Marketers who credit only the last search result a person clicks on before converting are missing the full value of "assist" clicks, according to a new study.
The research, from search marketing firm 360i and paid search technology provider SearchIgnite, examines the kinds of search results that were first clicked on by users and the last results those same people clicked on before transacting. Searches were classified as branded -- querying the name of a company, Web site or trademark -- or non-branded, which generally included product categories, sub-categories, and specific product terms.
The study found more than 60 percent of conversions were completed with one click on a marketer's natural or paid listings. The other 37.3 percent of transactions were completed with at least one "assist" click on a marketer's search listings. These multi-click conversions accounted for two-thirds of the total clicks measured in this study, according to David Berkowitz, director of strategic planning at 360i.
"Many marketers are looking at the last click before a conversion and crediting it entirely. Most 'assists' are being ignored," Berkowitz told ClickZ. "Knowing the value of 'assists' gives marketers more power to budget their search campaigns, and make more efficient decisions."
Among multi-click conversion paths, the study found that most searchers complete a transaction after clicking on the same kind of a search result -- paid or unpaid listing, branded or non-branded keyword -- that they start their search process with.
For example, people who began who began by searching on a brand term and then clicked on a natural search result later converted after clicking on a natural result to a branded search 81.5 percent of the time. Searchers who began by clicking on a paid listing for a branded search term ended with the same kind of click 74.3 percent of the time.
Non-branded queries were less likely to be used consistently through the search process. A click on a natural result following a non-branded search led to a conversion on the same kind of click 57.6 percent of the time. A click on a paid result for a non-branded search led to a similar pre-conversion click 46.4 percent of the time.
Overall, searchers were more likely to start with a paid result and convert after a click on a natural result. That scenario accounted for 12.6 percent of conversions credited to natural search results, more than twice as many as natural-to-paid paths produced.
"Paid listings are more likely to be uncredited by marketers looking only at the last click," Berkowitz said.
The most common move was from non-branded to branded searches that led to clicks on natural results. Clicks on a natural result for a non-branded search led to clicks on a natural result of a branded search 32.5 percent of the time.
Next most common progression led from a click on a paid result of a non-branded search to a click on a natural result of a branded search, which took place 22.4 percent of the time. That path should be considered most valuable, Berkowitz said. "It indicates that the searcher was not sold on who they wanted to do business with."
The study looked at the click stream data of over 250,000 customers of 360i and SearchIgnite clients that engage in e-commerce transactions and have a significant paid search budget.
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Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.
Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.
With a combination of real-world marketing experience and years of business journalism, Kevin brings to ClickZ a unique ability to deliver news and training materials that help online marketers do their jobs better.
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