Why people search for websites they already know exist

Pando Daily’s Nathaniel Mott recently penned an article titled “How is Google still the luddite’s address bar?” where he bemoans, much as I have in the past, that it’s amazing how many people use a search engine to search for extremely popular sites when they could just be visiting this site directly.

Whilst a certain amount of this can most definitely be blamed on lack of techno-savvy, browser makers could also be partially responsible.

Firefox is still holding on to the split address/search boxes and this could account for some of the traffic. I have seen people type ‘google’ into the Firefox search box, and then search for their own website on google.com (watching this painfully slow process drives a technological person like me demented).

However, with Google’s Chrome browser now being the dominant browser following a meteoric rise over the past few years, we can examine their “omnibox” – the combined search and address bar – and ask are people really intending to search google for google?

A fresh install of Chrome and its default suggestions

The way omnibar works is that it maps behaviour. The first time you type ‘google’ into Chrome it does suggest doing a web search, but once you’ve actually visited google.com Chrome will start suggesting google.com as the default action when you start typing ‘goo…’. If you have visited youtube.com a lot, probably when you type ‘y’ into the address bar Chrome will actually suggest youtube.com. Same for facebook. Obviously as your browsing habits diverge and you visit more and more varied sites the omnibox will slowly adapt its weighting.

After having visited google.com, the second time omnibox defaults to directly visiting the site.

As far as I can see Chrome should encourage people who are using omnibox to actually go directly to the website instead of searching for it.

That said, there have been a few times I have found myself accidentally searching for something obvious when I actually meant to go directly to the website. When that happens I curse myself for adding to these stats that make people look like fools that haven’t a clue how a browser works, and a part of me wonders whether Google has designed Chrome to encourage people to search for things they mean to visit directly.

I have found AwesomeBar has helped improve my omnibox experience – in so far as it actually pays gets omnibox to consider my bookmarks a little more in its calculations.

I guess when ICANN finally rolls out its new top-level domains we’ll find ourselves being able to type google, microsoft, or facebook into our browser and go directly to that site.

Only then will we finally get a better idea of what the real top searches are.

Comments

  • Bob

    You tell it how it is dude.