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Study Looks at Searcher Verbosity, Ask "Wins"

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Different search engines appeal to different demographics, and the search sites themselves are often tied to a set of habits. A new study looked at how verbose searchers were on the different search sites, and Ask.com showed as having the most wordy search queries.

Details of the Study

The study, conducted by Chitika, looked at two metrics to determine how wordy users on a given search site were: the average length of a search query and the percent of the time a search query was over eight words. In the lead on both counts was Ask.com, who had a 4.74 word average query and a 14.74 percent frequency for eight-plus word queries.

Average Words per Query by Search Engine

Meanwhile, the shortest searches were happening on AOL, where the average query was 4.17 words. The other top search sites ranked, in order of most succinct to most wordy, as follows: Bing (4.18 words), Yahoo (4.20 words), and Google (4.29 words). On average, these four search sites had only about an eight percent frequency of eight-plus word queries.

Why Are Askers More Verbose?

There are two things to take away from this study. First, despite Ask.com clearly coming in as the most wordy search medium, the vast majority of users are entering brief queries. More than ninety percent of search queries are conducted using seven or fewer words.

Second, Ask.com has a notably different construction when it comes to search queries, and especially how often the longer phrases are entered into search. This is likely due to its origin as AskJeeves, which prompted users to ask questions in plain English, often including the "what," "how," or "why" portion of their question.

Both of these findings can be applied to basic keyword optimization. Webmasters looking to optimize for Ask.com should aim for more long-tail phrases that match with plain English questions, while core keyword optimization should look to short phrases – three to five words – rather than long-tail or single word key terms.


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