This N.Y. Times (reg. req’d) piece summarizes the findings of a recent DoubleClick survey of paid search and user behavior trends. Here’s where you can download the report. Basically it confirms DoubleClick’s finding in 2004 and separate comScore findings in the same year that reveal the volume of search queries are at the "category" level. Brand terms convert better and are used later in the "purchase cycle" but represent a minority of search queries. The earlier surveys suggested that roughly 75 percent of traffic is based on these "generic" or category terms (e.g., "digital camera," "notebook computer"), while less than a quarter of traffic is focused on brands or trademarked terms. These latest DoubleClick data reflect an even lower percentage of brand search queries (18 percent).
The irony is that the searches on the brand terms are "direct response" type lookups, while the "category" searches are brand advertising opportunities. This is why search may in fact be much more of a brand advertising medium than people had believed.
What we’re calling the new "purchase funnel" is a lot more "ugly" and complex than marketers want to believe. This may even be more the case in local lookups, where a fragmented universe, offline media and word of mouth figure heavily — as does search. We’ll try to get at some of that behavior in the Drilling Down panel "The New 'Purchase Funnel': Online Shopping, Offline Conversions."