Where do I find Google?

Google has published their list of the top search terms for the year:

Top 10 searches on google.co.nz in 2008

  1. games
  2. bebo
  3. youtube
  4. trade me
  5. lyrics
  6. google
  7. map
  8. hotmail
  9. tv
  10. weather

Half of these are site specific brand names (in bold) – meaning that rather than using Google the person doing the search could have simple added .com or .co.nz to the term and entered the URL directly into their browser and found the site they were looking for directly.

(the same trick would actually also work with most of the other terms too, but it’s not so obvious that people searching for these things were after the corresponding .com)

The one that will really surprise many web developers, I suspect, is “Google” itself – the sixth most popular search this year.  

How do you explain that?  What’s the mental model those users have of the web and of search engines specifically?

Most technology people will, I suspect, find it difficult to understand the sort of person who does this sort of search, but that’s exactly what we need to do if we’re going to build products these people will like to use and will tell their friends about.

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9 thoughts on “Where do I find Google?”

  1. I’ve always assumed the reason those terms you’ve highlighted are there is that people are now accustomed to typing words into the location bar and letting the browser do an invisible Google search to take them to the page they want. So a lot of people (myself included) are in the habit of typing “trade me” or “hotmail” or yes, even “google” into the location bar without bothering about the rest of the domain name.

    So I very much doubt that many of those searches were ‘traditional’ searches — ie people going to google.com using the search box. Surely not?

  2. I think the search term word rankings are based on the number of times that a search is made with that particular word somewhere in the search string.

    As such, the word “google” is probably turning up becuase of lots of people searching for google related sites or content. Such as google maps, google documents, google news, or google groups.

  3. AOL released a bunch of search data from 650K users in 2006 (3 months of search records) that tells pretty much the same story. Top terms include:
    Keyword Queries Run
    google 298702
    ebay 125758
    yahoo 117140
    yahoo.com 89392
    mapquest 79563
    google.com 72414
    myspace.com 69549
    myspace 65047
    http://www.yahoo.com 38570
    (more here: http://www.dontdelete.com/)

    An awful lot of these searches could have been entered directly into the address box. I suspect this is why Google built universal search into Chrome: people use the address and search box interchangeably, so why not just have the software deal with it?

    My initial reaction to this revelation was that people don’t know how to use the software they have. But another interpretation is that they are actually more efficient than I am… their approach requires fewer finger movements and less effort to reach the destination (esp. considering most people aren’t great typists and probably prefer mouse to keyboard). Perhaps those crowds are wise after all?

  4. My wife (very smart, Firefox user, TripIt user, Gmail user…) refuses to use the address bar and types the site name into the search box in FF. The reason being that Google does a quicker job of getting the url than any other technique. It is faster typing ‘hotmail’ and searching rather than ‘www.hotmail.com’ in the address bar. And in a way she has a point. The address bar likes to screw things up sometimes. Auto-complete, prompt for deep linked url’s, not select all the text to type over when you enter the address bar, etc. Google is easier for her.

    I also think the reason that Google is on the list is that people search for Google via the search box in the browser, not in Google itself. I guess it is also a good reason to have good SEO. People search for brand names a lot and it is worth ranking at the top of the list. Beats paying for CPC space.

  5. @Barnacle – Agree. Brand names are always amongst the most popular terms in any line of business (cause people use Google to navigate as well as search), and thankfully Google is good at connecting brands and websites. It is a sad thing when a business can’t rank for it’s own name…should be a no brainer. When it comes to SEO the brand shouldn’t be the issue, it should be the generic non-brand product and service related terms that you are working on.

  6. Why would you go to google.com and search for google?? WTF – maybe i have missed something. If so please excuse my ignorance.

  7. “#1: Games”

    Excellent… ;)

    @Glen:

    CTRL-Enter is a must-learn address bar shortcut. :D

    @Steve:

    I expect (hope) that most of these are people who type “Google” into their browser’s address or search bar, rather than people actually loading Google via http://www.google.com and then searching for it.

    Simple fact is that an awful lot of people think that “Googling” is how you get to web sites.

    I’d like to reinforce what Perrin said, too. IE doesn’t do it, but if you type “hotmail” in the Firefox address bar you will end up at http://www.hotmail.com without actually realising that you’ve just executed a Google “I’m feeling lucky” search.

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