated 4% of all the unique site search terms captured accounted for about 50% of all the searches conducted on a site. It was an even narrower band for e-commerce sites. The figure dropped to just 2% of unique terms representing half of all queries on e-commerce sites, which accounted for 15 of the 42 web sites studied.

Those top few hundred most popular search queries on a site represent opportunities to make high-impression offers of products content or services on the site, says Aldrich. “Each of those top site searches should trigger a great offer,” she says. That information can be used to boost the prominence of the most-searched items on other pages throughout the site; for example, by including those items in a "What’s Hot” list on each page of the site, Aldrich notes.

Online marketers are missing an opportunity if they only focus on search engine marketing, according to Aldrich, who adds that few applications are more effective than site search at converting customers and improving the overall visitor experience at the site.


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