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Search engines & user interaction

Posted by Michael Bloch in web development (Thursday April 13, 2006 )

A recent survey of over 2,300 US internet users has revealed some very interesting findings regarding the way the average surfer interacts with search engines. The study also shows what has remained a rule of thumb, even more so, is that if you’re not listed for your chosen terms on the first three pages of results – game over.

The iProspect Search Engine User Behavior study found:

– 62% of search engine users click on a listing on the first page of search results

– 90% click on a listing within the first 3 pages of results

The first page click shows a marked increase compared with 2002 when only 48% of users clicked on a first page listing. This years study also shows that the number searchers who were willing to go past the third page of results was nearly half that of 2002.

Other findings:

– 41% of searchers will edit their search query if they don’t find what they are looking for on the first page of results, another large increase on 2002 when only 28% would revise their query.

– If an initial search isn’t successful, 82% of search engine users will still continue to use the current engine with an edited query – using more keywords. 15% will switch to another engine.

The use of more keywords is a very important point – while many involved with search engine optimization focus on short terms, one or two word queries, users are increasingly entering longer queries. I definitely agree with this; over the years I have noticed more referrals from 3 keyword queries, even when rankings on shorter queries have been stable. Joe Surfer is definitely learning that the best results are most often found with more complex search terms.

This creates a favorable environment for smaller players, as most larger companies tend to focus on single/dual keyword rankings. Given that, it’s important to sprinkle your content with related terms.

Another very interesting tidbit from the survey – 36% of searchers believe that sites that appear at the top of results are also the top companies in that field – that’s pretty amazing given some of the sites that do end up top :). That perception hasn’t changed much since 2002.

Learn more about search engine optimization and marketing

Read more about the iProspect Search Engine User Behavior study (PDF)


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