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Average Search Query Length Increasing

According to Internet monitoring company Hitwise, the average length of search queries increased between January 2008 and January 2009. Search queries of five or more words saw a 10% year-over-year increase, versus the two percent YoY decline for search queries of only one to four words. Here's Hitwise's official data on the percentage of U.S. clicks by number of keywords:

* One-word queries fell from 20.96% in January 2008 to 20.29% in January 2009.
* Two-word queries fell from 24.91% in January 2008 to 23.65% in January 2009.
* Three-word queries fell from 22.03% in January 2008 to 21.92% in January 2009.
* Four-word queries increased from 14.54% in January 2008 to 14.89% in January 2009.
* Five-word queries increased from 8.20% in January 2008 to 8.68% in January 2009.
* Six-word queries increased from 4.32% in January 2008 to 4.65% in January 2009.
* Seven-word queries increased from 2.23% in January 2008 to 2.49% in January 2009.
* Queries of eight or more words saw the biggest jump, from 2.81% in January 2008 to 3.43% in January 2009.

Hitwise did not speculate about causes of longer search queries, but some industry experts have posited that advancing search capabilities among Internet users have proportionately increased the sophistication and length of their queries. The growing amount of content on the Internet may have also necessitated the use of longer queries. Whatever the impetus, expanded queries surely signal new opportunities for advertisers and webmasters who are seeking to capitalize on the growing Internet population, which currently tops 1.5 billion according to the latest statistics from Internet World Stats.

-Amanda Richter


Feb 27, 2009