Add3 – Digital Marketing Agency with offices in Seattle & Portland

Hitwise recently published a study on search query length that showed that longer search queries are getting more & more popular. In layman’s terms – search engine users are typing more words into the search box than they used to.

The major takeaway from the study is that people still primarily use two-word queries in search engines, but searches that contain four or more words are getting a lot more popular.

Impact on the SEO Process?

A colleague at one of our partners actually forwarded me the article and asked me how it would effect our approach to search term research. I replied:

We were actually talking about longer search query length at lunch today… yeah, our days are pretty exciting around here! We do our research real time – so [longer searches are] basically accounted for. By and large – this is good news. more sophisticated searchers = better site traffic and less frustration when trying to optimize & get ranked so we can focus on the really targeted stuff (the long tail of search)

Then, I turned to the team and said we needed to write a blog post on the subject! But rather than do it all myself, I thought it might also be interesting to get feedback from members of the Amplify Interactive team to see what their thoughts were on the article as well. Luckily, I don’t have to do all the thinking around here. Here’s what the team had to say – in all our poor-grammar and over-punctuated glory:

Search Query Length – Our Impressions


Personally – I think it’s obvious why people are typing in longer searches:
1. avoiding spam and off-topic results
2. auto-complete & search suggestions from search engines
3. higher degree of sophistication and level of experience using search engines (kind of the same as #1)

I also think that it’s extremely encouraging. It’s so much easier to target and get ranked for ‘long tail’ type search queries with SEO. if more people are searching this way, the search term research will support it as well.


I think people are becoming more familiar with how to use search engines.  I think they’re starting to learn that specific search queries bring specific search results which are generally more favorable than any super-general searches.  For example, if I have a problem with my Mac, instead of typing in something like, “Mac startup problem,” I’ll simply copy and paste the exact error notification sentence into the search box and I’ll find specifics about that exact problem that other users have encountered.

The predictive search box tool that Google debuted the middle of last year has certainly helped searches “type-in” relevant long-tail searches easier.  I’m fairly certain this has contributed to the percentage increase of longer search queries.


My initial response to these data is that of “well duh”. I know that when I am search for something and I use 4+, I know what I am looking for, and the results will be targeted to my query.

Consumers get smarter and smarter every year, as they adapt to new and changing technology. They are becoming more and more comfortable with it and the rapid pace in which it develops. I believe the more comfortable they get, the more savvy and sophisticated their search queries will become. These data reflect at least the second part of my statement. Great stuff and good news for intelligent, strategic minded people in the industry, as poor guidance will inevitably lead to poor results quickly.

Moving forward, data like these should prompt Google to fix the “other unique queries” as it will help their advertiser create better ads and more relevant landing pages which leads to more sales, more competition for phrases, and most likely more revenue for Google. Marketers should take heed of findings like these and really dig into keyword and phrase research. So they can develop their landing pages and target their consumers more effectively during the entire buying cycle.


Users are becoming more savvy and are entering in longer tailed searches to find what they are looking for but I also think a huge reason why long tail searches are growing so rapidly is because of “search assist” features being used by the major search engines.

So – that’s what our impressions from the study were. What are yours?

Ben Lloyd

About Ben Lloyd

Ben Lloyd serves as Principal at Add3 and manages the agency's Portland office.  Ben got his start in SEM way back in 1999 - when there was like, 15 search engines and Google was barely a thing. Prior to Add3, Ben had founded Amplify Interactive in 2003 (which was acquired by Add3 in 2013), and hasn't looked back since. Ben likes lots of stuff like golf, pinball, food(ie), booze/beer/wine - in that order, etc. Mostly - he likes doing that stuff with his friends. Ben is also co-founder of SEMpdx. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn

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