More than a quarter of search queries are phrased as questions

According to a new research study, some 27% of search engine queries are posed as questions, while half our queries are now four words or more in length. Amongst question formats, “how” is the most commonly used (in 38% of questions), followed by “why” (24%).

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The study was produced by former Forrester Research Analyst Nathan Safran (now principal analyst at Blue Nile Research). Safran asked survey respondents to respond to a specific scenario and, using a simulated search box, enter the search queries they would use on Google to get the answers they needed.

Why should you care?

While we question the sample size (just 189 responses) used in reaching this study’s conclusions, the results are not surprising.

When we want answers we ask questions, and search engines are now better at understanding questions and context, and providing relevant answers.

That said, this study’s findings have relevance for search marketers (the keywords they target), and content producers.

As Safran’s study notes, keyword research tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner only provide keyword phrases similar to their seed keywords, and aren’t good at recommending more specific long-tail phrases or questions.

Google Suggest can provide more to work with, but don’t forget to ask your customer service team what questions customers typically ask. Chances are, they’re asking Google the same questions too.

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About the Author Jeremy Templer & Mark Sceats

Jeremy and Mark are two of the partners behind SureFire Search. Despite their deceptively youthful appearances, both have worked in search marketing for many years. To put that in context, Google didn't even exist when Jeremy started.