Gord Hotchkiss ranks among North America’s preeminent experts on how people use search engines. As the author nearly a dozen notable whitepapers on search marketing, including the widely quoted Google EyeTracking Studies, Gord is known to be one of the most able minds in the SEO/SEM sector. Today, in a piece published at Search Engine Guide, “I Speak Search“, he takes note of how sophisticated search engine users have gotten using short two or three word search queries.
To paraphrase the article, Gord reminds SEOs and webmasters looking for that magic set of winning keyword phrases that simplicity is often the most sophisticated route for driving search traffic to your site.
According to the results of Gord’s previous studies, less than 5% of Google searches are conducted using the Advanced Search feature or with advanced parameters such as “and”, “all”, or “not”. The lack of advanced search queries, coupled with the tendency of larger search engines to eliminate extraneous words from the search-string has led to a common belief in the search marketing sector that search engine users are not as comfortable with search engines as search engine marketers would like them to be.
Gord takes an alternative view, suggesting that search engine users “… have learned how to make a few words go a long way.” The piece quotes two American literary icons and rivals, Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner.
Faulkner once said of Hemingway, “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”, to which Hemingway replied, Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”
The most fun part of Gord’s essay comes towards the end as he speculates on how technology is altering the most basic way we communicate complex thoughts, speach. From thumb numbing converstations conducted via text-messaging to self-truncation of sentences to phrase a search-string, advances in technology are forcing a rapid evolution of the common language (in our case, English).
Now, before you lol or rofl, perhaps a trip down memory lane to how military acronyms altered language after the two world wars in the previous century. It’s not that good grammer has gone AWOL. This evolution does not mirror the advanced state of SNAFU our society finds itself in on so many other fronts. It is simply human beings doing what comes natural to them, finding efficiencies to make it easier to get through the day.
Search markerers and webmasters should take note, the KISS principle continues to dictate the behaviour of search engine users. Keep It Simple (insert favourite S word here), and optimize with that simplicity in mind. After all, that’s what our audience is doing.