Understanding Searchers: Will They Find You?

    July 1, 2004

“Search is the hottest topic in marketing. Period,” states the website for the upcoming Search Engine Strategies 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.”

Discuss these search strategy studies at WebProWorld.

Tracking Down Your Listing...
Tracking Down Your Listing…

The first part of the study showed that search patterns are complex and circular. 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 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 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 and if not, they scan the rest of the organic results and read the descriptions; deliberate researchers, who are more thorough, reading titles and descriptions carefully and sometimes continuing 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,” 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.

Another study, by the EU Socrates project SEEKS, observed worldwide behaviors and while it found no gender gap, it did identify different typs of searchers based on Internet experience. Searchers with little or no Internet experience were “passive,” using “commercial portals” such as Yahoo for searching. They were more likely to type queries in “natural language.” As searchers gained Internet experience, they became more “selective” and searchers 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 is a must. The SEEKS study reported that searchers chose websites from search results pages based on several factors, including speed, reliability, information, design and familiarity.

– 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 these factors in mind when optimizing your site.

– Get listed in both paid and natural results, according to 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 [from iProspect’s results] 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.”

Brittany Thompson is an administrator for WebProWorld.com and contributes to the Insider Reports with her regular articles and interviews.