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Secret Keyword Data Served Up From AOL Gaffe
Internet marketing scores a secret intelligence coup. In late July AOL mistakenly released information about 20 million keyword searches made by its subscribers on the AOL network. More specifically the data gave us an inside look at the search patterns of around 658,000 AOL users over a three-month period. These searches represented 1/3 of 1% of all keyword searches on AOL during that period. Before you get put off by the supposedly small sample size you should be aware that most major media polls are done with samples of 1,000 subjects.
The brouhaha over the release concerned privacy issues - some searches were for user names. At least one search term was for "how to murder my wife" along with the usual suspects on porn on party drugs. The data confirms what we all seemed to know anyway - that people will use the internet to search for information on absolutely anything and everything under the sun.
One way to look at the intel from the AOL gaffe is with the assurance that the searc engines provide almost unlimited potential for internet marketing. If you can think of it, whatever it may be, somebody will be searching for it. Of course that does not mean that every niche is equally profitable or even that you can make any money from every niche, but it should provide enough incentive for internet marketers to get and stay creative.
Perhaps more revealing than what AOL users were searching for was how they searched for it. Almost 92% of these sample searches began and ended on the first organic search page served up by AOL. 92% of anything is a huge proportion. About 4 1/2% ended their search on the second page, and 2 1/4% ended their search on the third page.
What are some of the implications in terms of numbers? Say you are targeting a keyword that gets 10,000 hits a month, not exactly an obscure niche. 9,200 of those searches will not get beyond the first organic search page. 450 of those searches will not get beyond the second page, and 225 will not get beyond the third page.
For internet marketers the message should be clear. If you are writing web pages on popular topics and optimizing them for the most popular keywords - you may be wasting your time, your money, and your psychic energy. Only a small percentage of searchers are going to see them. Maybe that is OK with you so long as you understand that if you are on the third search page you are competing for 225 clicks and not 10,000. If you are on the fourth seach page or lower you are competing for 100 clicks and probably less.
The other valuable piece of secret intel we get from AOL is that almost 50% of all clicks on their organic search pages went to the top search position. About 13% went to the second search position, and about 9% went to the third search position. The remaining clicks were distrubted more or less equally on search positions across the rest of the page.
If we use our 10,000 clicks per month example, and you are in the fourth or lower position on the the third page, you are competing for 50 or 60 clicks per month. That does not mean you are getting 50 or 60 clicks per month - you are only competing for them against 5 or more other competitors.
Do these statistics also apply to Google and Yahoo? We do not know. For you to believe otherwise, however, you have to conclude that AOL users are different in some meaningful way than Google and Yahoo users.
This is a uniquely valuable look inside the search engines. You may want to adjust your internet marketing strategy accordingly.
About the Author: (c) 2006 by Peter Boston. Peter is an attorney, writer, and the editor of http://keywordsniche.com a copywriting, internet marketing and search engine optimization resource site.