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Search Behavior: Inside the Mind of the Searcher 5 Years Later
Monday, June 29, 2009
It has been a little over five years since we at Enquiro, released our first white paper, Inside the Mind of the Searcher. The paper has been recognized as ground breaking research by many industry experts, including Danny Sullivan Search Engine Land and Anne Holland, founder of MarketingSherpa. The 30 page report discovered some startling findings about the way consumers search.

Some of the items that we concluded from our research was that it became clear that searchers have mentally divided the search engine results page into distinct sections, and many searchers will skip some of these sections completely. In general, organic listings are more likely to be seen by a greater percentage of users than sponsored listings. It also emerged that many Google users have become preconditioned to visually ignore sponsored listings on the page. While this may have changed slightly in the past five years as searchers become more savvy, these habits still hold true for many. In fact, when looking at the search results page, most users look for a number of specific items, at least one of which must be present to capture a click through. These items include the key phrase in the title or description, product information and trusted brand names and vendors. This appears to hold true for both digital natives and digital immigrants.

Download Inside the Mind of the Searcher

Organic vs. Paid

One of the things that I remember most about this white paper was the fact that in observing how users interacted with the search results pages, we noticed distinct trends. Almost 80% initially skipped over all sponsored listings and went straight to the top organic results. In most cases, their eyes never came back to the sponsored listings. We also found that the search process was a circular one, not necessarily a linear process. A typical search is a circular and complex process, with multiple interactions with sites and search engine results pages.

I happen to specialize in Organic Search. So in essence my job is to help my clients gain visibility in the natural (organic) listings of the search results pages. Over the years, I have been very successful with this. I can appreciate that organic results still generate the majority of clicks. In 2009, five years after our original study, industry folks predict that 70-75% of clicks are organic with 20-25% being sponsored. Yet we still see the majority of search budgets being given to sponsored, which I can also appreciate as organic and sponsored do in fact need to work together for ultimate online success. However, it is worth mentioning the fact that the need for organic search should not be overlooked. The companies that "get it" know and understand this, and they continue to realize the importance of SEO/organic search. They also understand the importance of social marketing and the need to continue to reinvent their brands.

Inside the Mind of the Searcher 2009

In the five years since the release if "Inside the Mind of the Searcher", we have seen some tremendous shifts in online marketing and in marketing in general. We have also seen some changes with the Search Engines and with the results they return. In 2004, there was no Universal or Blended Search. There were no images or videos or blogs or news articles being mixed in with the 10 blue links that we were accustomed to seeing. Sounds like we need to again delve deep into the mind of the searcher and see how they have changed with their digital habits in 2009 and going into the next decade. It will be interesting to see how searchers:
  • Interact with a Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft (Bing) SERP now vs. in 2004
  • Respond to blended results - Are there preferences for news results over videos?
  • Do males and females react differently to Blended Search?
  • How do keyword queries change along the buying funnel?
  • How has social impacted the mind of the searcher?
  • How has the interaction between organic and sponsored listing on a SERP changed?
Capturing the Click

In our original paper we discussed what captured the click. Relevancy is the key here and still holds true today. SEO 101 is important as optimized titles and descriptions were identified as top items that helped entice users to click a given result over another.

If searchers were looking for a site to make a purchase from, the importance of what appeared in the title and listing text changed a little. (Listed in order of importance):
  • The exact query in the Title and Description
  • Offer product information: features, comparisons, reviews and prices
  • Trusted brand names and vendors
  • Promises of added value: discounts, free shipping, etc
  • Ability to buy online
  • Trusted URL’s
Maybe some things just never change, but it sounds to me like we need to perform some updated research and examine the mind of the Searcher five years later. I can see it now, Inside the Mind of the Searcher 2010. Oh and for the record, Enquiro was using Zappos examples (see page 25 of the white paper) even back in 2004 before it was fashionable to do so.


posted by Jody @ Monday, June 29, 2009  
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About Me
Name: Jody
Home: Kelowna, BC, Canada
About Me: SEO guy by day, family man 24/7.
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