Search Behaviour

Posted Tuesday, 19 October 2010 at 05:58 by Andrew Liu
Tagged: google | search engine marketing (sem) | search engine optimisation (seo) | search engines
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As an SEO provider, you have one main goal. Get your client’s website to show up in search results for specified keywords and all is good, right?

Well, sort of. But what about important details like targeting traffic, segmenting search customers, and otherwise addressing the behavior of different searchers? Specifically, I’m interested to know how many SEOs are walking through the various search patterns that may bring a client customers.

Searchers usually start by identifying a need. Then they move into the research phase where they look at the different ways they can fulfill that need. The research phase can be quite long and involved for complex B2B products and very simple and brief for consumer products (see below). Then a decision is made and purchase happens (or doesn’t).

I recently went on a mission to find and buy something online: I wanted to introduce my toddler to yoga. As I worked from this very broad “need”, I recorded my searches and thoughts along the way, interested to see how the normal search pattern would play out on the different websites I’d encounter.


Step 1: I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t have enough information to evaluate and buy a product yet. Would a book or activity cards suffice? Or maybe I’d need a video…

I Googled the broad term “yoga for toddlers”, figuring I’d learn a bit more about things I should know, approaches to take, things to avoid, etc.


Narrowing down what I needed

The first listing that caught my eye was a listing for a provider of yoga books, DVDs and classes for babies and kids. However, when I clicked through, the site was short on information and heavily focused on getting you to enroll in a class—and there were no classes in my area. I quickly ruled out books as an option, but I didn’t even see any DVDs in the two minutes I spent on the site.

Back to my search results, I saw an eHow article a couple listings down. Yay for eHow! This article contained some information on the subject and also mentioned a couple of products. After reading the article, I Googled the products and found both brand sites.

The first site had a couple products that seemed more about fantasy play than yoga. Plus their store was down so I couldn’t even read the full descriptions.

The second site was a bit more reassuring, though the products were geared more toward instructors. At first, I couldn’t find DVDs. It looked like they only carried four products in their store, until I realized all the categories were listed down the left side and the four I could see were simply their featured products.


Step 2: Evaluating the products I shortlisted

Okay, so despite the mishaps on the websites, Yoga Kids sounded like a promising product. Next, I Googled “reviews for Yoga Kids”, since this site didn’t include customer reviews. I wasn’t about to buy something like this without seeing what other parents thought!

There was trusty Amazon right at the top of the listings. With tons of customer reviews, good and bad—just what I wanted at this point.

After reading some reviews, I thought I would browse the other videos in this category, since Amazon provided a much wider selection than an individual brand store could. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing a better option somewhere.


Step 3: Moving into buying mode

Alright, Yoga Kids looked like the best option. Free shipping on Amazon sealed the deal. So I whipped out the Mastercard and ordered a package of 3 DVDs in a series (which I hadn’t even noticed existed on the YogaKids website itself.)


Points to take away

There are questions that can be addressed in the realm the SEO controls, like keyword research, optimization of page elements, etc.

  • Purposefully attracting searchers at different points of the search.
  • Optimizing for different keywords according to the likely point of the customer in the research/purchase cycle.
  • Ensuring continuity from search term to listing to page content.
  • Publishing content in article directories for alternative ways to rank your clients. (The eHow article didn’t link to either site, but by mentioning a couple options, it felt neutral and informative. And even without the links, I was inspired to find those sites on my own.)
  • Try following the search steps for customers at various points in the purchase cycle and see what they see. Do the page or site title tags match up so expectations aren’t damaged when a customer clicks a listing? How well does the page actually answer the needs of a customer who is searching on that type of keyword?

And then there are questions the customer also needs to address, hopefully with the help of the SEO:

  • How is my site serving the different searchers when they arrive?
  • Are you segmenting the types of customers you’re attracting? Meaning, do you make it clear where each type of customer can go next to find the information they need easily? If you’re getting the traffic but not much is happening on your site, you need to look at the conversion process for the people who arrive at your site.
  • Are you including ALL the information you can on and around your product? And making it easy to find? If I could have found all the information I wanted on YogaKids (reviews, product comparisons, descriptions, video samples, tips for usage), I probably wouldn’t have ended up on Amazon where I ultimately found much better options to buy the video (used, a series packaged together, etc.)
  • Is the information on your site organized in the most intuitive manner for different searchers? Searchers become focused, focused, focused. This may make them seem dumb. Yes, the link you’ve highlighted is in 30 pt font and blinking. But they still can’t find it. They ignore spaces on your site if they think the info there won’t apply to their purpose—and this especially applies to things that look ad-ish. Too bad, that’s what you’ve got to work with.

As always, this is just a starting point. I’d love to hear how you are taking into account the different behaviors and needs of searchers at various points in the purchase cycle. Do tell!


Source: SEO Site Reference Blog - Search Behaviour SEO Job

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