View Full Version : Do Men and Women Search Differently?
01-04-2005, 11:59 AM
This came up in another thread (http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=3516&page=4&pp=20) and I though it would be a good opportunity to do some impromptu research ;)
Do men and women search differently? If so, does it matter?
If it does matter, then how would you go about doing interface design, useability, copywriting, keyword research etc to take advantage of the differences? Would it be worth it to do so?
Some interesting Articles/Commentary on the subject:
It is men's propensity to "play" with technology, Walsh said, that makes them view being online as entertainment. On a scale of "technology optimism," women are more "pessimistic" about it, she said, and view it as a tool, something that enables them to get something done.
In sum, Boys and Girls performed comparably in the Library condition on both target-specific knowledge and target-related knowledge outcome measures. It is only in the Web condition that Boys and Girls demonstrated distinct performance differences. Specifically, Boys in the Web condition acquired the largest target knowledge gains of all groups (see Fig. 1a), whereas Girls in the Web condition acquired the least amount of incidental or target-related knowledge (see Fig. 2).
A typical male search query uses just two words, compared with three for women. Women are also more patient about investigating different potential routes.
While women are happy to look through six or seven results returned by a search query, men typically only refer to two or three before becoming impatient and refining their search or moving on to a new search altogether.
As a result men devote an average of just three minutes to each of the 42 searches they conduct each week, compared to the five minutes women spend on 30 searches a week.
01-04-2005, 07:54 PM
So ... I guess I fall off the scale of their survey? ;-)
01-04-2005, 08:43 PM
One thing I did notice was that many of the research pieces were "new" by academic standards, but ancient (circa 2000) in internet time. It would be interesting to see the same surveys today.
And yes, Diane, I would think a professional with your level of expertise would probably fall off of almost any scale, regardless of gender ;)
I was thinking more along the lines of the "average" searcher (if there is such a thing).
01-04-2005, 08:51 PM
Well, okay, that'll work. LOL
As a non-scientific observation, I think the issue really is spending enough time with something to get the hang of how it works. People who only send email but rarely surf (there really are people like that) don't ever see enough of the Web to learn much.
As someone who was "hooked" early, I can't imagine using the Net only for email, but I've seen enough of it to know there's truth in it.
01-05-2005, 02:00 PM
it seems that the Pitt study results conflict with the Infomatics'...could be the difference between boys and men? :D
seriously though, from personal experience with shopping for birthday/Valentines cards, etc... we men do make quicker decisions I think. I would therefore have to say we search differently. I am more likely than my wife to click on and trust a sponsored listing, but that could be because I am in the industry.
I would hesitate to say we search "more efficiently," because my wife may read this someday (unlikely). However I know plenty of women that could "search me under the table!"
I wonder if the topic of the search would also dictate as to whether men and women search differently. Some topics may lead to the same results for both, others, such as "pregnancy" might lead to vastly different final results.
Yes we do search differently, final answer.
01-05-2005, 02:01 PM
shouldn't it be "Vive La Difference" or "Viva La Diferencia?"
01-05-2005, 02:54 PM
Chris, you're a pedant! :p (and absolutely correct, of course - oops!) :D
01-05-2005, 03:18 PM
you didn't call me a pederaste (not that there's anything wrong with that) :D
01-05-2005, 03:57 PM
It is only in the Web condition that Boys and Girls demonstrated distinct performance differences.
I think a research and a shopping environment would be different, and so could behavior in the two different type of environments. From an ecommerce viewpoint it might help to look at the two as separate factors, which could be product-dependent.
Specifically, Boys in the Web condition acquired the largest target knowledge gains of all groups (see Fig. 1a), whereas Girls in the Web condition acquired the least amount of incidental or target-related knowledge (see Fig. 2).
Again, from a research vs. shopping standpoint, for purposes of ecommerce and marketing there could be differences between types of products in that respect, depending on how much incidental knowledge is necessary - which can depend on the type of products being sold.
How the different genders search is important, but how about the differences when they shop? Do they behave and shop differently when they're out at the mall, and how does that relate to how they shop online?
01-08-2005, 06:05 PM
One thing that struck me in the tests was that women seem to read much more thoroughly than men, who tend to skim (kinda like channel surfing).
I wonder if part of the issue could be simply the webpages involved, rather than retention levels or research skills. For example, if a webpage is relatively short and only contains a certain amount of information from a certain viewpoint, then presumably someone who skims through it, picks out the important bits, and then goes onto the next will learn more than someone who carefully reads the whole resource, which unfortunately may not have a lot of real information in it.
I imagine the reverse would be true - someone skimming may very likely miss subtle meanings and in depth information. If true, this implies that the web is more likely to be full of pages of shallow "info-bits" than meaningful research, compared to a library (where men and women did very much the same). My own experience makes me inclined to believe this. Remember the 300-500 words per page recomendation? And that many people have a hard time even hitting that many?
I guess the next issue would be, what can be done to attract female visitors? I note with some interest that the areas many women do well in researching are those that tend to care about providing in-depth information - ie medical sites, etc.
So, would this mean that a site with more (and better researched) content would appeal more to women than to men? Is the key to a womans heart (or rather, wallet) well written content on a few pages rather than get-to-the-point checklists many pages of shorter content? Or is that assuming too much?
Can it really be as simple as websites being optimized for male attention spans and surfing habits? Does it boil down to links (multiple pages) VS content? ;) Or is that an over simplification?
If it's the webpages themselves that makes the difference, the next issue of course from a marketing standpoint is how to capitalize on it.
03-13-2005, 06:15 PM
from what I have learned women are more likely to search in sentences while men search in keyterms. For example while a guy will type in " San Diego Vacation " a woman is more likely to search as " Summer Vacation in San Diego, california " ... more long winded and not as much to the point :)
03-16-2005, 05:40 PM
Gordon Hotchkiss from Enquiro spoke about men v. women in search at SES San Jose. Here's the slide:
03-19-2008, 01:19 PM
Does anybody have current stats (2007) of search engine market share (Google, Yahoo, MSN) of gender/demographics?