New research published by SEMRush indicates that a certain percentage of people searching on Google “aren’t satisfied with the results… and need to refine their queries” in order to find what they are looking for, as well as other findings that indicate some users may be having difficulty finding what they need on Google.
This level of dissatisfaction may explain why a tweet comparing Google to a dying mall resonated with thousands of people.
According to the research published by SEMRush:
“There’s a great deal of keyword refinement at play here.
If we combine the number of Google clicks with the number of keyword changes, we see that almost 30% of people are either refining or extending their searches in some way.”
Repeating search queries with slightly different keywords is an indication that users might not be satisfied with Google’s search results.
Tweet About Unsatisfactory Google Search Results
A tweet noting that it’s difficult to find things on Google went viral in October, receiving over 60,000 likes and over 7,000 retweets.
What was noticeable about the tweet was that many of the responses noted that Google had difficulty understanding search queries, requiring users to redo their queries with advanced search operators like quotation marks.
One person tweeted that they should try using quotation marks.
Try using " "
— Elad Nof (@EladNof) October 25, 2022
But the person who started the discussion rightly noted that users shouldn’t have to resort to advanced search operators in order to force Google to find what they are searching for.
Some of the quote tweets are saying things to the effect of "if you know the tricks, it still works," which misses the point.
1. A lot of the old tricks don't work anymore
2. We shouldn't have to try this hard to trick a search engine into giving useful results
— Emily Velasco (@MLE_Online) October 25, 2022
And another person tweeted that all they want is for Google to find what they are searching for.
All I want is a search engine that searches for what I asked for!
— Rue Mohr (@RueNahcMohr) October 25, 2022
And it’s not just non-SEOs who are noticing that Google keeps searching for the wrong things.
SEOs are noticing, too.
Sarah Carling tweeted a screenshot of a search for how many calories are in a bottle of wine.
Google changed the query and insisted that she was searching for how many calories in a glass of wine instead.
Or that there are only 123 calories in a whole bottle of wine
— Sarah C (@SarahCarling) October 11, 2022
Here’s a screenshot of the same search query with the word “bottle” in quotes.
Google still insists that the search query is about a “glass” of wine.
Screenshot of a Google Search Result
SEMRush Research Results
Users Search With Many Keywords
The research showed that 31.6% of desktop searchers use 1-2 keywords. 31% of mobile device users search with 1-2 keywords.
38.2% percent of desktop users search with 3-4 keywords. 39.9% of mobile users search with 3-4 keywords.
Now here is where search behavior seems to get strange because it shows that users today tend to search using long keyword phrases.
30.1% of desktop searches used 5-11+ keyword phrases, while 29.1% of mobile searches used the same amount of keyword searches.
Could it be that some searchers are using more keyword phrases because they are trying harder to find what they are looking for?
Other data revealed from the research seems to indicate that searchers are indeed having difficulty.
Users Make Multiple Queries For Same Search
Another data point discovered by SEMRush was that more than half of desktop users who perform two searches in a row, do so with keyword phrases that are similar by 60% or more keywords.
SEMRush concludes that the data could be interpreted as evidence that users experience difficulty finding what they’re searching for:
“We can see that about 55% of the times two searches are performed in a user’s journey contain keywords with a similarity rating of 0.6 (60%) or more, which could mean that many users aren’t satisfied with the results of the first SERP and need to refine their queries.”
The number of searches with similar keywords is lower for mobile search users, 38.9%, but that’s still a significant amount of searches that have to be reformulated, nearly 40%.
Is It Harder to Find Answers With Google?
Many in the Twitter discussion were clearly dissatisfied with Google search.
Some in the search marketing community expressed the opinion that users may have forgotten how bad search engines used to be.
But the same person also admitted that they have to search with the word “reddit” in order to find meaningful results, implying that Google Search was not returning satisfactory results.
I'd love to see a real longitudinal study of this over time – I suspect we may have forgotten how poor search used to be (though I acknowledge that I append [reddit] to more searches than I'd expect these days).
— Will Critchlow (@willcritchlow) October 26, 2022
How can Google be so good that users have to append the word of a discussion community to find the answers they are looking for?
Could it be a problem with the content that Google prefers to show?
For example, when shopping for a product that one has little knowledge of, is a commercial review site more trustworthy than opinions expressed in a forum community by people who have actually used the products?
Why is an answer on Reddit more useful than all the images, videos and content sites Google shows in the search results?
Google can find answers for many complex search queries.
A search for “what actor played the candy colored clown?” results in the correct answer of Dean Stockwell, the actor who portrayed Ben in the film Blue Velvet.
How can a search engine so advanced also inspire so much anguish in users that over 70,000 people on Twitter agreed that Google was like a dying mall?
Featured image by Shutterstock/fizkes