Anne Kennedy is reporting in today’s Search Day article about recent studies that detail what types of phrases users use to search.
Some of the surprising, almost counter-intuitive findings from this research: Most people begin shopping searches using generic searches long before they get down to brands.
…a recent DoubleClick study has shown that “buyers clearly favor generic terms early in the buying cycle,” according to Cam Balzer of Performics, DoubleClick’s search marketing division. Further, searchers do a lot of research before buying, affording nearly five touch points on average. A majority of 70 to 80 percent of buyers searched on generic terms, with searches on brand names peaking immediately before purchase.
On the surface, these studies may appear to be advocating the use of more generic phrases when targeting your site for top search engine rankings. If your immediate goal is to increase sales I believe the studies overwhelmingly show that more specific phrases are those that will return your highest visit per sale ratio, and therefore your return on investment.
Other recent studies are show that searchers are increasingly using two-, three-, and four-word phrases when searching. This makes sense. Look at the quote above “A majority of 70 to 80 percent of buyers searched on generic terms, with searches on brand names peaking immediately before purchase. This means that in the research phase, searchers still type in generic phrases, but as they get closer and closer to making a purchasing decision, longer and more precise phrases are typed into the search box.
The net effect of this is that if you are ranked with generic phrases you are doing more branding than selling. Branding can be great, and many companies spend huge amounts of their marketing dollars on just that, but for many businesses, branding is not the best marketing model. If you can afford to brand, and feel that it will ultimately he helpful to your bottom line, by all means, optimize for the more generic phrases for your industry. Just be aware, if you target the generic phrases but neglect the more specific phrases, you may be getting your brand name to more searchers, but somebody else is getting the sale.