New data shows Google searches are getting longer and more specific – here’s how you can adapt

Search engine users are becoming increasingly sophisticated by using more words in search terms, and businesses must respond by engaging in serious SEO work and updating their site with comprehensive descriptions and keywords, industry experts warn.

The comments come as new Experian Hitwise data reveals that for the four weeks ending February 27, 2010, the percentage of clicks based on search term length is changing. Clicks made through searches over eight words grew by 8.3%, with searches over seven words growing by 5.3%.

In contrast, clicks made through searches using one word fell by 1.1%, with clicks made by searches over two words falling by 1.5%. Searches using three words remained flat.

Jim Stewart, chief executive of Stewart Media, says the data isn’t surprising as the growth of the internet as a business tool results in more users searching for more specific data, such as brands and product names.

“Google tells us that 20% of searches are absolutely brand new, meaning they have never been typed into the search engine before. Users are having to think about being more specific to get through jargon and to what they really want.”

Stewart says this is important for businesses, as they must think about what keywords they can use in order to show up in as many searches as possible.

“Businesses must think about being specific. They need to think about what their clients what, and more importantly, where they are as well.”

Stewart argues one of the biggest ignored trends by small businesses is search-by-location. He believes SMEs must use keywords relating to their location, as users are searching for specific brands and products by suburb.

“Not enough small businesses think about ranking for their suburb name, which is an extremely easy thing to rank for and people will use it in very specific searches. Google is getting better with that sort of thing, with maps and business listings. Eight words is pretty high, think about the things people would be searching for.”

But Stewart also says businesses must consider what they think users will be searching for, and not just what they think should be an appropriate keyword.

“Think about Jetstar. They use the keywords cheap flights, but they aren’t targeting cheap air fares. Similarly, you want to buy the words “cheap accommodation” but also consider people don’t say that, they say “cheap hotels” or “cheap motel”.”

Chris Thomas, chief executive of Reseo, says the data reveals that businesses must not be obsessed with adding as many keywords as possible, but instead should add the right types of keywords.

“When we look at a site we will look at its main categories, for instance, Mitre 10 would have paint, tools, etc that we use as keywords. Then we look at keywords that could be longer, such as “house paint” or “hand tools”. That’s the basic line we put down.”

“Then we look at model-specific, problem-specific and research-specific terms that are quite often comprehensive and they will tailor to brands. You need to use the right keywords in the right place, and really test your site to see if your keywords are working well. If your keywords aren’t generating revenue, then change them.”

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