Guestpost Richard Zwicky: differences in user behavior

Thu 28 January 2010 11:00, Bas van den Beld

Guestpost Richard Zwicky: differences in user behavior

Its the final guestpost of this series. It has been a wonderful series again, a very big thank you to all the guestposters is the least I can do. The last post is reserved for Richard Zwicky.

I always meet Richard at conferences all over Europe. And sometimes he brings his son a long, which is always a very nice thing. Richard is one of those people who seems quiet the first time you meet him, but who has so much to tell because he has so much knowledge. Listen to this guy, you will without a doubt benefit from it. The post is a very good one if I might say so. Richard really hits the bullet here.

Guestpost Richard Zwicky: differences in user behavior

I like ironies. I find them both intelligent and interesting.  Life is filled with them, yet most go unremarked.

I’ve been active in the online marketing space since 1998, first with my own e-business, then by starting a search marketing agency in 1999, and finally when I started creating Enquisite in 2004. 

When I started my ebusiness, it was a luggage and leathergoods retailer. It was the first pure etailer in the marketplace.  Competitors had physical locations and inventory.  I had a landline telephone, computer, fax machine, and a handheld credit card terminal. Banks in Canada wouldn’t trust that online credit card transaction processing was truly secure, and based on my volumes wanted a $250,000 deposit in the account to ensure that I could cover potential bad cards each month.  I said screw it, I’ll process the cards by hand! Irony; no deposit required if I manually punched the numbers into the terminal, but $250,000 if a client did. That wasn’t so long ago.

In the first year, I sold product in Canada and the U.S.  But I had demand from elsewhere. I built up the web site’s search engine profile in both countries.  I used to “own” the top spot in organic search for almost every brand name I sold, usually beating out even the manufacturers themselves.  Being so successful in Canada and the U.S.,with little real effort, (I was finished my workday by 11 a.m.), made me consider what else could be done.  I had lots of enquiries from the UK, France and Germany.  I decided to “go to Europe!” 

Of course, there is no “Europe” in the way that I referred to it.  Europe is a continent, and the territory is formed by a myriad of nations and states.  People don’t say they’re coming to North America, they go to Canada, Mexico, or “America.”  Why do North Americans just refer to it as “Europe?” Ignorance breeds ironies.  How this affects search marketing, not just in 2010, but going forward will continue to bring forward interesting juxtapositions of intent, interest, and effect.

Having been fortunate enough to participate in many dozens of conferences internationally over the last few years, I’ve had the chance to remark how differently search marketers in different regions approach the marketplace.  In the U.S., search marketers tend to think of strategies and opportunities within the confines of the USA. In Canada, it’s Canada AND the USA.  The tactical and strategic thinking and planning is very focused, and limited by the physical borders, and consequently, opportunities are limited by those constraints.  This is not the case in other areas of the world.

Four years ago, people asked used to ask me about the difference in skill levels between search marketers in the U.S. versus the UK / France / Germany etc. Quite honestly, there was a big gap.  North American search marketers were ahead. This was a simple reflection marketplace dynamics, and competition that drove the need to have more advanced skills to be more successful. Today however, I’m no longer finding that this is still true.  While there are still outstanding search marketers in the U.S., I’ve been observing that the newest, most innovative, cutting edge practitioners are coming from everywhere, and there is no longer a skills gap.  Within UK and EMEA, I believe it’s the very nature of the European constraint that drives this innovation.

If you roll-up the various nations that occupy the EU, it’s about the same size as the US and Canada.  Yet, there are many times more languages and cultures interacting and cooperating together.  This fractured marketplace means opportunities are rife and exploitable, and drive competition.  An interesting example I’ve note which makes this obvious is the user behaviour around how people actually search for the products and services which search marketers promote. 

Lately, I’ve been publishing user behaviour data on the Enquisite blog (  Perhaps one piece of information I found the most interesting related to clickthrough rates relative to query length.  We’ve all seen lots of data which shows most search engine queries are one word long.  But what I discovered was that while people run one word queries all the time, they then refine their searches, only clicking through when they see close matches.  One word queries don’t drive the majority of traffic in the US. But what about queries in other countries and languages?  One would presume that usage among English speakers worldwide would be similar? Surprisingly, it’s not.

Very simplistically, the difference in user behaviour reflected language and in click through patterns affects how search marketers will need to approach an opportunity, and is one of many factors which forces them to innovate.

To illustrate how different we all are, and how search marketing professionals around the world face unique challenges from territory to territory, I’m putting forward some user data to make the point. The data presented shows the difference between the U.S., U.K, Germany, and France for average query length resulting in a search referral. In other words, how many words do people have to type into a search engine to get the results they are expecting to find: 


Graphically represented, it’s stunning to note that most people in France and Germany are more comfortable with the results when they enter in two and three word queries, compare to people in the UK who need to be much more precise.  This behaviour indicates a different level of trust with the results that the search engines are presenting, but also, from the search marketer’s perspective a difference in the competitive opportunity they face.  At first glance, it would appear that marketers in the U.K. need to factor in many more long tail variants of the keywords they are competing for than elsewhere. 

Ironic that as the world wide web brings us closer together, languages and cultures continue to separate us as effectively as the oceans once did. For the search marketer, these differences are crucial is defining potential wins and delivering value to our clients.

About Richard Zwicky

"Richard Zwicky is Founder and President of Enquisite, Inc.  He drives the company’s suite of products that are designed to offer search marketers the best set of solutions to address their customer acquisition needs.

Widely regarded as a leader and visionary in the search marketing industry, he experienced first-hand the challenges of a Search Marketer in his prior role as Founder and CEO of the award-winning search marketing agency, Metamend."

Richard can be found:

On Twitter
On his website
On Google

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