AOL Search Logs Reveal the Importance of Copywriting

By now, many of you have heard about AOL’s mistake of releasing three months worth of search logs to the public last week. The logs were posted on a research site for a short period of time, allowing visitors to inspect the data and help build a better understanding of how users search the web.

After an outbreak of blog posts publicized the release, the AOL search log, containing over 30 million search queries of more than 650,000 users, was taken down.

But it was too late. Mirror sites were already up and running and privacy advocates were up in arms.

One site, titled AOL Stalker, was even created to specifically allow users to browse through the AOL search log breach and examine user search data. As you can probably imagine, there’s some pretty funny stuff, and some stuff that’s not so funny. Let’s just say I wouldn’t recommend making the site perusal a father-daughter activity.

The site also breaks down some interesting search data, which is where I want to focus.

This search data shows a basic click distribution analysis of the more than 30 million searches released from AOL. Some of the data isn’t surprising, such as the fact that the site with the number one position generated far more traffic than any other result, or that not being on the first page of results dramatically lowers your traffic.

What was interesting, however, was the percentage of searches that didn’t generate any clicks at all.

According to the analysis data, nearly 50% of all AOL searches (46.6% to be precise) failed to provide traffic to any website.

What does this mean? It means that users weren’t presented with relevant search results.

Even more surprising is, according to the data, nearly half of the 16.9 million searchers that failed to click, kept searching by following the “next page” link. That means these searchers even made an effort to keep looking but weren’t enticed enough to click on what they saw.

While this isn’t a mind-boggling discovery, it does provide hard evidence that there is a significant need to not only attain high rankings in the search engine results, but to also attract potential customers with appealing copy when they get there. After all, what’s the point if you’re just going to get “nexted”.