Search Queries with Higher Word Counts on the Rise
Hitwise, an internet statistics site, published a recent report showing that search engine queries with higher word counts are becoming more and more prevalent every year. Most searches are still only one, two or three words long, but they are down 3%, 5% and 1% respectively.
And while two-word searches still make up the largest portion of online queries, accounting for 23.47% of total searches, searches containing 4 to 8 words or more have experienced a growth that ranges from 3 – 20% each year. Just between February 2008 and February 2009, searches with more than 8 words increased by 20% and searches averaging 5 to more than 8 words were up 9%.
Industry insiders like Kevin Lee, one of the founders and CEO of search agency Didit, say that the growing popularity of long word-count searches is a sign that search engine users are getting smarter. “Longer queries are a sign of the searchers becoming more educated and savvy and essentially being trained by the fact that results for shorter queries tend to return less relevant results than longer searches,” said Lee.
So it is the need to cut through the search engine clutter that has led to the development of more sophisticated online users. The VP of technology at Ask.com, Keith Hogan, agrees. The expectations of search engine users have risen, he says. Most people today are not willing to simply type in a company name into a search engine and then navigate through the company’s own site to find what they need. “Before, users might enter a query like ‘periodic table’ looking for the atomic weight of Boron,” Hogan said, explaining that, now, a searcher will type in a more detailed, full question because he wishes to be led directly to the desired information straight from the search results page.
One strategy that many sites are using is to promote large, user-generated question aggregator sites, Hogan said. “That’s not the place that search engines want to pull information from. They want it from an authoritative source.” He recommends instead that brands include things like FAQ pages on their websites, as these allow search engines to extract more information from them.
As search trends continue to change along with an increasingly internet savvy searcher population, search engines are working out better ways of predicting the intentions of internet users, even users type in short, unspecific searches. Kevin Lee explains: “[Search engines do this] through a combination of searcher profiling—prior search behavior or user volunteered data—and use of additional non-search data such as geography, Internet Service Provider (ISP) and perhaps connection speed.”
The Hitwise report showed the four major search engines undergoing less than a 1% change in its number of users since January 2009. Google was the only major search engine that has continued to experience user growth, its share increasing about 8% since February of last year. Shares for Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask all went down by 17%, 20% and 10% respectively.
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