Search Queries Are Getting Longer: Hitwise Report

More than half of all search queries are at least three words long, and more than a third are four words or longer. That’s according to Hitwise data (PDF) released today:

search queries chart

As the chart shows, 1- and 2-word queries are becoming less common, while 4-, 5-, and all the way up to 8+ word queries are becoming more common. The numbers are very similar to what Hitwise shared at SMX West a couple weeks ago.

The takeaway point here is that the so-called long tail of search continues to get longer. As searchers get more sophisticated in how they use Google, Yahoo, Live Search, etc., it opens up more opportunities for webmasters and marketers to create content and/or ads that captures these longer search queries.

Also in the same Hitwise announcement: Google’s search share held steady at 72% in January. Yahoo also held steady at 17.8%. MSN/Live Search saw a slight drop from the month before, while Ask saw a slight increase.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Stats: Hitwise | Stats: Search Behavior | Stats: Size | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • Jeff

    This trend may not be entirely user-driven. Search engines have gotten better at ranking relevant long-tail results. Additionally, as competition becomes almost insurmountable for the short-tail, more SEOs are designing their web pages around the long-tail… which tend to convert better anyway.

  • LC – BayshoreBlogger

    We are defintely finding this the case with our clients, by analyzing the keyword report in our analytics programs. Not only increasing in number of keywords, but also increasing additiion of the geo-modifier to them. Agreed with Jeff above as well.

  • Phoebe

    If users are increasingly sophisticated and are using/trusting search engines for more complex tasks – and if this trend continues – will horizontal, keyword-driven search engines continue to do the job for most users? At Jinni ( we see that users make the step surprisingly quickly to taking advantage of the possibilities of natural language search for movies and TV shows.

  • Ian Macfarlane

    Here’s the HTML version of the above on the Hitwise site:

    For some reason, they’ve made a press releases page for 2009, but not updated the navigation so you can’t get to it easily – just go to the 2008 archive page and change the URL so it says “2009″ instead.

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