View Full Version : Understanding Searchers: Will They Find You?
07-01-2004, 02:26 PM
"Search is the hottest topic in marketing. Period," states the website for the upcoming Search Engine Strategies (http://www.webproworld.com/viewtopic.php?t=23208) conference, which will feature sessions dealing more with search strategies.
Perhaps that's why we're seeing a growing trend of e-Business professionals seeking to understand the behavior patterns of web users. "It's important for marketers to understand where in the buying funnel their customers are most likely to use a search engine to help in their purchase," Enquiro President and CEO Gord Hotchkiss said in "Inside the Mind of the Searcher."
The first part of the study (http://www.webpronews.com/ebusiness/seo/wpn-4-20040607InsidetheSearchersMindItsaJungleinHere.htm l) showed that people search in a wide variety of ways, with gender, age, education and Internet experience all playing roles in search behavior. These results are very similar to an iProspect (http://www.webpronews.com/news/ebusinessnews/wpn-45-20040518iProspectReleasesSearchEngineUserAttitudes SurveyFindings.html) study released on May 18th, which showed that gender, education, Internet experience and use, and emloyment status all play a role in search engine click-through behavior. In both studies, the more experienced and savvy Internet users were more likely to favor natural results over paid advertisements.
The second part of Enquiro's study (http://www.webpronews.com/ebusiness/seo/wpn-4-20040628InsidetheMindoftheSearcherPartIISearchBeha viorExplored.html) revealed four types of searchers: scanners and clickers, who usually make choices by scanning and clicking only the top few listings (sound like anyone you know?); 2 step scanners, who scan the top results to see if anything pops out before scanning the rest of the organic results; deliberate researchers, who read titles and descriptions carefully and sometimes continue to the second results page; and 1, 2, 3 searchers, who read listings in order from first to last, focusing on organic results and reading carefully before making a decision.
Patterns differed between researchers and buyers. "Users are much more likely to use a search engine during the research phase of the buying funnel (http://www.webproworld.com/viewtopic.php?t=20621)," the study showed, but as the buying process draws to a close the use of search engines tends to decrease. What does this tell me? In order to catch your customers' attention, you must know whether they are researchers or buyers and market to their part of the buying funnel.
A study (http://www.seeks-it.net/) by the EU Socrates project SEEKS observed worldwide behaviors. It found no gender gap but did identify different types of searchers based on Internet experience. Searchers with little or no Internet experience were "passive," using "commercial portals" such as Yahoo for searching and typing queries in "natural language." 'Net-savvy searchers were more "selective" and those with the most experience were "dynamic," combining familiar websites with search engines and portals and using a variety of methods.
Convincing Searchers to Choose Your Website
- Start with design. Usability (http://www.webproworld.com/viewforum.php?f=12) is a must, the SEEKS study reported. Searchers chose websites from SERPs based on speed, reliability, information, design and more.
- Optimize for the right engines. In the SEEKS study 78% of searchers preferred to use one common search engine (Google). Also, only 3 out of 50 searchers viewed second page results. Keep that in mind when optimizing your site.
- Get listed in both paid and natural results, says iProspect CEO Fredrick Marckini. "Because of the roughly 60-40 percent split between natural search engine penetration and paid search ads, it was equally clear that failure to be found in both types of search results would be costly. If your website is only found in one or the other type of result, and your competitor is found in both, you're ceding either 40 or 60 percent of potential traffic, conversion and online business."
While the results of these studies are interesting, Hotchkiss is quick to point out that studies should not be taken as fact. "We fully intend this to be a first step," he says in regards to Enquiro's study, hoping more will follow.
"Knowledge is power, but understanding is the root of knowledge. And that's a commodity that's in short supply in the search game."
07-02-2004, 09:58 AM
I am really surprised that you haven't recieved any replies to your topic of discussion here. Understanding your target audience and potential customers is paramount for any type of business, Internet or "Brick and Morter". It should be considered #1, before you even start a business on-line or off!
This alone can make or fail your business. It helps determine if you even enjoy what you do for a living, not to mention targeted products, Site Design, keywords, marketing, advertising and everything else that falls out!
