People searching for products online are a perfect target for advertisers, because they are essentially declaring their desire to make a purchase. Recognizing this, many companies pay search engines to show ads to users who have searched for their brand names.

But a recent study by DoubleClick, an online marketing company, suggests that searches including brand names account for a small share of consumers' research.

Most prepurchase searches use only generic terms, like "hard drive." Consumers tend to make these searches early on, and then conduct a small flurry of brand-name queries right before buying, according to the DoubleClick study.

Most consumers finish searching long before they buy. People buying travel services online, for example, tend to conduct their last search more than two weeks before purchase.

Get the full story at The New York Times