Navigational Searches Common, Confusing

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Why do people type full URLs into search bars?  And why is this practice noticeably less common at Google than at other search engines?  It’s hard to say, really, but Compete’s Jeremy Crane has some thoughts and stats on the matter.

First off: I’ll admit to making what he calls “navigational searches” insofar as I Google companies’ names.  For me, it’s usually a matter of wondering whether a company’s long name will really be identical to its address, or verifying that I’ve spelled and punctuated everything according to a corporation’s own practices.

As for everybody else?  I’m not sure what they’re up to.  But Jack Schofield writes, “First, if I type into the search box instead of the address bar, it doesn’t matter if I make a typing mistake.  Second, I might be guessing or have half-remembered the URL I want: it may look strange if I get it right, but often I don’t.  Third, there are plenty of Web sites that are not very responsive, or include a lot of junk code.  Rather than going to the site, I might actually want to look at it in Google’s cache first.”

Good enough.  To continue on, Jeremy Crane states, “Almost nine times out of ten when I’m looking at referring search terms the first term on the list is some variation of the domain name,” and then continues, “In some sense these navigational searches could represent ‘non-monetizable’ searches for the engines. People searching these navigational terms and ending up at the matching domain are by definition trying to get somewhere very specific.”

So there’s one lesson, anyway: don’t try to take advantage of this trend.

Speaking of trends . . . Crane found that a steady 27-28 percent of searches at Yahoo and MSN/Live are “navigational” in nature.  Only half as many Google searches are navigational.  This makes me inclined to think that Google’s users are a little more Web savvy, but Crane and Schofield were open to other possibilities, and so am I.

In the end, though, we’re all left with an odd practice that may waste time and wear out keyboards.

Navigational Searches Common, Confusing
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