Single Word Search Down, Not Out

Rumors of the demise of single-word search may be greatly exaggerated, according to a new study by SEM provider iProspect.

The Natural SEO Keyword Length Study finds that despite inroads gained by multiple word searches in the last two years, referrals produced by single-word searches still account for 39 percent of natural search referrals this calendar year. One- and two-word searches account for a combined 88 percent of natural search referrals, with 3, 4, and 5+ word searches amounting to just 12 percent.

The study tabulates search-referral data from approximately 40 “high traffic” Web sites between 2002 and 2004. The majority of those sites are in the Fortune 1000 category.

Those numbers tell a different story than previous reports which identified a growing trend of 3-, 4- and 5- word searches, accounting for as much as 40 percent all search referrals beginning in 2002.

The key implication of the iProspect figures, according to CEO Fredrick Marckini, is that consumer-facing Fortune 1000 companies that neglect single-keyword optimization cede “a substantial proportion of traffic to competitors who are targeting those keywords.”

Due to a focus on return on investment based on conversion rates, companies that engage in paid search advertising often make precisely that mistake, he added.

Perhaps that shouldn’t be so surprising. According to Gary Stein, a Jupiter Research senior analyst, Fortune 1000s in general have been slow to enter the search advertising space.

“At the very least, the Fortune 1000 companies are not doing search at all very well now,” Stein said. “I go to a lot of leading agencies and find myself having to explain how Google makes money. There’s definitely a low level of awareness there.”

That said, marketers shouldn’t get too carried away by the overlooked benefits of targeting single-word searches, Stein added. The effectiveness of a single-word search strategy depends largely on the product niche.

“It works well for Huggies, targeting the keyword ‘diapers,’ but not so well for a digital camcorder supplier targeting the keyword ‘camera,'” Stein said.

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