SEO 101: How People Use Search Engines
This is a guest post by Chris Barnwell.
Just like any other form of marketing, you would need to learn more about your audience’s behavior to succeed in search marketing. In search, you would need to know how your average customers use search engines to find what they are looking for. This way, you can make sure that you are able to reach them.
But first, you would have to zoom out and know more about how people, in general, come up with the search terms they use on search engines.
There are actually three different types of searches that people make on search engines:
- Navigation queries. People search for where they want to go, such as the CNN homepage or Twitter.
- Informational queries. People search for what they want to know, such as the definition of words or recipes for food.
- Transactional queries. People search for how they can do things, such as how to book a flight or how to download a song.
The Search Process
Now we zoom into a particular user’s behavior. Just what happens when a user gets on a search engine and types in a search query? This should be easy. For sure, you yourself had tried to search for something online. Think back to what you did, and chances are you had went through these steps.
- You stumble into a need to know an answer or solution.
- You transform this into a search query.
- You sit in front of a computer and enter the query on a search engine’s search box.
- You look at the results that matched your query.
- You click on a result that you think would answer your question.
- You look at one site for solutions or click on links to get that solution.
- Go back to the search results to find a better solution, if you do not find what you’re looking for in the previous result you clicked.
- Search again using a refined or a new search term if the succeeding results are similarly unsatisfactory.
How People View Search Results
Each search query returns hundreds of thousands or sometimes millions of results. But you really cannot expect people to go through each and every one of these. It would be time-consuming and just impossible. The sad truth is that for most searchers, they only look at the first page of the search results, often refining and retrying their search at the end of the first page. Most people find what they need in the top three results. A 2011 study showed that getting top rank in Google results gives you 18% of all search users, while a second, third and fourth ranking gives you only 10.1%, 7.2%, and 4.8% respectively.
What this shows is that getting the number 1 ranking on any search engine is vital because people are not spending time scrolling down the search results, nor are they even looking at page 2 or page 3 of the search results.
How People Create Search Queries
This is the reason why keywords are important. You may get the number 1 spot for certain keywords but that does not necessarily translate to visitors. Why? Because nobody may be using these keywords to find your site. You should try to find out what your customers are looking for when they sit in front of the computer and do their search. Remember the three types of queries we touched on above? Tailor your keywords to these. For example, if you run a ticket service, you might want to target how to book a ticket and add your own locations.
This is much trickier to do. You would have to get into the minds of your target market to see just what they are more likely to look for. But there are tools that can help. For example, Google’s Keyword Sandbox can help you know what keywords are popular for your search terms. Or you can take a look at what your past visitors have used by looking at your site’s statistics program.
How Search Engines Think
But take into consideration how search engines are built. All these algorithms and search ranking factors are aimed at helping people get the most relevant sites for any search term. So, in the end, you would have to ask yourself if your visitors are really getting what they are looking for by visiting your site. This is also what search engines are trying to answer for each and every search query it gets.