October 21

User Behavior with Search Engines

Basically there are 3 different types of searches users will perform.

* Informational
* Navigational
* Transactional

Although there is a way to monetize all of these, the real issue here is the user’s intent and how it can vary drastically. If you can understand why someone found your site, you already have an advantage over many. Taking this a step further and optimizing your page(s) to either improve the user’s experience or shift the focus of a page to drive the traffic you want is key in SEO. Below I’ll give you an idea of how each search should be treated. Bear in mind that not every search can be understood just by looking at the keywords, the use of an analytics program is crucial to understanding what changes (if any) need to take place and more importantly the user’s intent.

An informational search is when the searcher wants to find, you guessed it, information. A good example of this would be “How many members of Congress are there”. Generally speaking this is the hardest type of search to directly monetize. However, if you can drive a fair amount of traffic to a page selling display ads or implementing adsense into your site may become profitable. Another way to monetize an informational search is the indirect method. If your site gains trust and authority with the search engines and the content is similar to another page or site you would like to rank you can pass the PR towards that page.

A navigational search is used when a searcher wants to find a specific site. A good example of this would be “Apple Computers” or “Best Buy”. If you are getting visitors to your site via this method you’ll be able to better understand your core audience and brand strength. As your brand grows it becomes even more important to make it obvious to both the users and the search engines what services/products you provide. Recently Google made some drastic changes to give brand more authority on non-brand related queries. And even more recently Yahoo has followed suit so Bing won’t be far off as the merger of the two closes in. Maximizing your revenue requires a careful watch of your analytics programs to discover what visitors are doing. With this information you’ll know where to make tweaks. Additionally, this type of search provides invaluable insight into who your customers are and can give you ideas to create an ideal environment for them.

A transactional search is used when the searcher wants to acquire or buy something. For example, “Wiring Diagram for a 2002 Honda”. Just remember “acquire” does not necessarily mean the user wants to buy something. Seeing terms like these come into your site is an indicator that your focus should be on marketing your products/services more heavily than on a strictly informational search.

When researching your keywords it is important to note that not every search is limited to just one of the three search types. The intent of the user can be just one, a combination of two or all three. This can make deciding what content to provide far more difficult, but try to focus on what the known is as it can make the task a bit less overwhelming.