In fact that is the direction GOOGLE and the other SEs are going that is where all the tracking and following is headed. GOOGLE has hired an expert in Topic Specific Searching and Returns ( http://webproworld.com/viewtopic.php?t=23457 )and they are snapping up companies who have technologies that can be used for "Topic Specific SERPs" and are already applying the technology as we speak. This technology when fully applied will drastically change search patterns, methods and SERPS's as we go forward.
Relevance should be a key factor in they way we all conduct our business.
We all need to know more about the search habbits and anything else we can find out about our targeted customers.
07-02-2004, 10:23 AM
Perhaps the topic is in the wrong section. I consider this more design. Of course it is important, there is no point in providing the right information to the wrong people, or the wrong information to the right people.
07-02-2004, 10:53 AM
There is a whole lot of differrence in the way people search. In fact I have a brother that owns an engineering and design firm and he will not search for anything without wrapping everything in parentheses, where I rarely use them!
There is probably not too many better exercises you can do than a thorough review of your site stats each month and look at what was searched, found and why. After reviewing the phrases go to the individual keyword order. This systematic review is priceless in giving direction for future Site mods.
In fact mine have changed notably just since this last GOOGLE update. But then again I went from 4 to 5, primarily I believe because all of my incomming links are not reciprocal except client sites.
07-02-2004, 11:08 AM
Perhaps the topic is in the wrong section. I consider this more design.
I think this topic could be relevant to designers as well as search engine marketers.
I was hoping to see more discussion on what we can learn from these studies... have you changed your techniques, either in the design of the site itself or in the way you market and optimize your site?
Ray Deffry, our ClicksToday (http://www.clickstoday.com) editor, brought up a good question. He was interested in discovering how marketing strategies can change based on this information. After reading the SEEKS study (http://www.seeks-it.net/) mentioned in my article he wondered: if searchers with less Internet experience really do favor "portals" (such as Yahoo!) should advertisements on Yahoo! target the new or less-experienced Internet user?
Any thoughts on that?
07-02-2004, 11:15 AM
That is quite true. I especially notice an age difference and education difference. The more computer literate, who tend to also be younger and have jobs in larger organisations, and hence be looking at the bigger instruemtns search very much differently to the less computer literate. It is a spelling issue in German as well. We had a change of spelling rules a few years ago. The younger ones learnt it, the older ones did not, unles they have school-age kids!
07-02-2004, 11:51 AM
I know Alexa has been shunned really hard for their so called "SpyBot" maneuvers, but as Dave Hawley ( I believe ) pointed out in another forum they may actually represent as much as a 3-5% poll population of total Internet users. Sure SpyBot and other cleaning software picks them up!, so what, I am going to let them ride from now on.
Most poll sample populations you ever hear stats reported on in the news for “American Public Opinion” , "Political" and even the “Iraqi” polls relayed in the news lately are based on shallower population samples. It’s a shame that as a country we don’t understand stats and polling samples any better than we do, letting everyone jerk our strings!
Alexa provides very good general trend stats on their site. The “meat” they reserve for income generating revenue. You will notice that they convey just the first level of relevancy for free. “Visitors also visit these Sites when visiting this URL”.
They may actually be ahead of the game!
I have seen several SEO and MARKETING companies reference the fact that they are buying customers at the Alexa “meat” counter!
I haven't seen Alexa act in any malicious way, have you?
Just My Opinion!
07-02-2004, 01:54 PM
I started typing a reply to this topic this morning, but was interupted. Why? Oh, let's just say the company brought me a really nice computer upgrade with a bigger flat panel moniter. I'm sure you all understand. And it's a Friday before a 3-day holiday weekend (USA) on top of that, so it's a good day.
The subject does involve both design and SEO, especially regarding search marketing strategies. I wasn't sure what the question to discuss was at first, but the more I think about it, it brings up some major points.
I think there's a major element to a website's success -- its purpose. Is the site intended to market an existing business? If it's a business that is just now getting around to having a website (a company that's been asleep for a decade), you still stand a chance because you can call on your contacts for backlinks. But if you are starting a new business/website, it will be tough getting visitors without a budget for paid advertising. Think of ten different subjects -- like cars, books, computers, even website designer -- and realize there's already been hundreds of strong SEO's for a while. Unless you've got an Ace up your sleeve, you've got a tough road. But with anything, persistence does pay off...
