Study: Three-Word Queries Drive Most SEO Traffic

Ad network Chitika has published interesting findings from an examination of a whole lot of search-driven ad impressions. Specifically, “Chitika looked at a sample of 41,103,403 impressions of search traffic coming into their network between June 13 – June 19.”

The company found that 26 percent of (organic) search-driven traffic was the result of “three-word searches.”  Here’s the full breakdown of organic search volume by query length:

  1. Three words: 26 percent
  2. Two words: 19 percent
  3. Four words: 17 percent
  4. One word 14 percent

Chitika added that “any query beyond five words will see dramatically lower traffic.”

Traffic by Word Count

Yet the effect is different for paid clicks. Chitika said, “The highest ad click rates were for queries of 5, 6 and 4 words.” This validates the conventional wisdom about longer-tail queries being more qualified. However clicks appear to drop off after about five words.

CTR by Word Count

The study doesn’t parse queries into commercial and non-commercial categories unfortunately.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Search Marketing: Search Term Research | SEO: General | Stats: General | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • http://www.Match.ccom simons1321

    i’m assuming that they didn’t differentiate between brand and non-brand keywords as well, but looked at keywords as an aggregate.

  • Greg Sterling

    yes… that’s probably the case. At least it wasn’t exposed.


    This should make the job of search professional easier, assuming you can convince clients to target 3-5 keyword phrases and not just brand related or generic phrases.

  • Mike Mueller

    I can’t recall the study, but isn’t research showing that the number of words in user’s search queries is increasing overall? If that’s true, could one assume that paid search ads will see continued growth–if we are to believe the study above?

    Clearly, the 4,5, & 6 word queries have a proportionally smaller share of the overall searches. But I believe (no proof, just a hunch) that the percentage of these words in the overall mix is increasing, whereas 2 and 3 word search queries are decreasing. Thoughts?

  • seopositioning

    When it comes to paid clicks, however, the highest ad click rates were for queries of 5, 6 and 4 words.

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