A Kelton Research study, commissioned by Autobytel, reports that 72.3% of US adult searchers “experience ‘search engine fatigue’ (either ‘always,’ ‘usually,’ or ‘sometimes’) when researching a topic on the Internet.”
What should this statistic tell us?
- 72.3% of Americans should definitely put down the mouse and step away from the keyboard. Permanently.
- 72.3% of Americans are searching for the wrong things “always,” “usually,” or “sometimes.”
- 72.3% of Americans have no idea how to operate a search engine properly.
- 72.3% of Americans are frustrated with their search engine experience, and this probably reflects on the search engines and not the vast majority of American adults.
While I was leaning toward D, Greg Sterling on Search Engine Land highlighted some of the other findings from the study:
–65.4 percent of Americans say they’ve spent two or more hours in a single sitting searching for specific information on search engines.
–More than three out of four (75.1 percent) of those who experience search engine fatigue report getting up and physically leaving their computer without the information they were seeking – either “always,” “usually” or “sometimes.”
Is it search engines’ or searchers’ faults that the vast majority of searchers 1.) spend hours looking for information online, 2.) develop fatigue and 3.) give up and walk away from the computer?
And then we see the ultimate frustrations that these searchers experienced. The “#1 complaint” mentioned by searchers was:
- 25 percent cited a deluge of results
- 24 percent cited a predominance of commercial (paid) listings
- 18.8 percent blamed the search engine’s inability to understand their keywords (forcing them to try again)
- 18.6 percent were most frustrated by disorganized/random results
Each of these complaints could be blamed on either the search engine or the searchers themselves. Too many results? Is the search engine overwhelming users or are the searchers entering too generic of terms and unwilling to deal with the consequences?
Ultimately, however, I think the root cause of all of this—the complaints, the frustrations and the fatigue—is our expectations of search engines. We type in something and expect the search engine to understand perfectly—we don’t want too many results, too few results, or that are too random. The search engine doesn’t understand [paza hotle] (a search I actually performed earlier this month, sadly)? AUGH.
Actually, to further complicate things, Google, Yahoo and MSN do understand [paza hotle]—and some of them even automatically include results for my spell checked query. I don’t have to make any effort to make my queries coherent—the search engine does all the thinking for me. Why can’t it just pick the right result or figure out exactly what I mean by [oneida] or [apple]?
Search engines are working on it, but they’re not there yet. And apparently they have a long way to go if users still have to spend hours looking for things.
What do you think? Is it search engines’ fault or searchers’ fault?