Increasing numbers of people are using more sophisticated search terms to find what they’re looking for online.

This is hardly going to be news to the SEO experts among you — but for those (like me) getting to grips with SEO for the first time, it’s a pretty important concept to grasp.

1 2 word search phrases 32.58%
2 3 word search phrases 25.61%
3 1 word search phrases 19.02%
4 4 word search phrases 12.83%
5 5 word search phrases 5.64%
6 6 word search phrases 2.32%
7 7 word search phrases 0.98%

The 7 most used word phrase lengths for Web search engines averaged over a the two month period to the end of January 2004. (figures from OneStat.com)

Understanding how people are using search engines to find what they’re looking for lies at the very heart of your SEO/SEM efforts. Choosing the right keywords / phrases is critical both in terms of optimising (or optimizing, for Americans out there) your site for organic SEO, and choosing the phrases worth bidding on for your paid search / pay per click campaigns.

Web users are demanding more from search. They don’t want to trawl through spurious pages of results, and are getting much more sophisticated in the search terms they use in order to narrow those results down. Search engines are also getting better at handling these multi-word phrases, and are delivering back exactly what the user is looking for.

Search engines, and perhaps more importantly search users, are coming of age… typing more natural, and longer phrases into the search box is a natural extension of that.