User behaviour and search engines

User behaviour and Google's search results ?

You can state that people searching information will make more use of the natural search results. People wanting to buy something are more open to look into the sponsored links, as they expect to find there web shops and other commercial offerings. This implies you could as well invest in advertising on your company name within ad words, even if you rank already number 1 on company name.


In most cases though, sponsored links gets way less attention then natural search results. This is a rapidly changing landscape though, with new technology like geo-tagging, social media, etc. popping up and influencing this. There is a trend in increasing importance for sponsored links.


google, a classic SERP view

SERP = Search Engine Result Page



Above a classic SERP page. The natural search results are to the left, whereas sponsored results are to the right and above the left column. A beige background is the signal you are looking at sponsored links.


More recent SERP functionality


nfl = National Football League: Take notice of the communication between SEA/SEO adapted websites and Google SERP using “snippets” to show structured data in search results.

Or look at this:


This search result show “shopping results” together with product photo’s, social scoring (the *****), price information and a “find nearby” pin

Or this one:



How Marina uses Google...

Let’s zoom in on the typical behavior of a google user:

  • Marina needs some holiday. Her first wild try is “holidays”. This is useless – you get 33 million hits...
  • She realizes that some specificity is required. Italy would be fine, so the search query becomes “holidays Italy”. Looking at the results, Lake Garda is the location she wants to explore further.
  • Next search actions is the “Lake Garda”. But as Marina forgot to specify the keyword “Holidays”, she now gets a lot of natural history information, Wikipedia and the likes.
  • So, she realizes that the word “holidays” has to be added again to the query. Not all the results include though an offering including the flight, which was what she wanted.
  • So or final golden try becomes “Holiday flight lake Garda Italy”


Conversion and search operation specificity

  • Trend towards using more keywords in a query
  • The more specific the query, the better the conversion
  • If you make a specific query, you do really expect a specific result.


People start often a query quite generic. But this often evolves, or even starts with more elaborated 3-5 word long queries. People do expect a specific matching result as a consequence. A longer search query is an indicator for someone who has his mind made up, and is likely in case of a match to give you a good conversion rate.


The AIDA principle applied to search behaviour

Aida principle

  • Attention: “Holiday”. The consumer expresses the idea “Holiday”. His thoughts are not well formed though. The keyword used is broad (e.g. a single word) and probably medium priced (if you are using SEA). There are not that many terms in that domain possible. The search volume on this type of generic keywords is very high (many people are using this keyword). Don’t expect that someone arriving with such a generic keyword is likely to buy from you (low conversion ratio).
  • Interest: “Holidays Italy”. You start to dream away... You are now already using a somewhat more targeted query. The price you will have to pay to the search engine provider in case you want to use SEA will likely be higher. There are more combinations possible  then in the first case (combination of search word, where each combination counts as 1). The search volume on simple combined terms is still high. As this is not specific enough to be sure the users really wants to get your product, conversion will still be low.
  • Desire: The art of marketing is to convert the consumer into a longing consumer. Maybe use an attractive offering ? A consumer in the “desire” state will probably use quite targeted keywords. His query will be longer. The number of possible combinations can be huge though. The search volume on a more specific query will be average. You now have already a good average chance on conversion.
  • Action: Holiday flight Lake Garda Italy”. This customer really knows what he wants. We are in the money now ! Now you just need to convince the customer in case he arrives on your website! The keywords are highly targeted. Due to the high targeting, you will probably don’t have to pay that much in case you want to use SEA. The amount of combinations you could imagine is huge though... The magic lies here in guessing the most likely ones. The search volume on a very specific query will be low. The likelihood though that you will be able to sell something is high.


Long tail keywords

There is more traffic on “holidays Italy” then on “holiday flight Lake Garda Italy”. There are a number of popular keywords which pull a lot of traffic, whereas many combined keyword combinations have low traffic.

  • Long tail: queries typically composed of multiple keywords
  • Long neck: more generic keywords attracting a lot of traffic


It makes sense to have focus on the long neck keywords. The work you are doing there will anyway help for queries coming from the long-tail, assuming you are using quite some of the short-tail keywords in it.

But it is also smart to use long tail keywords. This is in particular the case for the paid version (SEA, ad words) as this will help you to be more efficient within your available budget: If you pay per click, it’s important not to pay for keywords having many clicks but low conversion.