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Searchers Use Engines As An Address Bar

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The habit of going to a search engine has become so ingrained a behavior for Internet users that many input names like eBay or Yahoo into a search box instead of the address bar of the browser.

Using search engines to get to top destinations works fine for users, but how does it impact you as a site publisher? Tell us at WebProWorld.

A lot of users have home pages set to various portals, like Yahoo or MSN or Google, all of which contain a handy search box on the page. To get to a well-known destination like online auctioneer eBay, quite a number of those users type eBay into the search box, hit Enter, and then click on the link to the site that appears on the search result pages.

Market researcher Nielsen//NetRatings noted in a statement on its MegaView Search for November 2005 how the top ten search terms in all were top-level dot-com domain names. Ebay and Google took the top two spots with each garnering over 13 million requests. Yahoo and eBay appear twice in the list, by themselves and with the .com appended to the term:

Why does this happen? Nielsen//NetRatings thinks it reflects the importance of search to web surfers:

“There are two types of online searchers that type a Web site’s URL into a search engine rather than into the browser’s address bar: Those inexperienced enough not to appreciate the difference between the two, and those that are so experienced they have become habituated to using the search engine as their portal to the Internet,” said Ken Cassar, chief analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings.

“Whether this behavior is driven by ignorance or savvy, the end result is the same: The search engine is the focal point of the online experience for Internet users across the spectrum.”


Requests for the term ‘ebay’ hit 13.871 million in November 2005, and ‘google’ followed at 13.301 million. No other term topped 8 million requests for the month, with ‘yahoo’ typed in 7.997 million times, ‘mapquest’ 7.431 million, and ‘yahoo.com’ 6.528 million.

Using the search box is just easier, no matter how experienced the user. Newcomers or people who see the computer and the Internet as just another utility probably never have typed a term into the address bar of their browser and hit CTRL-Enter (IE) or Enter (Firefox and Opera) to get to eBay or Yahoo. And they don’t care to do so.

Microsoft has IE respond differently than either Firefox or Opera, regarding address bar behavior. Put ‘ebay’ into the IE6 address bar, or any term, and hit Enter.

Instead of being delivered to eBay.com, IE6 sends the user directly to MSN Search results. Eventually, users can find ebay.com as the top organic link, but it appears under a block of sponsored links at the top of the page.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Searchers Use Engines As An Address Bar
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