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Search positions and click throughs for the UK and US

Wednesday, July 01, 2015
Grant Whiteside

Search marketing professionals get to see the real search terms that people use to reach your website on a daily basis; the days of stumbling about in the dark, trying to work out what search terms were used on Google are pretty much over.

Google’s webmaster tools now shows us far more information than ever before and many of the third party SEO tools that align this information to other KPIs and metrics have caught up or are catching up with the changes.

A history lesson in search queries and information retrieval:

In days of old (last century), one word search queries stole the market share; poker, hotels, porn, casino and flights gave websites with savvy marketing directors the opportunity to use SEO and PPC to dominate their chief marketing channels.

These search terms quickly became worth their weight in gold, and as our enquiring minds thought of new ways to ask for more specific information, search engines responded accordingly and a market was born out of giving more relevant content.

By the turn of the century, the dependency on being found for a wider range of more specific queries was apparent; content marketing strategies were beginning to shape up  and the percentage (not the number) of one word generic queries used within each sector was beginning to decrease in scale if not in size.

Since then, search engine market penetration in the western world has slowed down as the development of browser based searching, social media, apps, retargeting, native and programmatic advertising has given the user far more options to engage with content; from the initial point of stimulation to the final point of conversion or post sale advocacy. We don’t just ask for information; we are permanently recommended information. Search engines normally recommend search queries, is this making a difference to search query lengths?

Search Query Size Year on Year

What is clear is the length of the search terms that people use, and that the language and the devices used have a bearing on the number of queries that people use to find information. I would like to summarise by stating that, in general, search queries have been growing in size for the past 15 years and they continue to grow. But, this is not always the case.

Our research provided by http://www.keyworddiscovery.com/ covers the length of search queries by country since 2009. It demonstrates how the UK searches differently to the US. To our surprise, it seems that a higher percentage of searches are using one and two word search queries in the UK in 2015 than they were in 2009. It also seems that more searches using 6 or more words were more popular in the UK in 2009 than they are today, regardless of our growth in voice based search queries. This is direct contrast to the trends we are seeing in the US.

April 2009

april 2009

April 2014

april 2014

April 2015

april 2015

There are many external factors that may have contributed to this difference in search habits. The UK used to get lots of irrelevant results in 2009 (US based results), this may have increased the number of queries that we rerun to qualify getting a UK based relevant result. Google and others have learned a lot about local intent since then but does this statistically outweigh the number of long queries we get from more qualified searches, voice based searches and quoted (copy and pasted) searches that we run today?

I’m still unsure, what are your thoughts?

And why is there a stark difference between how the UK and the US go about choosing their search results? I’m sure that, at a granular level, each brand’s analytics and search tools can tell us a lot more.

If you’re struggling to gain that front page visibility for anything other than your brand name and/or CEO’s Linked In profile, then you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. If that’s the case it’s time you gave your marketing agency a call to start the process of getting found online. It’s a good start.


Grant Whiteside
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