4 Search Behaviors and How to Capitalize on Them for SEO

[This is part of the The Blogger’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Optimization Series.]

As we’ve walked through this series on search engine optimization for bloggers you may have realized that a lot of our time has been spent on internally optimizing our own properties so that search engines and ultimately people will get to our blogs in the best and most efficient ways possible – and this is a good thing!

But it’s also worth spending a few blog posts talking about some of the general search patterns of users so that we can, if possible, capitalize on their behaviors to maximize our own returns.

Many of these you probably know intuitively but no one has ever written it down in plain english for you – and for what it’s worth I didn’t necessarily come up with these; I’ve taken some old documents that I used in my old corporate jobs and distilled the results and research down into a manageable form.

Thanks Michael Dell – I (and this community) owe you one! Teehee…!

1. Direct URL Search

This occurs when someone uses a search engine, like Google, to directly input the desired URL typically because they may not be 100% sure of the correct address or URL name.

For example, it’s like someone knowing that they want to head to TechCrunch.com but inputting in the search box the following because they couldn’t remember the exact .com domain name:

There we go.

They nearly 100% of the time click the first link that comes up in SERPs since that’s where they wanted to head in the first place. Hopefully the search engines return exactly what they were looking for.

Another name for this type of search engine behavior and pattern is Navigational Search Query, if you were curious.

2. Non-Transactional Informational Search

The second type of search is often referred to as non-transactional search, informational search, or ego search which essentially means that the user is interested in only the information that they are looking for explicitly and not interested in engaging with corollary content beyond that.

What’s all that you say? Well, a perfect example of a non-transactional informational search is finding out how to get to your local supermarket via a mapping app:

I'm hungry!

The goal of the user is simply to find the answer to their direct question or query. In this example they are interested in finding the nearest grocery store, it’s address, and that’s it. They aren’t making a purchase or necessarily jumping off to read their top ten blogs that they’ve bookmarked.

Another example is finding out the local weather for the day and rest of the week:

Tomorrow... Thunderstorms? Sad!

You do this all the time, right? I check the weather right before I have to head out the door to my appointment or meeting and am using search specifically to get this one piece of information: Do I need an umbrella today?

3. Research and Commercial Search

This is just what you think it is – it’s when a user uses a search engine to learn more about a particular product, service, organization, or really anything else that they are interested in learning more about.

One very common example is when you search for reviews and comparative listings for a product you’re interested in purchasing.

For example, I’m not completely in the market for a new DSLR but I’m definitely interested in learning more about the current technology and offerings!

Not ready to purchase yet...

So I’m still searching, still doing my research, and even perhaps looking at some general prices for some of the new DSLR systems:

Ooooooooh. Pricey.

Again, the search is comprehensive but doesn’t guarantee that I’ll pull the trigger – so this still qualifies as a non-transactional search as well.

Most of the searches that users make fall in this category.

4. Purchase and Transactional Search

This is simply a search that ends up in the flow of information between a user and the web app and/or service. Typically it’s understood as a purchase, that is, the user searches for a particular product, service, and/or business with the intent to buy something with a credit card or online payment solution.

But this is not the only type of “transaction” that can occur – giving information as in creating a new login account or registering for a site is also transactional. Signing up for a newsletter or subscribing to an RSS feed is also considered transactional in nature.

For example, the last DSLR that I purchased was via Amazon and I’ll most likely do the same again:

The intent is to purchase!

So when it comes time I may head directly to Amazon itself (a Direct URL Search perhaps) or I may just use Google to help filter quickly through some of the purchase options with various keywords.

Makes sense, right?

So… Who Cares? Why Does This Matter?

The point of this is critical, especially for those that want to really build strategy around their blog content for maximum effectiveness but most bloggers either do not know about this and/or don’t really care.

But I care – and I think you should too. Here’s why:

  1. Understanding web search intents can help you focus your content to reach your personal blogging goals.
  2. Targeting particular users can increase traffic gains for your blog content without diluting your efforts long-term.
  3. Creating content with a specific user in mind can increase conversion rate, either by them signing up to a newsletter, subscribing via RSS, or even purchasing a product and/or service.
  4. You’ll save more time researching and developing potential blog posts since you know your target search audience better.
  5. You’ll also optimize your search engine literacy for both your readers and the search engines themselves. As they (both your readers/new readers and search engines) index your content your content brand will be more apparent to them. Search engines are interested in finding the patterns of content to help them index you better and your users are interested in an understandable and predictable display of content.
  6. You’ll satisfy your users faster with the information they need, thus creating a stronger community and a faster growing blog. This also will tell search engines that your blog is more awesome than your competitors.

There are even more benefits than these but one great blog post that works well with this one is deciding your blog content focus, if possible.

Yes, it's me with one finger.

One Example of a Strategy That I Use

Finally, I want to share with you how this looks like from my own personal strategy with TentBlogger. You see, when I first started this blog I realized that the quickest way that I was going to make a “dent in the universe” was my ability to provide the best content in the most direct and immediate fashion possible.

This meant that I would concentrate 99% of my content efforts in the Non-Transactional and Informational Searches for users – I wanted to make sure that my blog posts came up in SERPs to solve users problems and to solve them quickly.

So I optimized my content and my blog’s focus around solving the needs of bloggers and specifically those that use WordPress as a blogging application. So far the strategy has worked.

What does this mean for the other search intent characterizations? It means that I wasn’t focused on “selling” a product necessarily and wasn’t focused on converting users in to members or subscribers as my primary focus. I knew this would happen as a healthy biproduct but if it didn’t happen I wouldn’t fret over it much.

Eventually I will change my content strategy and search intents a bit for search engine optimization but not too much to divorce my already large investment of time and effort!

I hope this gives you some idea of the power of knowing your users, especially search engine behaviors, and how you might apply them to your blog directly!

Let me know if you have any questions!

[This is part of the The Blogger’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Optimization Series. Image via Creative Commons, stephan.]