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Alternative Search Engines Forum

This 55 message thread spans 2 pages: 55 ( [1] 2 > >     
Search Trends and the Average User
What do the Metacrawler/Dogpile stats mean?

 3:10 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

Here's the top 10 search engine queries from Metacrawler/Dogpile for last week (minus porn searches):

1 2377 yahoo
2 2098 hotmail.com
3 2032 jokes
4 2027 hotmail
5 1895 yahoo.com
6 1862 ebay
7 1800 google
8 1690 lyrics
9 1543 Attorney/Legal
10 1470 www.hotmail.com

My Quesiton: Does the average user not realize that they can type 'yahoo.com' or 'hotmail.com' into the address bar? Do they believe they need a search engine? And why are they searching for yahoo and google if they're using Metacrawler or Dogpile?

I have no real motive for asking this, just thought these were curious stats and thought I'd start a dialogue :)



 5:32 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

>Does the average user not realize .....

In the past, I chalked this up to new, uninitiated surfers coming online. I somehow assumed that web-savviness would become a dominant trait over time. After all, what does it really take to become moderately adept at handling the web as a consumer? Not much; a few tips gathered from friends or while on the job, a few minutes of exploring the nuances of a browser, and an evening or two of serious surfing sessions. That's about it, they get their diploma. Add advanced search -plus, minus, quotes- and they have their graduate degree.

Now I believe that just the opposite is true; a relatively low level of web know-how is going to be the order of the day in many markets. Though I'm cynical by nature, I don't mean this to come off as some sort of they're all sheep rant. Though it astonishes us, the average user may be perfectly content with very passive, decidedly UNsavvy web skills. After all, I've owned VCRs since they first hit the street and have purchased probably 8 or 9 of them over 20+ years. Yet I still prefer just cram a tape in them and hit 'play' even though I'm vaguely aware that the box said something about it having enough cpu power to decipher global weather patterns while managing power consumption around the house.

We're in 'Alternative Search Engines' - Would DogPile, Overture, Mamma, Iwon, even Yahoo exist if they depended on the likes of us to surf them?


 6:36 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

When we've taken on new smaller clients and the site goes live. I'll get a call stating "I can't see my site". After some investigation checking DNS settings, server settings, I'll ask "where exactly did you type in www.whatever.com". Why lo and behold they are typing directly into the search box of whatever home page they have set. Address bar? what's that? :)


 6:52 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

> whatever home page they have set

Which, and my logs seem to back this up, may still be whatever their ISP introduced to them. I'm getting plenty of Overture via Earthlink.


 7:08 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

I am constantly amazed at how many people think every web search engine does a REAL TIME search of the entire web. These are often the same people who type domain names into Yahoo or AOLSearch instead of the location bar.

I'm beginning to think that this may be the root of the behavior -- not understanding what a search engine actually does.


 7:09 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

>Does the average user not realize .....

There is a "young" woman who once was a AOL CS who posted on this board or maybe another board that she got a call asking: "If I just plugged in a new refrigerator, could that be the reason my service is not working right?"



 7:19 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

>>I have no real motive for asking this

well then - I'll give one :)

Stop and think for a minute who your target audience is if you are selling some kind of general level consumer product (non-techie items). This whole thread has been talking about the average surfer - I'll argue that the average surfer is also the average consumer.

The average consumer buys a PC and takes it out the box and plugs it in. Some questions for thought at this point:

1) What is their default homepage that comes up when they log onto the web for the first time?

2) Who is the number #1 ISP and what does that mean for searching?

3) If the consumer is savvy enough to decide to use something other than the default search on their homepage, which one comes to mind?

4) What does this mean to you? ie: where should you focus your SEO efforts if you are selling a general level consumer product(s)?


 7:25 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

> beginning to think that this may be the root of the behavior -- not understanding what a search engine actually does.

Of course, that also explains why they're tolerant of PPC and dirty SERPs. They don't really understand what's being delivered, or how. Worse, they aren't likely to ever become seriously concerned.


 7:33 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

People who *buy* are two years plus, they have figured it all out.


 7:37 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

>People who *buy* are two years plus

Not from the questions we get to CS
These folks don't know where WATER comes from!


 7:42 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

>Not from the questions we get to CS

Same here but....the buyers are two years plus.