But if the money maker is the site itself, especially by the go-it-alone marketer, one needs to find a niche first, then configure the web design and content based on the niche. Starting out, it's better to be a big fish in a small pond than an average fish in a big pond. Though it's a smaller market, some traffic is better than not being found in a big ocean.
If the site has already been in existence, the key goes back to taking a hard look at optimising content for viewer. Bots love content anyway (and backlinks).
If your site is informational with affiliates, going back to design is 'vital' (oh no, that word again). Get some good graphics and enhance layout to be both pleasing to the eyes, as well as navigationally friendly, ease of use -- put all your chips on this strategy and viewers will come out of the woodword. Then if you did your homework about affiliate ad placement, the law of percentages will go to work for you.
graphics made for your site
07-02-2004, 05:28 PM
"...especially by the go-it-alone marketer, one needs to find a niche first..."
I hope that since I ripped that quote out of the dead middle of your comment that I didn't take it out of context!
I have to concur with you, that if what you meant is that you just can't be the "where-with-all" for everyone, I do believe that as web developers and designers, we are better off in our market niche, and that market niche needs to be clearly and distinctly defined in our Site's pyramidal keyphrase hiarchal structure, tumbling down into our title, metatags and HTML body. Therin lies the "gold".
07-12-2004, 10:34 AM
I'm going to be contacting Gord Hotchkiss of Enquiro for a follow-up later today. Are there any specific questions about this study you'd like me to ask him
Looking forward to your responses...
07-12-2004, 04:12 PM
*Technical research with search engines, to better understand the process they use in determining rankings
"The second part of Enquiro's study revealed four types of searchers: scanners and clickers, who usually make choices by scanning and clicking only the top few listings (sound like anyone you know?); 2 step scanners, who scan the top results to see if anything pops out before scanning the rest of the organic results; deliberate researchers, who read titles and descriptions carefully and sometimes continue to the second results page; and 1, 2, 3 searchers, who read listings in order from first to last, focusing on organic results and reading carefully before making a decision."
I'd be interested in learning more about the target market and researchers demographics and userability. Was(is)this a controlled group?
It's ALL relevant.... isn't it?
07-12-2004, 07:21 PM
Slightly off topic, perhaps I can add an observation about what gets your website found -- and I think it adds considerably to the argument in favour of Content.
To make myself clear, let me quickly say that I operate in a niche market (potential buyers/lessees of property in my geographic area) and that I've consciously created a website in which I "pontificate" at some length as to what I do and why I do it. I like to think -- and again with full appreciation of everything I've learned from participation in these WPW forums -- that I've not ignored the need/sense of SEO, but I've primarily "written for the searcher" and haven't stinted on the number of words it takes.
Anyway, in consequence, I'm struck every day by the variation in search phrases that let me turn up in the top results. I suppose half of the searches conform with my Title and Description, but just as many are surprisingly (not surprisingly?) wide of them.
The impression I get is that the more words on my subject that Google et al have been able to index, the greater my chances of being found.
I ain't complaining!
07-14-2004, 09:08 AM
As promised, I called Gord Hotchkiss, President and CEO of Enquiro (http://www.enquiro.com), one of the companies that have been studying search behavior.
Now, I am no SEM expert, nor do I play one on TV, but, to me, these studies emphasized the importance of looking into different strategies for marketing and advertising to prospective customers. Gord had this advise to offer: “I think the biggest thing is to not forget the [Internet] is a marketing channel aimed to the consumer. The strategy has to start with the consumer. Too often I think because of all the technical things we can do online we kind of jump past the whole strategy part and forget tactics. We get into how we can build the site, all the cool things we can do with it. From the search marketing perspective, we get so upset about things like rankings and keywords and things like that, we forget that there’s an end purpose to all of it – and that’s to get to the consumer.”
During the research process, Gord began to think about the fact that everyone uses search, like any other channel, differently. In order to find an effective strategy, marketers must understand this.
Another potential problem is that a lot of designers don’t have a marketing background. Especially after reading these studies, I don’t think it could hurt designers to at least learn a little bit about marketing – and Gord agrees. “It’s a communication channel and communication is a fundamental of marketing,” he told me, adding: “I came into this business through marketing and even I had kind of forgotten it.” It all started coming back to him during the research, though. The study “took me back fifteen years to the fundamentals of marketing. And I slapped my head and went, ‘Well, of course!’”
