Yippee, Joe Kraus has posted on the long tail Web 2.0 meme! And wouldn’t you know it, the framing is all about search.
Referring to Excite’s search stats, he notes:
In fact, the frequency of the average query was 1.2. That means if you wrote each of the millions of queries on a slip of paper, put them all in a fish bowl and grabbed one at random, there was a high likelihood that this query was asked only once during the day. Of ten-plus million queries a day, the average search was nearly unique.
The most interesting statistic however, was that while the top 10 searches were thousands of times more popular than the average search, these top-10 searches represented only 3% of our total volume. 97% of our traffic came from the “long tail” – queries asked a little over once a day.
You know the real reason Excite went out of business? We couldn’t figure out how to make money from 97% of our traffic. We couldn’t figure out how to make money from the long tail – from those queries asked only once a day.
Joe goes on to show how this applies to software and his new business, JotSpot.
4 thoughts on “Kraus Posts”
Those are good stats. In the past I’ve tried to guess how often the average website gets hit in top 10 query results. I would guess it’s a long tail distribution as well.
I work on a search engine at a much more niche content site, and we see pretty much exactly the pattern in the uniqueness of queries. It’s quite interesting that a public, general purpose search engine has just about the same trend.
People inside the company make exactly the same mistake, though. They think that looking at what most people are searching on will give them insight into what people are looking for. When asked for “top search term” reports, I constantly have to point out that the top search terms represent only a tiny fraction of all queries.
Joe always has some interesting ideas that make you think harder… nice job.
as for other “long tail” memes, it’s also a pretty good fit for most of the new vertical search niches that are starting to roll out (disclaimer: yes, i recently joined a vertical search startup… cough, cough).
although the front-end of the distribution curve may sometimes be served by a few aggregators with seemingly large market share, in at least a few notable verticals there’s an incredible proliferation of data sources in the tail.
if you then apply a crawler & search engine to extract & aggregate that data (and also to structure the metadata unique to that vertical), you can provide a pretty useful and sticky service for searchers in that niche.
and because vertical search typically involves more structured search, there are additional queries and pivots around the metadata that make a vertical search more valuable to the seeker than a generic search service.
what does this all mean? higher CPCs, and a further movement down the funnel towards CPA-based spending. that means better value for advertisers, and better ROI than generic search can offer.
thus, look for Google and Yahoo to acquire several of the independent shopping search sites over the next 12-18 months. however NexTag, Shopzilla, and PriceGrabber all have pretty good economics, and could remain independent / go public on their own.
stay tuned, the vertical search game is AFOOT.
I can’t say I’m surprised that Excite couldn’t make money off of 97% of its search traffic. I was in their offices several times to get them to use GoTo’s (now Overture) paid search. They didn’t want anything to do with it and then decided to go with a minor player (I think it was FindWhat).
Overture (and you’ll notice we talked Google into it) figured out how to monetize a lot more than 3%.