Is Google Trumping The URL?

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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?

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Robin Cannon
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... Read Full Bio
Robin Cannon

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