March 2, 2009, 12:00 AM

Search engine queries are getting longer, study says

The number of Internet search queries of five words or more increased by 10% year over year in January, as search queries of fewer than five words fell by 2%, Hitwise says.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

The number of Internet search queries of five words or more increased by 10% year over year in January, as search queries of fewer than five words decreased by 2%, Hitwise says.

Hitwise data shows the rate of increase in the number of Internet searches steadily rising along with the number of keywords per query. The number of search queries consisting of four words rose 2% year over year in January; queries consisting of five words rose 6%; six words, 8%; seven words, 12%; and eight or more words, 22%.

In contrast, the number of single-word search queries declined 3%, two-word queries declined 5%, and three-word queries remained the same.

Hitwise, a unit of Experian, also notes that Google increased its share of U.S. Internet searches in January by 9% over January of 2008 to a market share of 72.09%. Yahoo’s share of U.S. searches declined 15% to 17.81%; MSN’s share fell 21% to 5.44% and Ask.com’s share fell 21% to 3.31%.

Google also increased its share of search traffic delivered to the nine web destination categories compiled by Hitwise, even among categories, such as Shopping and Classifieds, that had a drop in the overall percentage of visits from search engines. Following are the nine web destination categories with their percentage of traffic from search engines, the year-to-year change for January 2009, the percentage of traffic from Google, and the year-to-year change in January traffic from Google:
Health and Medical: 44.76%, 1%, 31.91%, 11%
Travel: 36.29%, 9%, 27.09%, 21%
Shopping and Classifieds: 24.97%, -2%, 18.36%, 9%
News and Media: 21.25%, -3%, 15.46%, 11%
Entertainment: 25.85%, 7%, 17.26%, 21%
Business and Finance: 20.03%, 13%, 13.47%, 28%
Sports: 15.59%, 16%, 9.56%, 29%
Online Video: 34.16%, 23%, 24.70%, 42%
Social Networking: 17.54%, 18%, 11.89%, 38%

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