How do we carry out a web search?

Keywords are fundamental to web search engines because keyword searching is required for all search engines.

Four ways in which we browse*

Electronic search
We search electronic resources, such as, catalogs, magazines or websites, for instance, in order to find information that meets our information need.
Physical search
In order to find something out we look up physical resources, for example, books or leaflets.
Serendipity browsing
Traditionally speaking serendipity browsing refers to finding information within a library. The idea, which can be applied to the whole web today, is that if you know one item is good then you can find similar items based on this original item. So “related searches” or “similar items” are modern web search engine examples of serendipity browsing.
Information task switch
This involves a searcher switching between electronic and physical resources to find information. For example, reading a book and using a web search engine to find out more about a topic you have just read.

*Adapted from (Spink 2003:344) who also found that we are likely to carry out many searches within one search. Carrying out an actual web search is not just a simple and quick task because it is comprised of several quick-fire queries.

Popular web search engines

Popular web search engines. Source.

Why do we browse and ask for more information?

There are several ‘triggers‘ which make us want to find out more information. The first is breaking a search down into tasks, for example, find out if it is BBQ weather at the weekend (task one) then asking a navigational query for “Tesco” to buy things for a BBQ (task two). Secondly, whenever we search and we read something interesting this triggers another search task. Thirdly, if our search results have something unexplained within them then we need to change our search to find this information out. Fourthly, and finally, if there is something missing from our overall search plan then this triggers a need to fill in this missing gap.

Digital marketing and search

Search engines allow your website to be found but you have a very short window in which to grab attention. Designing smart, clear and usable technologies will help make this browser find information or, even better, convert.

Do you ask for numerous search queries within one search? Tweet Gerald.

Posted by


  • Day, V.L. and Jeffries, R. (1993) Orienteering in an Information Landscape: How Information Seekers Get From Here to There. Interchi ’93. [issue, volume and page numbers missing]
  • Spink, A. (2003) Multitasking information behavior and information task switching: an exploratory study. Journal of Documentation. 69(1) pp. 336 — 351.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s