Internet Marketing – Learning To Recognize And Explore Common User Behavior Search Patterns
By John Alexander
For years now, I have been fascinated with the concept of how people search for information on the Web. While it’s true that the Web has made searching for information easier, it is still interesting that search methods can vary widely depending on how the individual is thinking plus I still find that the ways they conduct a search still follow a much more limited number of identifiable patterns.
By examining certain factors that cause variables in user search behavior and taking into account those details, you’ll often discover variations to help identify common search behavior patterns and gather a sense of what is most important within the users life that causes them to search the way they do.
What type of behaviors are going on over the Web these days?
It’s most often that a person’s search behavior is influenced by the conditions that they are experiencing in their lives.
When it comes to understanding user behavior, for the purpose of keyword research and SEO, I have learned that too often, the keyword research defaults to logically guessing at what keywords might be used rather than exploring a much wider scope and researching all of the associated data.
What Factors affect user search behavior?
Search behavior is the result of several independent factors and influences that the user brings to the search operation.
1. Search experience – these days people are searching more intelligently:
Users who possess a better understanding of a search engine’s capabilities and options may have more ways
to go about finding fresh information. If you for example know how to use Boolean operators, exact strings,
filtering controls, and have proven strategies for exploiting search, then you have a much richer arsenal
at your disposal for research. But search experience alone, by no means is an absolute requirement for success.
I have seen that users who are short on possessing the technical skills and yet may be rich in there
exploration of even more common terms, that can often get by and find those nuggets of gold too. On the other
hand, there are others who tend to have great difficulty finding information in certain subject matter or an
unfamiliar body of knowledge.
2. What are the most common stumbling blocks that prevent people from discovering useful and
interesting user search behaviors.
A. Many people tend to want to explore keyword phrases based on the most logical options. They often
will in fact, spend periods of time trying to guess at the phrases that make the “most sense.”
This type of research rarely reveals the trails of gold that exist. Most often the results only
reflect highly competitive terms and often only average search volumes that a huge number of people
seem to be limiting themselves to.
B. Often people are not exploring the data because they assume some of smaller, boring little words
could not possibly have any benefit. This is simply not the case. But the only way to determine
whether a root word may be part of a fuller, revealing, search phrase that is actually being used,
is to follow through the process to completion. I have found many examples where what started as a
random even slightly illogical sorting of data, ends up revealing very powerful and telling phrases.
By this, I am referring to those little phrase clusters, that actually tell a bigger story about the
conditions existing in the users life.
C. Sometimes a business will postpone the keyword research phase (thinking they’ll do it later
on after the Web site is finished being built.) This is putting the cart before the horse
and does not afford the SEO staff the ability to build content to match the timing and the
magnitude of the hottest searches that are happening in the now.
A far smarter approach is to get the keyword research done first so that you can take advantage
of the true search phrases that users are searching with. It’s wisdom to use fair to high
volume keyword phrases that also have lower or moderate competition.
In this fashion, you are publishing each new page with a strategy to attract the most correct
searching audience and in many cases, you’ll achieve much higher organic results within a much
shorter time frame simply because you are not competing with the masses.
3. Considering the users cognitive search style:
• Those with a broader thinking style usually first try to build a wider level of understanding
across several topics that are related in some way.
• The more logical or analytical style thinkers tend to dig right into a specific topic and
research it thoroughly to resolve a related specific problem.
Many people lie somewhere in between either of these extremes and occasionally using either cognitive style but often tending to use more of one than the other.
4. Understanding user search behavior with the end goal:
Search criteria will vary from one query to the next, and may be broadly classified into 3
different category types such as:
• Navigational type searches (which are usually conducted to find a specific location,)
– Looking for a site to convert world time zones
– A site that allows the look up of zip codes
• Informational searches (which are usually conducted to find specific and detailed information,)
– Statistical searches
– Historical information
– Instructional information
•Transactional searches occur (which usually is conducted to transaction related variables,)
– Buying tickets online
– Locating flight costs, travel times on an airline
5. Taking into Account the user’s reference of seeking information:
This can range from exploring information on known items or products, where people know exactly what they need and how to describe it, to much more exploratory searches, where they may only possess a loose concept what they want to find.
Examples of telling search phrases:
– “crime rates in New York City” or “crime statistics NYC” (could possibly reflect a user interested in moving to New York)
– “Nikon vs Cannon” (comparison shopping for digital camera prices and benefits)
– cost of living comparrisons in the US (Someone searching for where it might be more affordable to live.)
– franchise opportunities under 10k (a business opportunity seeker looking for a lower cost franchise)
– dollarama versus walmart (Dollar store shoppers trying to price comparrisons on less expensive products.)
– These are only just a few short samples of keywords that reveal search behavioural insights – There are thousands more.
User search behavior varies with technical skills, cognitive styles, search goals, and mode of seeking.
All of these factors will interact in complex ways to influence a user’s actions. The primary thing is that the SEO or business owner cannot select the search behavior that a user will follow
when conducting a search.
However, it is possible to research keyword phrases in a way that helps reveal user search behavior and give you the insights into what your ideal buying audience is actually searching for. With this comes the revelation of the user’s search intent which is still extremely valuable when building useful and engaging content that ties in very hot and in demand topics for the searching audience.
About Keyword Forensics Researcher John Alexander:
John Alexander is Founder and Director of Training for Search Engine Academy since January 2002.
John also offers consulting services and keyword forensics research services to SEO Professionals,
Internet Marketers, Web development professionals and business owners through
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