How You Can Profit From Users Search
At its most basic, anyone using a search engine is out to get information (hopefully) relevant to their initial inquiry. That said, it is the nature of these originating inquiries that can take one of several different forms. As a consequence, having a thorough understanding of the psychology and motivations of your intended target audience, will help you craft an SEO and online marketing strategy that works. The more you understand the motivations of the typical searcher, visitor to your site, or potential client, the better you can refine your efforts, making reaching the right people easier and cheaper.
While there have been significant changes in search engines, from Yahoo’s directory listings, to Google’s current offerings the primary principles and mechanics of conducting an online search have remained largely unchanged. Broadly, the three steps below outline the process for most of the searches on the internet.
A user will initially have a need or desire for a solution (to some problem) or a piece of information (about a topic). For example, a user might be searching for a website (navigational) in order to buy a product or service (transactional), or to learn the answer to a question (informational).
2. Formulate query
Although there are a few niche search engines that allow users to search using images or sound (music), these are still so small they can safely be ignored. The vast majority of the searches conducted on the internet today are text based searches. In short, a user will type some text into a search box. The table below shows the distribution for searches in word length.
1 word :: 25.3%
2 words:: 24.9%
3 words:: 19.8%
4 words:: 13.2%
5 words:: 7.5%
6 words:: 4.0%
7 words:: 2.2%
8 words:: 1.2%
The data above are from ComScore, and while the figures from other sources differ slightly, these differences are so tiny they can be ignored. As you can see, searches based on 4 or less words account for over 80% of all searches on the internet, with an average of 2.9 words per search.
Finally, having executed the search, the user will check the results returned by the search engine. If one or more of the results seems relevant and useful, the user will typically follow the link to the originating website. If not, the user might attempt a search with a different search query. Increasingly too, many of the major search engines allow users to refine the initial results that have been delivered; some search terms might be broadened, while others narrowed.
Understanding why users search (motivations), how they search (query formulation) and how the search engines allow the interaction will make it easier to formulate and execute a successful SEO strategy. The increasing sophistication of both users and search engines means that website owners that take these considerations to heart will be far more successful than those that don’t. This is particularly true in the increasingly competitive online landscape.