One of the interesting discussions that I find myself having quite a bit lately is the quality vs. quantity of leads discussion. It's a pretty well-known fact that IYP leads are much more qualified than general Web search clicks.
There may be several reasons for this, but the most direct explanation has to do with the fact that IYP benefits from the legacy of print Yellow Pages usage: "ready to buy" consumers looking for vendors/professionals to service or fulfill and existing need.
In addition, it's pretty well recognized that consumers come to Yellow Pages products (or classifieds) at a late stage in the buying cycle, as the above mindset suggests.
By contrast, the most recent research from comScore (with both Overture, now Y! SMS, and DoubleClick) suggests that users are engaging with search frequently and numerous times throughout the buying cycle. Therefore, some of those clicks are research clicks rather than purchase-oriented. That's why search conversion rates are considerably lower than IYP lead-generation levels.
I'm not saying that plenty of ready to buy consumers aren't clicking on search; that's clearly happening and businesses are getting good leads from search. But, as a general ratio of browsers/researchers to buyers, IYP has a higher percentage of buyers in its traffic vs. search. By the same token the usage and volume of traffic on search is much higher than IYP.
(In a way, it doesn't matter because increasingly there are local search networks being constructed where with a single ad buy you can get into both.)
Talk about "burying the lead" . . . What I really wanted to discuss was the Did-it/ Enquiro "eyetracking" study. Basically, the study found that there's a limited amount of space on a single SERP page (organic and paid search) that users will look at and pay attention to. This has long been known and was confirmed by earlier studies. What it effectively does is create a kind of inventory shortage for SEM.
Okay, okay. . . . So my point is that you may have an IYP-like phenomenon (more qualified leads) coming from ads that are farther down a page. I was talking to Leads.com's CEO Todd Walrath about this today at SES.
Most people aren't going to pay attention to SEM ads in the, say, 7th or 8th position down the page. (Only 10 percent of the participants in the Did-it/ Enquiro study looked at those ads.)
What this suggests is that people who are clicking on those farther-down ads may be more motivated than those greater volumes of people clicking on ads in the top two positions, who may be doing more casual or preliminary research. Indeed, PEW data argue that a majority of Americans don't know the difference between unpaid and paid search results.
Of course, the search/SEM response to what I'm saying is that once relevance is improved — based in part on users doing a better job of forumulating queries — then the ads can become more relevant and generate a greater percentage of "conversions." Okay, but I'm not entirely sure.
It's interesting to consider the possibility that, just as "the tail" tends to convert better, ads lower down the page (which are also cheaper) may grab a consumer who's more focused and closer in time to a buying decision, a la IYP.
Of course you can just forget all of this if you're talking about a branding campaign where being "No. 1" or ranked high on a page is the only way to achieve the desired effect.