Continuing our exploration of How Real People Use Search Engines. Check out Part 1.

Google is used by millions of people each day and talked about just as much, but does everyone use Google the same way? It’s easy to assume that your preferences or interactions with Google and other search engines mirror others’ interactions, but, as a business owner, it’s important to throw assumptions aside. In recent research conducted by 352, we delved into how real people use search engines – how they phrase keywords, what they think produces the best results, and how they think Google actually works. Above all, we hoped to understand how people use search engines to find businesses in today’s marketplace.

To discover the truth behind how people use search engines, we asked 167 survey participants a series of questions about how they find products and businesses on the internet. Some of the results were predictable, while others took us by surprise and will require more research to truly understand. Below, you’ll find some of our preliminary findings, and we’ll explain how they might be leveraged to improve your marketing campaign or strategy.

Product vs. Merchant Branding

In our research, we showed users the following advertisement for Converse shoes and asked them to explain “how they would go about finding it” if they wanted to purchase it online. Note that, along with the Converse logo, the ad includes the merchant logo for Brantano Shoe City.

shoe ad

merchantGiven its exceedingly high brand recognition, we were not surprised to find that 54 percent of respondents said that they would reference the brand “Converse” in their search. However, one finding we did not expect was the large amount of users who referenced the merchant in their search terms; about 35 percent of users mentioned some reference to “Brantano Shoe City.”

Sometimes searchers included a combination of both “Converse” and “Brantano” while some users avoided referencing Converse entirely. It appears that well-placed branding of even lesser-known merchants can result in a successful call to action for your audience. The fact that some users mentioned the merchant in their search when the ad featured such a recognizable brand should be a sign of hope for many retailers who may think they lose online customers that are going directly to manufacturer or brand sites.


“The more impact a product has on your life, the more likely you are to search for the “best” one of its kind. This includes relying heavily on reviews from other users and filtering the results based on your needs.”

Our research also captured the common use of superlative words. Superlatives, such as “best” and “top” were mentioned in 12.88 percent of the answers that included keyword search terms – a percentage high enough to encourage marketers to consider evaluative words more often in keyword strategies.


We asked participants about finding products or services online: specifically, personal trainers and flat screen TVs. These questions resulted in the use of superlative words in 10.71 percent and 25 percent of search queries respectively. This statistic goes hand-in-hand with our findings on the ever-growing popularity of reviews and ratings – shoppers are looking for constant reassurance before making large and personal purchases. We assume that the more impact a product has on your life, the more likely you are to search for the “best” one of its kind. This includes relying heavily on reviews from other users and filtering the results based on your needs.

So what does this mean? You need to stop and consider, “How are my potential clients going to search for this?” and make sure that you lead them in the right direction, not straight into the hands of your competitors.

Check out How Real People Use Search Engines, Part 3 as we dive into how people search for big ticket items like appliances and home security.


352 is an innovation and growth firm. Leading companies hire us to find billion-dollar opportunities, build killer new products and create hockey-stick growth. We bring grit and new-fashioned thinking to innovation, digital development and growth marketing.