UK Google stats: People use Google to enter URL/Brands, well derr.

The Guardian (amongst others, including Google themselves) covered this years search term statistics for the UK this morning. Every year, Google releases some interesting statistics that provide a
modern insight into trends that would be difficult to obtain from other channels.
Apparently, the top 4 search terms in the UK this year have been:

  • Facebook
  • BBC
  • YouTube
  • eBay

All these are web sites in their own right, whose branding is either based around their URL or vice versa. So how come? Is it down solely to good marketing? It’s all quite obvious, really. Bloggers are now shouting about users using Google as a “portal” to access obvious URLs. Yes they are, but then anyone who has trained a user up in simple web access or walked a user through something in
person or over the phone, will know whenever people use the internet, it is very likely they’ll use the largest box on the web browser to type a URL in. And that is usually a Google search box, for example, the Firefox default search screen. I’ve even helped people who never even realised that the Address Text field should be used.

This highlights that your brand is everything in search terms. But whether it is just marketing that has caused people to use Google as a means of accessing web sites in the first instance (whereas using Google to access web sites within a set of search results would be in the second instance) is more questionable than people claim. Clearly, your key is to get your brand known in the “real world”, so it acheives its own life outside of the web. Google is already being used as a verb, Facebook is synonymous with social networking (whether it is Facebook, MySpace or Bebo), the BBC is one of Britain’s most famous brands and has a very high reputation across the world and YouTube and eBay are the sites of choice in their respective domains. But ask someone who is not as expert as
some of us on the internet to go to a site, and watch where they put the address.

I’d be interested to see what percentage of those brands accessed via Google are from the Firefox Google home page, I bet it’s a sizeable chunk. Can Live and Yahoo! searches claim the same? I bet they don’t. Live search is the default search for new IE installations, but the physics are simple: the IE7 browser search box/button is small. Yahoo!, well, who uses Yahoo anymore?

So saturation is key to generate the brand, but the size of the textbox is also important. Search is becoming a smaller part of Google’s arsenal every day, though. They are collecting data on us in an increasingly concerning level. I posted my first submission to the Google Search Wiki today, but what about Google’s Friend Connect, GMail, Analytics, Documents and Map services? The recent launch of Friend Connect gives them access to data that would otherwise be hidden within Facebook’s privacy settings, the relationships between people. (Friend Connect is clearly a response to the failed Orkut service) This is qualitative data that would be useful if not to Google, then certainly to paranoid authorities. Are they going to be as open with this data? I bet not.