The top 1% of searchers performs a full 13% of all searches in a given month.John Battelle argues that the focus on making things easy for common users -- make it work for grandma, as I frequently advocate -- could be misguided.
If you extend this to the top 20% the number of queries increase to roughly 70%.
Since power users make the majority of searches, a search engine that targets power users could attract a majority of searches without attracting the majority of visitors.
However, there is some debate in the comments to John's post about whether Jeremy measured the right thing. What matters most is not the number of searchers, but the ad revenue from those searches.
It is unclear whether these power users who are making the majority of searches are actually the most profitable visitors. Some commenters argue, only anecdotally, that power users may be the least likely to click on ads.
It is an interesting question and one that begs for hard data. Does anyone know if 20% of searchers generate 70% of advertising revenue? Is that 20% is the same 20% that does the 70% of searches? Alternatively, is there is a negative relationship between number of searchers performed by a user and the average revenue per search?
Update: At least for banner advertising, AOL EVP Dave Morgan apparently has some data, writing:
Ninety-nine percent of Web users do not click on ads on a monthly basis. Of the 1% that do, most only click once a month. Less than two tenths of one percent click more often. That tiny percentage makes up the vast majority of banner ad clicks.[Found via Danah Boyd via Jeremy Pickens]
Who are these “heavy clickers”? They are predominantly female ... older ... [and] Midwesterners ... They look at sweepstakes far more than any other kind of content. Yes, these are the same people that tend to open direct mail and love to talk to telemarketers.
What does all of this mean? It means that while clickers may be valuable audiences, they are by no means representative of the Web at large.