The SEEKS study (http://www.seeks-it.net/) shows more experienced users are less likely to click on search advertisements. I asked Gord whether he believes search ads should therefore target less experienced customers. He was quick to warn that there hasn’t been enough research done to consider any of the evidence “conclusive” – although he admitted, “We did find Google users are less likely to click paid listings. More experienced Internet users tend to go to Google. The same is true by education level. Generally the more educated the person the lower the tendency to click on paid [listings].” Search marketing is just one strategy, Gord says, so it’s important to do more research before drawing any conclusions.
One argument against these findings is the fact that 95% of Google’s revenue comes from AdWords and AdSense. The search engine made $962 million (http://www.webpronews.com/insiderreports/searchinsider/wpn-49-20040701UnderstandingSearchersWillTheyFindYou.html ) in 2003– so apparently Google users do click at least some of those ads.
Gord also revealed that he has a suspicion that “as time goes by people are less and less hesitant to click on paid. I suspect the click-through rates on paid have been going up a little bit the last two or three years. That’s what I would guess just in some of the anecdotal evidence we’re collecting [although] like I said, there’s no historic studies to pin that down in a quantitative way.”
Do your click-through rates back up his theory?
While these studies are fascinating, like Gord said, this is just the “first step” towards understanding. Enquiro definitely plans to continue such research in the future, hoping to become “recognized as the company that takes the time to try to figure out how people are using these online channels, especially search.” The company hopes to release a new study every few (3 – 4) months. The next study, which will explore business-to-business, will probably be released in the next few months.
“We think it does everyone good if they get access to this kind of information,” Gord said. I agree – don’t you?
Have fun learning and discussing!
07-14-2004, 11:14 AM
“I think the biggest thing is to not forget the [Internet] is a marketing channel aimed to the consumer. The strategy has to start with the consumer. Too often I think because of all the technical things we can do online we kind of jump past the whole strategy part and forget tactics. We get into how we can build the site, all the cool things we can do with it. From the search marketing perspective, we get so upset about things like rankings and keywords and things like that, we forget that there’s an end purpose to all of it – and that’s to get to the consumer.”
“We think it does everyone good if they get access to this kind of information,” Gord said. I agree – don’t you?
Good information Brittany....("Keep up the good work".) Confirmation for some and eye opening for others.... Like some, maybe even most, SEO isn't my "bag-or cup of tea if you prefer" but to overlook it's impact and relevance would be devistating for the survival and sucess of anyone's clients. Once again Webproworld delivers great insights for those of us willing to learn.
07-22-2004, 12:12 PM
I saw (at the beginning of an email-ad for pop-under advertising LoL) that Microsoft plans to put pop-ad blockers into the next XP update, effectively moving popup-blockism into the same common-arena as door-lockism.
That seems like bigger news than 'a reply to a post of Brittany's,' so why did I make it so? I'll tell you; I opened up the email-ad (the 'beginning of the end' of popup-ads), and thought, "Brittany ..." (but not just "Brittany ..." like I'm always thinking, yet also "I bet she and the WPN people would like to hear about this.")
So I found WebProNews through a search-engine (See! That old-school stuff still works!), and I looked at the front page. I suppose I could have chosen 'Write an Article' and posted the news there; but all the news I had is in the paragraph above, (though I might've gone on to comment further upon the rhyme of 'locking' and 'blocking,' and the place in the etymological evolution chain where the 'b' broke itself free from the unopenable door ... but then the article would've been about as boring and useless as-- as this reply is getting). If I hadn't replied here, I probably would've gone on to find some 'Quick News' forum on WPN and posted it there; but I didn't--why here? That's where it gets kind of corny =P~
You'll recall that Brittany was my first thought in this matter. After I had decided not to excuse this as a full article, I thought I'd post it as an aside in response to an article. Scanning the titles, I saw 'The Internet is a Marketing Tool [or something],' figured that was close enough, and opened it. When I saw Brittany's face as the writer, I was signed-on, marked-down, and locked-in to ... respond then-and-there!