Don’t Ask.com, Don’t Tell

Don’t Ask.com, Don’t Tell

What’s so interesting? While everyone is lamenting the hypocrisy of Google’s now 100% unprovided for unpaid results, Ask.com goes and releases some very compelling research around users’ search habits and privacy preferences via their Online Consumer Search Habits study that indicates that more than two-thirds of its users prefer their searches to be private, and from people a great deal more intimate with them than you or I. In short, Ask and their research partners found:

  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents have searched for something they’d like to keep private from others (64%).
  • The most secretive searchers? Men and younger people. Those ages 18-34 (78%) are more likely than those over age 35 (59%) to admit to keeping searches a secret. In addition, men (67%) are more likely than women (60%) to have searched for something they wish to keep private.
  • More than one third (35%) of respondents keep searches hidden from their significant others, and the same percentage keep searches hidden from their friends.
  • In addition, more than 40% keep their searches hidden from adult family members, and 30% keep their searches away from their children.

Not What You Expect, but Preexisting Conditions

While the research shows that searches for sexual content are a concern for about one quarter of respondents, it isn’t the greatest concern. Medical conditions were the main focus for the largest group. Thirty-eight percent want to keep their research about medical conditions a secret.

Having worked on a large number of pharma and medical device websites I find it rewarding to know the query box and medical information site remain a preferred method to do research for consumers, but this insight into the extreme need for privacy should be a real heads-up for medical marketers, those requisite HIPAA policies on your websites are not just an annoying issue of FDA compliance - they are a reflection of a real consumer preference.

My take-away

If you are selling a possible for-my-eyes-only item, be it a physical product or information, consider how assuring privacy might actually be perceived as a benefit of engaging with your site. If you are selling engagement rings and jewelry, it’s quite likely the preferred state for your shopper is undiscovered. Nothing ruins a surprise or adds to the pressure more than having a significant other discover viewing history.

Would functionality or a reminder to clear browser history be well received? I believe it would. If you are offering product information in the medical field, maybe privacy should be promoted as prevalently as it is on eCommerce sites, especially at the point of providing downloads and email sign-ups. If you are a medical marketer and not currently including this in your A/B testing., add it to your test plan. There are likely opportunities for big lifts.

As is demonstrated on Facebook everyday, there are individuals who will share anything and everything, but there remains a very private life for the majority of people and while it may seem counterintuitive, this need to be private presents a way to connect to your customers.