UK Search engine landscape

Paul Boag

A report released by Hitwise this week reveals some interesting trends in British online searches.

About Hitwise

Hitwise monitors the largest sample of global Internet users ever assembled. Each day, Hitwise monitors how more than 25 million Internet users from around the world interact with over 500,000 websites, across 160+ industry categories.

Report findings

The free downloadable report (Adobe Reader Required) released by Hitwise entitled "Search engine landscape and consumer search behaviour" provides valuable insight into four areas:

  • Share of search market held by each of the leading engines
  • Audience profile of the various search engines
  • Consumer search behaviour
  • Degree to which search terms continue to be underutilised

Google continues to dominate

Together Google UK and are responsible for a staggering 69% of all searches by UK internet users. That is 11% higher than there position in the US. In addition, Google’s new local search is gaining popularity especially in rural areas where goods and services are harder to find.

Different Search Engines Attract Different Audience Profiles

Two of the major areas I work in are the over 50-age group and the heritage sector. I was therefore interested to read that Google UK had a particular strength in attracting users from rural areas and well off retirees.

The report also noted that tended to attract young couples with children, which is a desirable segment for many marketers.

Consumer search behaviour

Another interesting fact to emerge from the report was the high number of users who still search using single keyword searches. The report seemed to indicate that this was due to users searching on brand names.

For me this underlined the importance of establishing a strong brand identity that sticks in people’s minds. It also demonstrated the importance of targeting the brand names of competition in pay per click campaigns.

It is possible to take this approach one-step further. It may prove prudent in some circumstances to associate pay per click ads with other major brands that attract your target audience. For example if you sell frozen food to the 50 plus age group you may wish to show your ads next to brand names such as the National Trust or SAGA. Users searching on those names are not after frozen food but it does get your brand in front of the right target audience. Obviously, this is not as straightforward as it seems due to the need to maintain a minimum level of click-throughs. However, the approach is valid.

Underutilised search terms

The final thing that caught my eye in the report was the fact that despite the impression that competition for keywords is fierce, the reality is that many keywords are still underutilised. 95% of keywords that attracted users to a particular site were not being used by that sites competition. Personally I find this hard to believe but it would appear that many companies do not research which keywords their competition are targeting and make sure they cover those words too.

The report itself

If you are interested in better promoting your website this report provides valuable background reading. Although probably not directly relevant to individual business circumstances it does provide a backdrop that enables you to better position your online marketing.