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The use of keyword searches that are eight or more words long increased 20% in the period between February 2008 and February 2009, and search queries averaging five to more than eight words have increased 9%, according to data from Hitwise, which reports an overall trend toward longer searches at the major search engines.

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The same time period showed that shorter search queries – those averaging one to four words long -? decreased 2%. Searches of two words comprised the majority of searches, amounting to 23.47% of all queries.

The growing length of search queries was first reported last month, and appears to be a trend resulting from growing sophistication among web searchers and the need to use more specific terms to cut through web clutter.

Google Search Share Holds Steady at 72%

In related news, Hitwise also reported that Google’s share of searches in February 2009 held steady at 72% vs. January 2009. In this period, Google accounted for 72.11% of all US searches.

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Yahoo Search, MSN Search and Ask.com received 17.04%, 5.56% and 3.74%, respectively. The remaining 46 search engines in the Hitwise Search Engine Analysis Tool accounted for 1.56 percent of US searches.

Google also continues to grow as a greater source of traffic to key US industries, and search engines continue to be the primary way internet users navigate to key industry categories, Hitwise reported. Comparing February 2009 with February 2008, Business and Finance, Sports, Online Video and Social Networking categories showed double-digit increases in their share of traffic coming directly from search engines.

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Hitwise’s reports of monthly share differ from those of comScore, which recently reported that Google had a 63% share of the search market for February.

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