I have a soft spot for data relating to how users search. I think it’s imperative to understand how people search if we want to optimize our content so it’s visible when they do. Typically, data about query length comes from Internet data measurement companies like Experian Hitwise, comScore, and Nielsen.
Google sometimes shares statistics about searcher behavior, like this post from January which revealed that one in every 13 search results that Google displayed in 2009 included a map. Good to know.
But, as far I recall, Google rarely (if ever) weighs in with specifics about query length. Until now.
Brad Geddes shared one slide from a presentation that Google recently sent him, and that slide includes this nugget of info:
54.5% of user queries are greater than 3 words
Why is that important? A couple reasons:
- As the “long tail” grows, it’s good news for small businesses. Most SMBs will not compete with Big Brands for short keywords like “shoes” or “skin care,” but they can compete on longer search phrases.
- It flies in the face of Hitwise stats that I shared earlier this year. In that post, I shared a chart which showed that one-word searches rose in 2009, while 3-, 4-, and 5-word searches declined.
On that second point, there’s actually a difference in what’s being reported: The Hitwise numbers reflect searches that produced a click. Google’s numbers, we can assume, are true, raw search data — i.e., the Google number reflects all searches on Google.com, not just searches that produced a click.
My post earlier this year produced close to 20 comments, some wondering if the “long tail” was dead. I’d say that Google’s stat shows it’s alive and well.