The latest Mozilla TestPilot study to publish data is the Tab Switch Study evolving the logging stream from the Tab Open Close study. Less robust tab usage data is also available in the first week in the life data drop.
In addition to improvements to logging to allow individual tabs to be tracked accurately as users open and close tabs around them, the latest study includes tagging of search result pages (SRPs). This is particularly interesting to me as clickstream patterns around search results are highly useful for evaluating search quality and even generating data for machine learning, but tabbed browsing (and new window strategies) may seriously affect how a server side log appears and complicate accurately reconstructing the user sequence.
How is tabbed browsing used in search?
I found that 96% of the users in the 2000 user data set had a URL loaded from an SRP. 86% of these users also opened a new tab from an SRP, suggesting that at least in this audience, opening links in tabs from an SRP is a very well known strategy available to over 90% of users.
The denominator for the following stats are *either* tab focus changes or page loads in a tab. For those SRPs, 40% of changes were page loads in the same tab and 20% were open in new tabs. Thus, open in new tab doesn’t seem to be the predominant strategy. However, I would expect navigational queries, estimated by research at 30% of web search engine usage, not to invoke a open in new tab strategy.
General behavior following a page load
Looking at successive events from a load event to specifically to understand search and tabs, we see users are only about 8.5% more likely to open a page following an SRP in a new tab than for any other page load.
My SQL for creating a MySQL table, importing the data, and creating a derived sequence table is available on github:
Back to tracking SRP behavior, it looks like tabbed browsing is only barely more of an issue for pathing in search behavior than in general web activity. Anybody know of an analytics solution that tackles this? Creative use of window.name would likely maintain pathing integrity even when tabs are opened in the background.