A new release from StatMarket has found that web users are more likely to find web sites through direct navigation than a year ago, but this gain hasn't been at the expense of search engine usage.
As of February 6, 2002, about 52 percent of Internet users found web sites via direct navigation (entering a URL into a browser) or through bookmarks. This was up from 46 percent, a year ago.
In contrast, "surfing" links to find web sites dipped, dropping from 46 percent a year ago to about 41 percent in the most recent survey.
Search engine usage stayed the same, when compared to a year ago, with about 7 to 8 percent of Internet users finding web sites via search engines.
That low percentage surprised people, when it first came out last year, given how popular search engines are as a web resource. However, another study last year backed up the StatMarket figures. More importantly, the "low" figures don't reflect the importance of search engines for people in initially finding web sites they like, which they'll later visit directly.
"The search engines are going to remain really vital. People are going to find sites via search engines and then navigate directly to them," said Geoff Johnston, vice president of product marketing for StatMarket.
It also underscores the need to make a good impression, to avoid what I call the "search gap." This is where search engines may deliver you plenty of initial visitors, but a poor experience at your web site may not compel them to come back for repeat visits.
Johnston also stresses that branding is important. People not only have to like what they see, but they also need to understand how to find you again.
"Once people find you, your brand has to be important enough for people to want to come back again," Johnston said. "That's also why the site names need to be easy to remember."
Branding on the Web Takes Hold as Web "Surfing" Steadily Declines
StatMarket, Feb. 13, 2002
Release from StatMarket about the new figures.
Avoiding The Search Gap
The Search Engine Report, May 2, 2001
Longer look at what the search gap is and how to keep visitors coming back -- be sure to follow the link at the top to the members-version of the article.
Search engines losing popularity
News.com, Feb. 14, 2002
In case you only saw the headline, News.com's take on the StatMarket release was that search engines had lost popularity. This was based on the fact that direct navigation had risen in relation to the combined figures for surfing and searching. But when searching was broken out, as explained in my article above, it hadn't lost share at all.
Are Search Engines an E-Commerce Anachronism?
EcommerceTimes.com, Feb. 22, 2002
This is clearly based on the StatMarket release, though it never names it but rather says "some published reports indicate a measurable decline in search engine use over the past year" to back up the argument that shoppers are abandoning search engines and that this will get worse. Of course, StatMarket didn't say that search engine usage had dropped -- but that doesn't make a nice headline.
Shoppers Favor Search Engines Over Ads
DC.internet.com, Feb. 20, 2002
Meanwhile, another survey out found that online shoppers are nearly three times more likely to find what they want on the web by using search engines versus responding to advertisements [banner ads, I presume”.
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