Understanding Search Behavior

Understanding Search Behavior

As a business trying to leverage the power of search engines and social media to drive interested readers and customers to our websites, it's critical that we take the time to understand and test consumer search behavior. By search behavior, I'm talking about the process that a potential visitor will or must go through before they might end up on our website. While this certainly revolves around understanding and targeting keywords, it goes a bit beyond that. I'll illustrate my point with my own experience trying to program a remote control.

I really enjoy having old, favorite TV shows play in the background while I work. Anything from Star Trek to West Wing, and I'm currently in the midst of a LOST marathon. While I used to be limited to the DVDs and Blu-Ray disks that I owned, we recently subscribed to Netflix and Netflix is perfect for watching old TV shows.

I have a Samsung TV and an LG Blu-Ray disk player in my office loft. I have AT&T U-Verse but since I subscribed to Netflix, and my BD Player can stream Netflix, I have been streaming everything through my LG device. The U-Verse remote was programmed to control the TV (the TV remote is in storage somewhere), so for months I have been using the U-Verse remote to turn on the TV and control the volume, while the LG remote handles everything else.

Google search for "LG Remote Code for TV" was ineffective.Because I so infrequently watch U-Verse in the office these days, I thought it would be a good idea to return the set top box that's in the office to AT&T and save myself $7 a month for having the additional unit in the house, but then it occurred to me that I would have to find the TV remote. Being able to reduce or even mute the TV volume in a work environment quickly is fairly important. But the other day, I happened to notice that the bottom of my LG remote had a little section for TV! Of course, the remote didn't intuitively know what kind of TV I had, so it initially did nothing. I was going to have to program it, and I certainly didn't have the LG manual handy.

So, I turned to my trusty friend, Google. I searched for "LG BD Remote Codes" (248,000 results) then "LG BD Remote Code for TV" (2,650,000 results). Both times I got search results that didn't really provide the information I was looking for. You see, I've programmed plenty of remote controls. I know that all I needed in this instance was the "procedure" and the "code". Each remote is a little different, but there's a series of buttons you need to hold down to tell it that you're about to enter a code for a device, and then you'll have a unique code for a specific manufacturer's device. In this case, I needed to tell my LG remote that I had a Samsung TV.

I found plenty of sites listing remote codes for all kinds of remotes and devices, but they were either unclear on the procedure, or so dense with information that they were overwhelming. I also found a Knowledge Base system within LG, including some support documents that discussed the topic of programming your remote control, but they referenced readers to their product manuals, without providing any actual information.

But that's when it occurred to me that what I really needed was the manual, and while I didn't know where or even if I still owned my own copy, I could surely find a digital copy online somewhere. So, I searched for "LG BD550 Manual" and got to the LG product page, with a button for Product Support, which had the manual as an easy PDF download. I downloaded and opened the manual, looked at the Contents, and turned to page 76 which clearly articulated that you simply hold the TV Power button and Enter and then punch in "6" for Samsung. It worked perfectly.

So what have we learned about Search Behavior?

Besides the obvious, that I need to do a better job of organizing my manuals, I hope this helps illustrate to you the importance of putting yourself in your customers shoes. That means anticipating what they're going to be looking for, and more importantly, how they're going to look. In the SEO industry, a phrase that we talk about a lot is "long-tail keyword." That's a fancy way of describing it when someone uses a long sentence, rather than just a word or two, to define their search.

In this case I started with "LG BD Remote Codes" and got a quarter million results, but nothing that answered my question. When I refined my search to "LG BD Remote Code for TV" I actually got 10x as many results, and was no closer to finding my solution. I then had to change my search strategy to get to the information and solution that I needed.

What LG might have done is include links to online manuals in their support documentation, along with some text that described what the manual will help an LG Player owner do, like program it to control your TV.

From a business perspective, the point here is to think about what a potential buying customer might want or need. In this case, I wasn't making a purchase from LG (one might argue that the easier the support process, the more likely I will be to purchase from them again), but the point is valid. Anticipating how your customers are going to search, and then making sure that you use that language in your website and content, will help make their search process easier. They'll find you faster, find the information or solution they were looking for, and take whatever the next action might be, whether it's to place an order online or call for more information.

Take the time to repeatedly research, test and monitor search behavior. Perform searches yourself, ask your staff to perform searches, and even consider utilizing focus groups. Reach out to your customers and readers and ask them what they're searching for, how they found you, and the challenges they may have faced when searching. 

And try to keep the medium in mind. My only real criticism here of LG is that they put a support document online that told me to reference my manual offline. They failed to recognize that someone reading that support document was already on their website, and probably didn't have their manual handy or they wouldn't have been searching online in the first place. Provide as much helpful information as you can on your website, and make sure that it's easy to find and cross-linked wherever it makes sense to do so. Google will index it, drive more customers to your website, and those people will appreciate your higher level of support.

Stormtroopers Googling courtesy of Stéfan, Flickr.

Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner

Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner, award-winning Blogger and Author in St. Louis, and the Chief Marketing Officer at SiteSell. He has been working with websites and the Internet since the early '90's, and is active on all of the major social networks. Mike teaches a holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blog content, social media and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.

Mike is the author of, "The Unofficial Book On HootSuite: The #1 Tool for Social Media Management", "The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect LinkedIn Profile.", and "Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion."


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