Why “Yahoo” is the top search term on Google…

big picture ideas,user-topia | Thursday, February 1st, 2007

The Daily Domainer reports on an interesting phenomenon–it seems that Internet users are using search engines to go to websites, rather than the browser’s address bar. It’s faster to type “yahoo” into the Google search bar and click the first result link, than to type “http://yahoo.com” into the browser’s address bar.

Some surfers may not understand the difference between the address bar and the Google search bar. Other people do this intentionally as a shortcut. The comments offer some insight: one poster writes, “If I want to search amazon I type [into Google] ‘amazon mybook’, wikipedia is ‘wiki somesubject’, or ‘weather san diego, ca’.”

A parallel development is that some people choose a search term and make up a domain name to match it–like “aromatherapy.com”–rather than entering “aromatherapy” into a search engine.

In summary, we can observe two opposite trends: People who “should” type domains into their address bar end up typing them into their search bar or search engine. And people who “should” use search engines to find what they’re looking for, make up domains on the fly and type them into their address bar. You could call it the Battle of the Clueless. And the battle has only just begun.

Those of us who have been using the Internet since the first GUI browser tend to forget that newer users don’t necessarily follow the “rules”. People find surprising ways of using software that may never have occurred to its designers. “Clueless” or otherwise, users run the show and designers must adapt.

It will be interesting to explore how this phenomenon impacts search engine rankings, pay-per-click advertising, and the value we place on website hits statistics. If search engines aren’t used only for searching, traditional methods of measuring clicks and referral sources may need to be rethought.

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