 7:46 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

> two years plus, they have figured it all out

I'm not so sure that, at two years plus, they're at the level of expertise we've assumed. In fact, taking a rather hard look at the 'default web behavior' of those around me has really been an eye-opener. Some of those I'm watching are very, very web-savvy... their own businesses thriving on the web, 60% or more of their total contacts coming from their sites. Yet their own command of browsers and SEs, and their online shopping behavior (some are spending 4-digit money online this season), seems little advanced from where they were 3 years ago.


 7:47 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

>>the buyers are two years plus

but what does that mean in terms of search engine usage and exposure? Even after 2 years my money is on AOL, MSN, Yahoo and to a small extent, Google.


 7:50 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

>Even after 2 years my money is on AOL, MSN, Yahoo and to a small extent, Google.



 7:54 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

>but what does that mean in terms of search engine usage and exposure?

It means that if your site is targeting the less savvy then you will have less of a customer base as time rolls on. Now is the time to "dumb up" and not down, imho :)


 8:05 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

>will have less of a customer base as time rolls on.

Just depends on your target market.

We target price buyers and give them price.
As long as we can give them supper service, we will keep them. And as they progress into a better understanding of the WWW they will see that they made the right decision. Many of their AOL Email addresses BOUNCE.


 8:30 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

I sell big ticket items (thousands per purchase) and many of my customers are unable to send an e:mail, preferring to use the phone or fax. These are intelligent and relatively wealthy people.

I have to say that those inquiries coming from yahoo & AOL are amongst the most inept when it comes to surfing and those using MSN and Google seem to have a much better grasp on the technology.

I know where the majority of inquiries come from because its on my inquiry form. The best one last week was:

How did you hear about our company:

A friend
Print Advertising
Search Engine AOL
Link from another Web Site

All of the fields were checked off and in the comments field, the man wrote, "I found you in the sports news section on AOL while looking for football scores."

He never found the scores but he bought an $11,900.00 crewed yacht charter!


 9:15 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

and i rest my case :)


 9:51 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

>>My Quesiton: Does the average user not realize that they can type 'yahoo.com' or 'hotmail.com' into the address bar?

Probably not, but what they do know is that if they type it into the search box they eventually get to where they want to go.

2 anecdotal stories.

Many years ago I used to regularly access a favourite site of mine (a football site before you ask) by searching on altavista and going to the 3rd page of the SERPs. Why, because I was using a shared PC at work, I couldn't remember the URL and didn't want to bookmark it.

I was once at a show and I met someone who thought my site had been shut down because it didn't appear any more when she typed the URL in the search box of her default homepage.

>>People who *buy* are two years plus, they have figured it all out.

If two years later you can still find a site by putting the URL in a search box then that is the method you will continue to use. Only when that doesn't work will you be forced to investigate why and therefore gain a better understanding of what really goes on.

[sidenote]Getting a sense of deja vu here, didn't I hear this discussion at the PubConference in London. For REAL TIME analysis of surfer behaviour why not sign up for the [url=www.barconference.com]Bar Conference[/url] :) [/sidenote]


 9:57 pm on Dec 15, 2001 (gmt 0)

What is even more frightening is when I talk to the kids that I coach, they have no understanding of the Internet, web. The only thing they will do is follow links from advertisements, and then follow links off of those pages, but no more then one or two clicks away...

They don't want to learn how to fish, just want the fish.


 4:37 pm on Dec 16, 2001 (gmt 0)

>Now is the time to "dumb up" and not down

NF, I'm torn on this issue. In fact, I view it as THE major decision to be made before I go forward with site redesign. Logicically, as users gain experience they should become more sophisticated web consumers... but my instincts (which I've learned to trust above logic) keep screaming K. I. S. S.

Returning to my analogy re VCRs, I submit that making the recorders more sophisticated and complicated hasn't really altered the use of the box for 20 years now, much to the consternation of those marketing them. IMO, there's even a place for marketing 'simplicity' as a feature.

Up vs Down / Design & Content vs Function:
In the end, I believe we have to talk about individual elements within the site. Two, design & content, need to stay ever-sharp, while the other -function- needs to seek the dumbest level it can muster. Your own sites seem to follow that rule, very sleek and elegant to the eye, yet -roughly quoting you here- we purposely don't give them many options.


 7:00 pm on Dec 16, 2001 (gmt 0)

At least it's encouraging to see Google at no.7. MSN and OAL benefit most from this behavior I reckon.


