Home  › Search › Paid Search

Designated Searchers May Thwart Personalization

  |  June 29, 2007   |  Comments

Who does the searching? You may find you're not talking to potential customers at all.

At the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) conference this week, I observed a panel of experts debating the role of influencers in media planning, buying, and targeting. Influencers are people whose expert status in their social group makes their advice about products or services particularly persuasive, even though they may not be actual consumers of such products or services.

There was no consensus on the panel about the elusive influencer. As I mulled the influencer's role (real or imagined), it reminded me that for many years, I was the designated searcher in my household and, in some cases, at my office. So I did a bit more probing. It seems there may indeed be a large segment, perhaps even a majority, of offices and households where there's a designated searcher.

My unscientific poll of officemates and a LinkedIn question confirmed my suspicions. Many don't do their own searching.

My poll was quite unscientific due to the large percentage of search- and Web-savvy folks in my network. But this and other anecdotal evidence supports the notion that while searchers with many years of Web experience are more likely to do their own searching, there may still be a large segment of a target market where you're not, in fact, talking to potential customers at all. Instead, you're talking to the information gatekeeper who filters SERP (define) information for the ultimate consumer.

The designated searcher effect may be most prevalent wherever there's a gap in the Web or search savvy among individuals in a home or office environment. The greater the difference in search proficiency, the more likely the proficient searcher becomes the designated searcher for at least some information retrieval tasks within his family, social, or business circle. Certain things may correlate highly with search proficiency, such as age and years online. Overall intelligence may be somewhat predictive.

Let's look at how this makes things difficult for the entire ecosystem: the search engine, the end consumer, and the marketer/advertiser. Shared cookies are already enough of a problem (when multiple users use the same computer and the same accounts). My Amazon recommendations are more frequently relevant to my wife's interests than my own. When there's a designated searcher, the shared cookie problem is magnified, because it's actually the melding of several users' requests into a single brain. This effect can reduce search personalization effectiveness, which all the engines are experimenting with.

Google's been particularly active in testing personalization, and it may work very well overall, depending on how prevalent the designated searcher and shared computer issue is. On a separate note with respect to Google searches, fellow search marketer Tim Daly recently told me Google's experimenting with appending prior search query targeting to PPC (define) results for a subsequent search. Let's look at an example (if you get similar results to those described, I'd be interested in hearing about it).

First, I searched for "laptop," then for "auction." In the "auction" SERP, I saw results for "laptop." Daly was concerned that Quality Score and advertisers' CTR (define) on the second SERP would suffer. Generally, Google has assured the advertising community that only relevant query data will influence Quality Score. If you feel your quality score is undeservedly low, tell me about it.

Demographic targeting may also suffer due to the designated searcher effect. Bid boosts in engines such as Microsoft's adCenter may cause advertisers to miss a portion of their target market if baseline bids are set too low (those CPCs (define) for unclassified traffic and for segments that haven't been specifically addressed). As Microsoft and others give us advertisers the power to target more accurately based on user profiles, we may want to take a step back and remember the designated searcher.

As computers proliferate and people have their own machines and have been trained (or have learned) to search effectively, and as mobile devices (which generally aren't shared) become more ubiquitous as primary search devices, issues related to the designated searcher may fade. In the meantime, remember the designated searcher may have a tremendous influence on which links are bookmarked or e-mailed, which products are selected, and which stores are visited, without having any direct interest in your product or service. Their interest is in maintaining their reputations as savvy searchers among family, friends, or coworkers.

The designated searcher can completely exclude you from the consideration set. Be a savvy marketer and think about the roles influencers and designated searchers may play as filters between you and your customers.

Join us for SES Travel on July 26-27, in Seattle, WA.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

ClickZ Live Toronto Twitter Canada MD Kirstine Stewart to Keynote Toronto
ClickZ Live Toronto (May 14-16) is a new event addressing the rapidly changing landscape that digital marketers face. The agenda focuses on customer engagement and attaining maximum ROI through online marketing efforts across paid, owned & earned media. Register now and save!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.

Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Search newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

ion Interactive Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper

Marketing Apps for Landing Pages White Paper
Marketing apps can elevate a formulaic landing page into a highly interactive user experience. Learn how to turn your static content into exciting marketing apps.

eMarketer: Redefining Mobile-Only Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop

Redefining 'Mobile-Only' Users: Millions Selectively Avoid the Desktop
A new breed of selective mobile-only consumers has emerged. What are the demos of these users and how and where can marketers reach them?

Jobs

    • Contact Center Professional
      Contact Center Professional (TCC: The Contact Center) - Hunt ValleyLooking to join a workforce that prides themselves on being routine and keeping...
    • Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador
      Recruitment and Team Building Ambassador (Agora Inc.) - BaltimoreAgora, www.agora-inc.com, continues to expand! In order to meet the needs of our...
    • Design and Publishing Specialist
      Design and Publishing Specialist (Bonner and Partners) - BaltimoreIf you’re a hungry self-starter, creative, organized and have an extreme...