Have you ever stood behind a novice Internet user and watched how they browse the web and navigate through different sites? Most designers know that seeing their sites through the eyes of an average user is extremely good for spotting usability issues but most don’t spend the time to extend this research across other websites.
Watching how people use the most popular websites such as Google can be extremely revealing. A large number of users don’t understand the difference between a search engine and the Internet and are unaware of the difference between typing a url or search query in the address bar compared to the search box on Google.
People today are so used to using Google that for some the address bar has become obsolete. It is quicker to type “Amazon” into Google and click on the first result than it is to type www.amazon.com into your address bar.
Google makes huge profits from these navigational searches by allowing advertisers to bid on the names of other websites. Sometimes a site can apply to stop other advertisers bidding on trademarked terms but, as American Airlines is finding out, Google doesn’t always allow this.
Novice users often don’t look at the position of the cursor and simply start typing a url into the search box and hit enter. Google will display the search results and normally the user will find the url they were looking for at the top and happily click on it.
Example : www.bt.com
BT is a huge brand in the UK and attracts huge amount of traffic to its website, www.bt.com. In fact the website is so popular that if you used Adwords to bid on the keyword “BT” you would be spending up to $22,000 per day according to the Google Adwords Traffic Estimator.
Looking at the chart above we can see that around 100 people per day are clicking on sponsored links after searching Google for the phrase www.bt.com.
At an average cost of $5 per click this adds up to maybe $500 per day in revenue for Google just for this one search. Multiply across 365 days and taking a very conservative guess that this happens across 10,000 different domains gives over $1.8 billion in yearly revenue for Google.