It looks like searcher behavior is changing. The folks at Experian Hitwise said yesterday that one-word search queries are up 19 percent since last year.
Here’s the chart:
I always like to point out that this isn’t exactly a measurement of all search queries — as you can see in the headline of that graphic, it’s a measurement of searches that produced clicks. In other words, a search like “weather in los angeles” may not produce a click because Google, Bing and Yahoo all show the weather forecast right on the search results page — the searcher doesn’t need to click. (Heck, Bing shows the weather right in the search box itself, before the search button is clicked.)
Nonetheless, “Why?” is the obvious question. Why are one-word searches on the rise, while all other word-length searches are on the decline.
In its release, Experian Hitwise GM Simon Bradstock suggests it’s related to “automated search features,” which I suspect is a reference to the fact that searchers can often get answers/information right in the search results page just by typing things like “weather,” “movies” or “mariners.”
I’d guess that there’s some credence to that. But I’d also add the “Facebook factor.” It’s no secret that a lot of search activity is navigational — users going to Google and typing “facebook” or “youtube” or the name of whatever site they want to reach. And Hitwise said in December that “facebook” has been the top search query for three years running.
In fact, if you look at the most popular search terms for 2011, at least six of them were single words:
I don’t know how Hitwise counts words — if things above like “facebook.com” and “www.facebook.com” count as single words, then nine out of those ten top searches are one word.
What do you think? Why are one-word searches on the rise?