Navigational Search: 5% of the time, users could have just typed it into their browser

Today I lost a bet by wagering against the web savvy of the average American. While generally a safe gamble, the people proved me wrong. Only 5% of searches are for strings users could have just typed directly into their browser. I had guessed much higher.

As most search analysts know, the top drivers of search traffic to your domain are basically always the domain name and its common misspellings. It has always served as good online analytics small talk over how frequently one of the top 10 search terms is literally the exact URL of the domain. The second biggest driver of search traffic to compete.com is the search phrase "compete.com."

To figure out how often this happens across the Internet we analyzed all of the search queries made across all the major search engines in April. We found that 5% of queries were for URL strings that the user could have typed directly into their browser. Specifically, we queried what percentage of searches had no spaces in them and included either ".com", ".net" or ".org". Since our panel is U.S. based we didn’t look at searches for international sites.

I had bet that fully 15% of searches were going to be navigational.

We call these kind of navigation searches "˜mom searches’ after our beloved mothers, who are exceptionally proud of us here at Compete, but frequently baffled by what we do. That said, there are a plenty of good reasons for typing a URL into a browser. The 5th most searched for domain is hotmail.com, which no longer exists and instead currently routes you to live.com. No doubt hotmail users are still wondering where their domain went. My favorite reason, not surprisingly, is that it’s a quick way to search for meta-information about that site (though coming to Compete.com is faster).

Also of note is that domains are not necessarily searched for in proportion to their overall popularity. The most searched for domain, myspace.com, is 10th in terms of unique visitors to the domain itself. Many of the searches for this site are actually people searching for specific pages or bands such as myspace.com/DataRocks.