A white paper released by scientists from Yahoo! Labs sheds light on the changes in search user behaviour.
Data from the Yahoo! Toolbar across 50 million page views generated in March 2009 was analysed. Rsearchers, Ravi Kumar and Andrew Tomkins found that users now spend only 21.4% of their online time on search activities.
The total time spent searching included 6.2% time spent on Web searches, 1.4% on multimedia searches, 1.4% on databases of items such as those found on eBay and Amazon.
In contrast to this, users spent 50% of their online time browsing and one-third of the time on communication.
5.3% of all pageviews were found to have a referral from Web searches, 1.4% from multimedia searches, 0.6% from database item searches, and 1.5% from other search query types. Thus, each category of search pageviews tends to result in around one follow-on click on average.
Experts at Yahoo! surmise that in the future, search needs to focus on gathering and understanding, and when appropriate, serving structured information.
It was observed that users are now much more dependent on social networks, location-aware smartphone applications and voice or images to find the content that they are interested in.
Last month, Facebook had more site visits than Google in the U.S.A. Search ads, which are the main source of revenue for the search engines, could potentially lose user attention to an extent.
More importantly, search and display advertisers now have a greater choice and must decide on the best way to reach their target audience and the best channel to maximise the return on the money they spend advertising.
Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! already recognise this change in online user behaviour and have been forging partnerships with social media sites like Twitter and Facebook for over a year now, in addition to building social networks around their own products.
Click the link below to read the full white paper:
A characterisation of online search behavior (144kB PDF)