Everyone knows the 80/20 rule, in fact an extension of this idea has become known as “the Long Tail.” However, the 80/40 rule might become the most important rule to marketers in the age of search engines and advertising effectiveness.

First- a reminder of what the 80/20 rule is:

Pareto’s Principle - The 80-20 Rule
n 1906, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical formula to describe the unequal distribution of wealth in his country, observing that twenty percent of the people owned eighty percent of the wealth. In the late 1940s, Dr. Joseph M. Juran inaccurately attributed the 80/20 Rule to Pareto, calling it Pareto’s Principle. While it may be misnamed, Pareto’s Principle or Pareto’s Law as it is sometimes called, can be a very effective tool to help you manage effectively.
Where It Came From
After Pareto made his observation and created his formula, many others observed similar phenomena in their own areas of expertise. Quality Management pioneer, Dr. Joseph Juran, working in the US in the 1930s and 40s recognized a universal principle he called the “vital few and trivial many” and reduced it to writing.
In an early work, a lack of precision on Juran’s part made it appear that he was applying Pareto’s observations about economics to a broader body of work. The name Pareto’s Principle stuck, probably because it sounded better than Juran’s Principle.

As a result, Dr. Juran’s observation of the “vital few and trivial many”, the principle that 20 percent of something always are responsible for 80 percent of the results, became known as Pareto’s Principle or the 80/20 Rule.

Traditional media based advertising has a major flaw: all ads are temporary. The ad in todays paper is in tomorrows trash, the spot in the TV show is over and gone (or skipped by Tivo- or ignored the second time it’s viewed) and most importantly- the old John Wanamaker adage about half his ad budget being wasted- only he didn’t know which half- still, even in todays hyper-targeted media, is pretty close to true. I’ve seen many ads for feminine hygiene products- but will never need them.

The difference between spending your budget on old-school media campaigns and putting your best efforts into online strategy- is that only people interested in your product or service will be interacting with your site- and they are there actively looking for information to substantiate their buying decision.

This is where the 80/40™- rule comes into play- insight directly from The Next Wave: 80% of Internet usage begins in search, 40% of people using search- type your URL into a search, instead of a direct access to your site- and get search results- which could include people talking about your business negatively- or trying to steal your eyeballs- even after you have spent millions of dollars promoting your URL.

Once they get to your site- what do they get? If your site is in Flash, often times they get frustrated. Also- remember, since 80% of use begins in search- are they able to access the specific information they seek? Or just get to your site? Many Flash sites do not allow your visitors to link to interior content with an exclusive URL.

One of the new realities in advertising and marketing is that people are depending on the Internet more for researching purchases- even having access when mobile to the web through WAP enabled sites- or soon- to any site with the introduction of the Apple iPhone. Everything is changing rapidly- and if you don’t make your information search friendly- you won’t be relevant in the decision making process.

How do you solve the 80/40 rule™? Building sites to be search friendly is just the start. Also, remember, it’s not about chest-beating ego sites- it’s about delivering information to the consumer that answers their problem (and the consumer can be a B-to-B customer just as easily as a B-to-C consumer). Your site should be searchable as well. Make every piece of relevant data available- in a web friendly form- and don’t remove material- always update it with relevant news (since links shouldn’t be broken by your maintenance).

But most importantly- always be aware- that when someone is looking for you- 40% of the time, they may get search results instead of directly to your site and someone else may have the answer and steal your lunch- and that is a much bigger problem than the old 80/20 rule.