Consumer search behaviour: stats and trends


Here’s the skinny on all that’s happening right now in search behaviour.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend 7thingsmedia’s Consumer Search Behaviour event at the Electric Cinema in Shoreditch, London.

Why lucky? Well for me, it was a great little cinema with comfy armchairs and you get your own side-table with a little standard-lamp. Swish!

And of course because I also came away with a handful of very interesting stats and trends on consumer search behaviour trends, delivered by Google UK’s Head of Performance Biren Kalaria, as well as 7thingsmedia’s own Senior Search Account Manager Gerald Murphy and Chief Digital Officer Sandra McDill.


You will already be fully aware that 50% of all search is done via mobile, but perhaps the most surprising thing about this stat is that it relates to high-end smartphones only, not tablets. I always assumed this stat was based on the hoary old term ‘mobile devices’, but apparently not.

Also in 10 markets, including the US and Japan, the percentage of mobile searches over the last 12 months has become higher than desktop.


There’s been a shift in the way we use search, moving from asking questions like “what is” or “who is” to instead asking “how to” or “why?” These are far more nebulous, ambiguous terms that we have confidence in asking because we assume search engines are just that good.

So for instance, instead of asking “who is Adam Sandler?” we’re now asking “how to escape Adam Sandler if we make eye contact with him” or “why is Adam Sandler still allowed to make movies?”


Perhaps no search engine is that good.

No-one goes online now, we’re always connected, and therefore searches have become more exploratory. As Google has evidently been aware of in its development of RankBrain, which handles ambiguous or unique questions that have never been submitted to Google before.

Local search

‘Near me’ searches have grown 34 times since 2011, and as you would expect, 80% of these are on mobile.

In terms of your own PPC campaigns, you’ll really want to pay attention to geo-targeting as 50% of consumers who do a local search on mobile will visit the store on the same day.

Local search has basically democratised the SERPs, small businesses no longer have to worry about big brands taking away search traffic because they can now use local intent (time of day, location, device) to serve far more useful and relevant PPC ads to people on the move.

Search is more conversational

The use of voice search has more than doubled in the past year, particularly among younger people. Longer queries are possible when you no longer having to be careful what you type with your clumsy, large fingers as you walk down the street bumping into things.


Income, health and education

When it comes to income, health or education, these factors have no bearing on how they use search. People with a higher income may spend more time engaging with different connected devices, but they won’t type something into Google differently to someone who isn’t sat at home wearing a top hat and a monocle.



When it comes to age, people between 18-60 all use search in the same manner. However if you’re over 60, you may spend double the amount of time on a SERP (all of an extra four seconds).

Younger people who have grown-up only knowing the digital world (or millennials as no-one should call them) aren’t necessarily savvier than other digital users, in fact if anything they’re lazier and less likely to understand the complexity behind search.

They’re more likely to create longer search strings, because they don’t have the experience of using search engines as older people have.


Location is increasingly important, as we mentioned earlier, however where someone is actually from, doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on how they use search. People from Wales don’t use it any differently from people in Scotland.


Gender does have some bearing on how we use search, men tend to spend more time on SERPs, they’re also 5.4 times more likely to inspect lower ranked results and click on more pages.

Women don’t tend to scroll around, they’re more likely to fixate on positions 2 and 3, have more browser tabs open, use more devices at one time and browse sites for longer.

For more on these trends, check out the SlideShare.

Take from this research what you will, obviously nothing above should be taken as the absolute truth and anything can change at the drop of a top hat.

It’s most important to get back to the ‘old fashioned’ pre-digital idea of thinking of your visitors/customers/consumers/users as… yep… individual human beings each with their own needs and preferences, who you know the name of and who you can serve in a genuine, personalised manner.


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