 11:33 am on Dec 17, 2001 (gmt 0)

I think we are missing the point here folks. If a person knows where Dogpile is, I think they should know how to get to yahoo.com. People aren't so foolish are they?


 5:29 pm on Dec 17, 2001 (gmt 0)

>If a person knows where Dogpile is, I think >>they should know how to get to yahoo.com. >>>People aren't so foolish are they?

Actually, I believe that they probably don't know how to get to Dogpile. It's my theory that the computer savy person in the household has set-up Dogpile as the default homepage, and the rest of the family just use that to type in their addresses, not realizing there is a more efficient way...


 5:45 pm on Dec 17, 2001 (gmt 0)

>People aren't so foolish are they?

Foolish is relative. JohnQ seems to consider it foolish to even be concerned with how to search. This is ultra-low priority for them, even bothersome.

Ask around regarding how your family did its online shopping this season. I did just that this weekend. Note: I suggest clenching a thick leather strap in your teeth immediately after posing the questions.


 10:03 pm on Dec 17, 2001 (gmt 0)

I'd go with rc's KISS principle on this one.

Although I've a decent machine at work and know how to use it, I run a 486 crammed with RAM at home and run everything on a 1GB drive with a 2GB backup. I've learnt to tune it so that it hums.

I walked into the home of a computer society SIG chair several years ago and found he ran everything conceivable from what looked like bits and pieces on his kitchen counter. An old monitor sat atop a makeshift wooden box full of cards and cables. There were even bread crumbs and old sandwich knives in there.

This guy, a brilliant techie and programmer, was dumped by Big Blue when, as an employee of theirs in the early 1980s, he took out an ad in a Sunday newspaper warning the public of the y2k bug. He was remediating mainframes and PCs big time come 1999.

His approach was to use whatever did the job. KISS in the true sense of the phrase.

On the other side of the spectrum, I've had to explain to my aged parents that, when tuning a VCR, all they needed to do was follow the manual and press buttons. They never did get the picture.

When my father died, my son (a twenty-year-old network manager) put together what was then a mean machine to keep Grandma amused in the old man's absence (1.5MHZ processor, 40GB hard drive, and all the accessories). The machine now just sits there. My mother "doesn't like it" and, whenever I visit her, she asks me to check whether there's any e-mail for her (spam from her ISP and mail from family around the world).

I've considered asking her whether or not she'd mind swapping machines with me, but one doesn't really like to do that to one's aged mother, does one :)?

Then I look at myself and this is where, when one considers arguments for convergence, I see it failing. Will we ever access everything using just one button? And even if we find ourselves able to offer people the world in a box, will they ever really want it?

To get back to my case. While about one percent of my country's population (approximately 35 million) has access to the Internet, just about everybody carries a cellphone. I've never liked the things and, today, when my son headed off up the coast for Christmas, I asked him his cell number. He gave it to me and I wrote it down in my phone book because I couldn't be bothered (having forgotten) to find out how to input his number into my phone - a far simpler process than carrying both a phonebook and a phone capable of containing it.

I'm definitely not a technophobe but, given the proliferation of techno-wizardry over the past five years, I find my brain starts fizzing when faced with the latest incarnation of whatever it is we used to use vinyl for. It's as though I've a mental BSoD designed specifically for someone running on an older personal operating system.

DVDs and digital cameras are OK - you either slide them in or click the button and the end result is the same. But the new stuff is beyond me. Who wants a smart phone? Not me. I don't want the b*stards demanding instant answers or documents while I'm on the loo. So I stick to desktop PCs and the Web (I don't have a clue about the Net beyond FTP).

Call it cognitive overload or middle age or whatever you like but it seems to be the norm and I'm certainly not exempt from it. At least I know where the address bar is - its the box on the left of the Google toolbar :).

So I suppose we have to go easy on those who keep Yahoo! and Hotmail up there in the search stats and design our sites accordingly. Our visitors may act dumb but I don't think it means we can assume they're stupid.


 4:51 am on Dec 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

For what it's worth - I started our 1st web site in 95 before it was cool, no shopping cart, just toll free number and about 5 or 6 pages of our stuff we sell. First order came about 4 months later from nice lady in Ohio, and I was on cloud 9. Finally figured out that folks that shopped online would actually like to by online, so changed ISPs and also signed up for a cart service (Americart) and lo and behold same week started to actually have online orders coming in.

