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Underdog Ask.com Grows 20% in January

According to comScore data released today, Ask.com had the biggest jump in search queries. By that measurement, Ask had more growth than Google, MSN, or Yahoo last month (January 2008) compared to the prior month’s volume.

Ask has a small piece of search market share but they have been a leader in universal search. That is, they integrate search results for more than web sites – but for images, video, local information, news, blogs, and other media. Ask got further into social media integration with their recently launched social news aggregation site BigNews.

Of course, Ask occupies a tiny sliver of the overall search volume. Here’s the breakdown on the top 4 search engines:

  • Google Sites – 7.7 billion searches (comScore says Google got 58.4% of searches in January)

Online Shoppers Read Multiple Reviews

User reviews are all the rage in online retail. And now a recent study shows that online shoppers typically read multiple reviews before making a purchase online. Research by PowerReviews and the e-tailing group shows that 68% of online shoppers read 4 or more reviews before making a purchase. MediaPost’s Tameka Kee reports:

The companies surveyed 1,200 consumers who shopped online at least four times per year and spent at least $500 in aggregate–finding that almost a quarter of the respondents checked at least eight reviews or more before deciding to buy.

Some 22% of respondents said that they “always” read reviews before making a purchase, while the majority (43%) said they checked ratings and reviews “most of the time.” In contrast, just 2% of the online shoppers surveyed said that they “never” read reviews in advance.

Yahoo’s Audience Skews Younger

Dear Heather Hopkins,

I heart you. You and your lovely data.

If you’ll recall, in December, Google lost market share by a minuscule amount. Instantly, the blogosphere abounded with rumors that Google was past its prime, that it was the beginning of the end for their dominance, blah blah blah. Then Silicon Alley Insider posited that students spend less time on their computers in December, therefore it’s only natural that Google, whose audience must surely skew towards students, would suffer the most.

Nice theory, but Hitwise’s stats today shows that the fact just don’t bear the theory out here. You see, while Google is most assuredly more popular among the 18-24 demographic than Yahoo is, the 18-24 demographic makes up a (slightly) greater percentage of Yahoo’s audience. (And overall, Yahoo’s audience is skewed younger than Google’s, which follows a much more normal-shaped distribution.)

Email and Romance – A Survey

Love is not a usual topic on Marketing Pilgrim. The closest we might come is covering Problogger Darren’s Rowse love letter to AdSense. There’s a fine line between queasiness and sweetness. And it is that time of year.

No one can say Google is heartless (just look at their logo today), but I’d say their love takes a certain practical bent. When you’re curious about how love and technology mix, and you have a decent budget, what do you do? You launch a national survey. Google commissioned Nielsen Online to see how we use email in our romantic relationships.

We use use email, text messages, IM, and probably Twitter to do everything from asking someone on a date to ending a marriage. It’s causing consternation in courtrooms and cultures worldwide.

Why Branding Campaigns Can’t Rely on the 6% that Click Display Ads

Starcom, Tacoda and comScore’s “Natural Born Clickers” study suggests that advertisers looking to increase their brand awareness should dump click-through rates as a measure of success.

The study found that, when it comes to display advertising, 50% of the clicks come from just 6% of the total US online population. And while these 25-44 year olds spend four times the amount online compared to non-clickers, they earn less than $40k a year.

What does this mean for advertisers who buy display ads for branding purposes? Don’t focus on the click!

Further preliminary Starcom data suggests no correlation between display ad clicks and brand metrics, and show no connection between measured attitude towards a brand and the number of times an ad for that brand was clicked. The research presentation suggests that when digital campaigns have a branding objective, optimizing for high click rates does not necessarily improve campaign performance.

Online Marketers See High ROI from SEO

While paid search is still the top tactic for internet marketers, more competition and higher costs has dampened enthusiasm. However, SEO (search engine optimization) is more popular with marketers because of its lower cost and high returns.

“SEO continues to increase in popularity. Its low costs and high returns make it a leader among more than half (57%) of the marketers surveyed. Those numbers were 45% in 2006 and 33% in 2005.”

That’s according to MarketingSherpa’s 5th Annual ad:tech Survey. The survey received 421 responses from top internet marketers. These marketers decide how to spend large marketing budgets for well-known brands.

MarketingSherpa asked what worked in the past 12 months and how they plan to budget for the next year.

Here are some additional findings:

comScore Drops the Ball: The Truth About Online Video and the Writers’ Strike

It’s been a month, and it looks like it’s time for the spurious connection between the writers’ strike and the rise in online video viewership to be revived. This time it’s comScore making the specious connection between the writers’ strike, no new television shows and increased online video viewership.

Just so that there’s no doubt as to the wrongheadedness of comScore’s conclusions, here’s what they said in Friday’s press release:

With the writer’s [sic] strike keeping new TV episodes from reaching the airwaves, viewers have been seeking alternatives for fresh content. It appears that online video is stepping in to help fill that void.