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PC World

What are your search habits?

September 20, 1999
Web posted at: 10:13 a.m. EDT (1413 GMT)

by Alexandra Krasne

(IDG) -- How do you search the Web? Do you use a search engine? Click on banner ads? Or just wander through cyberspace, hoping to reach something useful or interesting?

Success isn't a criteria for search methods; search engines remain the most popular technique for seeking information, even though they're not always the most useful. But Netizens also rely on word-of-mouth and memory, according to a recent study by IntelliQuest, the parent company of market researcher Zona Research. Its WorldWide Internet Tracking Study offers an insightful look into the way people navigate the seemingly limitless expanses of the Web.
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The survey, conducted in the second quarter of this year, compiled data on the search habits of more than 700 individuals during a three-month period.

"It's hard to predict what will happen to the Web," says Charles King, a Zona Research industry analyst. "Search engines are going through permutations right now. What we found interesting was people's reliance on search engines, like Google, that search according to popularity."

Search engines, often criticized for not bringing back reliable results or not crawling through enough of the Web, are the most popular search technique in the eyes of respondents, with 80 percent using them.

The second most popular method of search was recommendations from friends or colleagues, with 74 percent.

One of the most striking results of the survey was the third most popular search technique: typing in an address from memory. The fact that people rely on this method points to the importance of product brands as a method for driving site traffic.

Bookmarks, automatic links, non-online advertisements, and articles in magazines or newspapers also scored well. IntelliQuest's study found that 60 to 65 percent of respondents use these methods to get to sites.

Another interesting point is the high number of respondents--65 percent--who say they wander on their own rather than using a search tool, King says. But once these folks get to a site, 64 percent of them use automatic links to travel to other sites.

Online advertisers, who often spend a bounty to reach target audiences, were the sorry losers in the survey. IntelliQuest's study found only 46 percent of Netizens finding sites this way.

Online advertisers may not want to drop their ads from sites. But IntelliQuest's researchers observe that advertisers may want to evaluate other ways to reach a surfing audience and drive consumers to sites.

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