Anyway, in 95 - 96 I knew our biggest problem was that the demographic for our products was not here yet on the web at large, then only about 30% of women had access and we simply had to stick it out until they caught up to men. It finally did happen and now our online sales account for 85% of our total sales, might close the shop down next year, local traffic has really gone south and now the store is a drain on our web revenue/profits.

But here is what I thought was going to happen - AOL would fizzle away as the members would venture out into the WWW and realize what they have been missing by only surfing within the cloistered confines of AOL proper. But that obviously hasn't happened. I'll bet that most AOL'ers have close to the same browser version they started out with. Also most don't have a clue what I'm talking about when I say they must hit their refresh/reload button to get a fresh copy of a page I just edited for them with a new picture of description or such.

When I do get calls for orders and ask how they found us, most can't really say, just was surfing or searching , don't know what search engine they used. We just kind of showed up.

To close, there must be a significant enough population of search challenged folks out in WWW land that there is a GOTO "partner" oingo that makes a living from location bar searches, developed a whole software scheme to capitalize on the ignorance. Merry Christmas to all. mike mcknight


 1:12 pm on Dec 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

It has always amazed me that the most searched terms are often web addresses, but I've heard that some people don't like to type stuff in the address bar because it is stored in cache and readily observable by anyone who clicks the drop-down arrow. I doubt if these paranoid types are the majority of people searching for "yahoo.com" - I'll vote with the majority on this, most of them are just totally oblivious.


 3:00 pm on Dec 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

Hey nuspirit, welcome.

>When I do get calls for orders and ask how they found us, most can't really say, just was surfing or searching , don't know what search engine they used. We just kind of showed up.

That hit home. For 6 years now, I've been working with real estate companies, a few chambers of commerce, and some state visitors centers. They are pros at tracking where and how their leads and contacts originated, doing it long before the web came around. While the visitor can often tell them what TV, newspaper, magazine, or billboard ad they remember they can rarely offer any definite or precise answers about the web beyond found you on the web. We often have to play '20 Questions' with them, trying to see if they recall specific photos, etc. They usually can't, and when they do it's an obvious error, often placing us on competitors' sites.


 3:36 pm on Dec 18, 2001 (gmt 0)

>> It has always amazed me that the most searched terms are often web addresses, but I've heard that some people don't like to type stuff in the address bar because it is stored in cache and readily observable by anyone who clicks the drop-down arrow

Bang on. Its dead easy to clear if you know how, but most people not only don't know how, but actively don't want to know how. They think it's going to get all "technical" and <horror> they might have to think about how it works! </horror>.

We have a number of clients for whom we have designed their websites, and those sites are hosted on a server run by the company who authoured the design package we use. Because we do something vaguely "technical", whenever something arises to do with their computer systems, we often get called first.

We've been accused of being their ISP (we're not), providing their (usually knackered) e-mail services (we don't), of causing things to go screwy with their accounts software (we didn't) and causing MS Word to lock up their machine (no, we didn't!). They get a virus, they call us. Their system crashes, they call us. They don't know how to search for a particular word in a pdf file, they call us (yes, I have had that call)

When they change a program, they keep expecting the new one to work just like the old one ("Why can't I find the button that does X?"). They either never read, or don't understand the documentation ("You mean I can copy/paste using Ctrl C/V instead of retyping 8 pages of A4? Cool!")

Don't get me wrong, it keeps life interesting, it makes us look like the good guys, and its an opportunity to sell lots of extra services to people who clearly need them. But it can be a bit frustrating being an unofficial MS Support Desk Operative, y'know?

Hmmm, maybe I should now </rant>

I suppose all that is mostly agreeing with rc's point about VCRs. People want the Internet to be easy (I've done this speech before :)). They want it to be point and shoot, no thinking about which SE bring the best results for a particular search, or how the results are generated. They want to type in a one word, very general search, and be taken straight to the info or site they wanted, and they really don't care how it happens

One other point from NFFC that caught my eye :

>> People who *buy* are two years plus

Yes, but people who are two years plus don't necessarily buy. Some of them will never find the desire or the courage to leave AOL-land, or some other cosy equivalent

This 55 message thread spans 2 pages: 55 ( [1] 2 > >
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