SEO

Is Google Trumping The URL?

When there’s a simple box to fill in with your search term, and you know exactly what you’re looking, why bother to use the address bar? If statistics on popular searches are anything to go by, it looks like many people aren’t bothering with that inconvenient “www” and “.com” and are just going straight through Google.

Hitwise UK just published its most searched for brands 2007 statistics, and the fastest rising US search terms are widely available. Both suggest that Google users know exactly where they want to browse to, and just use the search box to give them the link to click.

Google Fastest Rising Search Terms 2007

  1. iPhone
  2. Webkinz
  3. TMZ
  4. Transformer toys
  5. YouTube
  6. Club Penguin
  7. MySpace
  8. Heroes
  9. Facebook
  10. Anna Nicole Smith

Google UK’s Most Searched for Brands

  1. ebay
  2. bebo
  3. youtube
  4. facebook
  5. myspace
  6. argos
  7. amazon
  8. you tube
  9. bbc
  10. tesco

Of the top ten US based search terms, seven would have taken users directly to the page they were looking for if typed into the address bar as a .com. Only one would have actually taken a user to the wrong site (http://www.heroes.com). Of the UK brands, five of the top six are brands whose only portal is online. Those Google entries aren’t really “searches” in terms of seeking information, they’re just a quick and easy way of bringing up a link to the homepage the user already knows they want.

Is the Address Bar Dead?

Well, not yet. But with Google more often that not incorporated into browser toolbars and searching directly for brand websites pretty much as quick and easy through the search engine as through typing the address direct, it may be becoming increasingly redundant for many users.

Seth Godin suggested recently in “Drop the dot?” that .com is as much shorthand for “our website is at” as it is a detailed web address, in the same way that “800” is used to signify a toll free line. With the integration of the Google searchbox into most browser toolbars the distinction is further blurred and the need for www or .com information to be added is reduced.

Is Google Search or Navigation?

What’s noticeable is that Google’s higher rated search terms are more often brands or pseudo-domain names. But a portal like Yahoo is still used to search for information on celebrities, roleplaying games, and sports. My theory is that Yahoo looks like a web page, it presents itself as a portal to news, media and information.

Whereas with Google set as a home page or the search box installed into the toolbar it becomes an integral part of the browser. The emphasis is different, with URLs becoming less important and people using Google to navigate, not just search.

Have a think. How often do you use your address bar these days?

 Is Google Trumping The URL?
Robin is a British web designer living in New Jersey, working as Front End Engineer at Viggle, Inc and has been making websites professionally for a decade now.
 Is Google Trumping The URL?

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23 thoughts on “Is Google Trumping The URL?

  1. I use the FireFox address bar – this goes through Google, so I suppose I do use it to navigate.

  2. The first thing the Google page does AFTER it loads is to set focus to their search box. If you have Google set as your home page and click in the Address box, then start typing before the page has fully loaded, Google will steal the focus and you’ll start typing your URL as a search.

    When it happens to me I’m so lazy that I just hit enter because it’s faster to click the first link it gives in the organic search than to retype the url or copy/paste it.

  3. It’s true though, when you go to most countries outside of the US.. especially Asia.. In advertisements companies are less likely to print out their URL and more likely to display the “Search Term” used in a “search box” in order to find the site.

    As Sites and Brands become more numerous then actually URLs that are easy enough to remember and make anysense.. its only natural that we are just going to be going to master directories for everything.

    Think about.. Lets say you can’t remember the name of the company, but you can remember the slogan! Bam, there’s your unique identifier..

  4. I find that most folks that first open the computer do not notice the navigation toolbar in a browser.

    Instead, the default home page presents the field and draws their eyes to it… be it MSN, Google, Yahoo, or other default home pages for a given browser.

    I have come to expect this as the interface of the masses. The first view is powerful to those that are not technologists or that tend to poke and have less curiosity about the flat 2D image or experience in front of them.

  5. I think it’s true that for most people the home page is far more of a portal page than, perhaps, for techies who are likely to have a basic default that’s perhaps their own page, about:blank, or multiple sites opening. But I think Google still steals a march here because of its simplicity, it comes across more as a genuine navigation portal, whereas a site like MSN or Yahoo as an opening page is far busier.

  6. I use firefox and for most URL’s i know and which am sure i just type the name and press CTRL+ ENTER. for eg: In the case of yahoo, what i do is type yahoo in adress bar and press the Ctrl and Enter together.

    If users are using search to go to the URL’s directly by savig time, then this method which am using ius also the same.

  7. Hi Robin – thanks for publishing the Hitwise data. Just one comment though – the search terms that you have listed are for all engines, not just Google as your headings suggest.

    Thanks, Robin
    Director of Research, Hitwise

  8. I’ve always thought the DNS naming convention sucked; It made users think about things that were irrelevant to them (look how meaningless “www.” has become even “.com”, “.org” and “.biz” are largely misused and meaningless) — There’s something perverse and human hostile in Unix programmers preference for .bin directories. What was called for was a real meta-data structure and I still hold that regional information is generally much more important than organization type (and if organization type is important it should be more granular). Given this, it’s hardly surprising that a search engine would usurp this. My only fear is that DNS tables are impartial, Google has repeatedly demonstrated it’s willingness to conceal, or re-weight results to manipulate their users. Anyone for an XML DNS convention?

  9. @Robin Goad – always nice to come across another Robin! Thanks for the heads up, the initial presentation of the figures I’d seen suggested they were Google specific, but the clarification is helpful.

    @Kevin M – Definitely agree with you with the problems over the naming conventions. Frankly most are underused and generally considered secondary to “.com” even if they are correct usage, and that’s no help to anyone.

    …although I think that segues quite well into the discussion peter points out (and good to see the post developing wider discussion). I think there’s an argument that it’s quite a good thing to downgrade the dot com value (or, rather, to devalue the DNS naming) and focus instead on content based results.

  10. This habit is hell on custom URLs for individual campaigns. Folks type in a dark page’s URL into Google or Yahoo and then complain to us they can’t get to the private landing page, because the address bar is totally foreign to them.

  11. After extensive search I haven’t found a solution. Perhaps someone here can help. I’ve lost the ‘set focus’ (cursor defaulting in the ‘search box’) on Google – where when you go to Google you can begin typing immediately. Now I have to either press tab several times or click in the search box to begin typing. I think this started happening after a recent MS update but not certain.

    Any tip would be appreciated.

    Regards,
    Kent

  12. I use firefox and for most URL's i know and which am sure i just type the name and press CTRL+ ENTER. for eg: In the case of yahoo, what i do is type yahoo in adress bar and press the Ctrl and Enter together.

  13. The first thing the Google page does AFTER it loads is to set focus to their search box. If you have Google set as your home page and click in the Address box, then start typing before the page has fully loaded, Google will steal the focus and you'll start typing your URL as a search.

  14. I use firefox and for most URL's i know and which am sure i just type the name and press CTRL+ ENTER. for eg: In the case of yahoo, what i do is type yahoo in adress bar and press the Ctrl and Enter together.

  15. The first thing the Google page does AFTER it loads is to set focus to their search box. If you have Google set as your home page and click in the Address box, then start typing before the page has fully loaded, Google will steal the focus and you'll start typing your URL as a search.