Woh-hoh-oh, the strings are gettin' bigger

osCommerce Search Engine Optimization

According to a HitWise report, the length of the string people enter to search is getting longer.  When previously people used one, two or even three words to search, they are now using 4 or more words.

HitWise Search Term Lengths
HitWise Search Term Lengths

According to HitWise, the frequency of use for 1 – 3 word searches has been slowly decreasing since 2004.  1-3 words still represent 66% of searches.  Yet that does leave 34% in the 4+ word range and predictions are that figure is only going to increase. 

But why is this happening? 

A lot of people like to think that Internet users are getting more savvy about how search works. They are now trying to get more targeted results by using longer searches. And that might well be true. 
However, we cannot discount the influence of  Google . Google still accounts for over 72% of search traffic and its AutoSuggest tool is doing a lot to assist searchers.  AutoSuggest is the feature that suggests terms as you type.  It works in the Google tool bar as well as on main Google.com search page.  And if you are using Google.com itself,  it also shows the actual number of pages that match the term suggested. It is easy to quickly scan the suggestions and select a more targeted search than you might have first planned –  increasing, for example, your simple 2 word search to a 5 word search with a single click. 

What do we learn from all this?

A lot of small businesses cannot compete on the one or two word generic keywords for their industry.  However it could be that there is a gap in the market when it comes to 4+ keywords.  So next time you are reviewing your keyword positions, review your keywords as well.  Use tools like Google AutoSuggest and your Google webtools as well as any hosting panel search statistics to see if there are other phrases you could optimize for.