As all marketers know, the words "free" and "new" are the most powerful to motivate consumption...or, at least to get them to want to know more. It's been that way since modern advertising began after the Industrial Age.
That's why the newly-renamed WB TV network is called "The New CW".
But does that work on the Internet?
After reading through the AOL search database accidently made public earlier this month (resulting in the firing of AOL's Chief Technology Officer and two others directly related to the problem), it looks like consumer motivations online are not that different from offline.
We like our music, we like our pictures, we like our sex -- and we like them all free.
When AOL released a trove of what it thought were anonymous Web-search data from 650,000 of its customers, its intention was to help researchers understand mass user Internet search behavior, helping media trend watchers explore further than just comScore rating or Alexa ranking results. Of course, AOL instead set off a privacy controversy because some of the users could, in fact, be tracked down. Whoops! But some researchers did take up AOL on its original intentions, getting hold of the 2.27 gigabyte data set and digging in.
What was learned?
For one, the most commonly used word in the 17.15 million separate searches was "free." And, if something isn't free, it better at least be "new," as that was the next-most common word. If it's new and free, even better.
So, thinking of your website, does it maximize "new" and "free" needs web users need?
Excluding proper nouns and conjunctions, the next most popular words were "lyrics," "county," "school," "city," "home," "state," "pictures," "music," "sale," "beach," "high," "map," "center" and "sex."
Sex. No surprise there, is it? According to a research paper about the data prepared by an AOL-led team, porn was the third most common activity of Web searchers, behind entertainment and shopping. Another study showed that 14% of all users made some form of explicit sexual search. And sex was No. 44 on the list of Greatest Hits words; usually, it's around 2,500 for standard usage, such as in English-language novels.
The AOL researchers noted that 28% of all searches were refinements of earlier searches, as users reshaped their queries to make the results more in sync with what they were looking for.
For those searchers who did click on something, in 42% of the time, they clicked on the first link presented to them. That factoid explains why Web sites spend so much money boosting their search-engine rankings.
In looking through all of the queries, 413,638 were in the form of questions...a miniscule percentage. Keep in mind, this is an AOL database. It makes one wonder how different it looks from a search engine like Ask.com.
A good bet for a top search entry at Ask might include "What is new and free?"
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Thursday, August 24, 2006,