Searcher Behavior Research Update

Aug 20, 2008 - 5:13 pm 0 by

Searcher Behavior Research Update

How do searchers interact with search engines? New research is constantly coming out revealing how searchers act. This session explores the latest studies and findings to provide tips and tactics for search marketers to consider.

Bill Muller, Chief Marketing Officer, iProspect

John Marshall, CTO, Market Motive  [email protected]
Pavan Lee, Research Manager, Microsoft
Dr. Larry Cornett, VP, Consumer Products, Yahoo! Search
Bill Barnes, Co-founder & EVP, Enquiro Search

John Marshall speaks on DIY Search Behaviour Analysis.

It’s difficult to get good data on behavior on people searching on the web. You can get data about what happens on your website, but you also want data about what happens outside of your website.

How does this impact you on Monday Morning?
Looking at keywords in Google Analytics provides a good place to start. The problem with this is that it is a very narrow view of what is happening on the web. You get data about what people searched on, but you only see the results that ended in that person coming to your website. You don’t see when you showed up in SERPs but people didn’t click on you. You want to know broad intent of people, not just those who came to your site.

How can we really see the intent? Having a site search on your page gives you lots of good data. It gives you a better view of the user’s intent, conversion rate information, and more. People don’t often use this data because it is free and is ignored. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean the data is bad. People use Hitwise data because they paid a lot for it, and the organization wants to make sure they get their money’s worth out of the data.

A lot of his time is spent fixing things that go wrong with data collection.

Things that go wrong

  • Mixed case. By default, GA does not convert all site search queries to same case. You need to convert the search keyword into all lower case so you can have valid data, rather than having same query replicated in several results and makes it difficult to evaluate the data.
  • Multiple results pages. Need to make sure that your “no results” page has tracking on it.
  • Usual JavaScript breakage
  • Injected terms. Common mistake is to make query for “digital cameras”, then give that query URL to affiliate marketers. You have that included in your site search results when people did not actually type that query into site search. You need to filter this out (he did not explain how).

Next is Pavan Lee

“Power of Three” – Cross Channel Ad Effectiveness on search display and content ads.

Search listings have a branding value.

  • Exposure to search listings has a positive impact on branding
  • People exposed to search listings are more likely to visits store than before

Paid search listings have a strong branding impact than organic search listing

  • Exposure to paid search listing consistently demonstrated strong impact on key branding metrics
  • People exposed to paid search listing also reported a more positive shirt on brand favorability than those exposed to organic listings.

In-lab study with Enquiro Research, included eye-tracking in a lab, then surveyed with questions.

Key findings
Strongest impact was when both content and paid used.

Lift in Ad Recall

Search Index 100

  • + Content 121
  • + Display 130
  • + Content & display

Life in Brand Recall
Search Index 100

  • +content 115
  • +display 117
  • +content and display 127

Lift in Purchase Intent
Search Index 100

  • + content 113
  • + display 113
  • + content and display 127

Relative Visation and Gazing
Single channel
Display + 7.4%
Content + 5.3%
Search + 9.9%

Multiple channel
Search + display +10.8%
Search + content +7.3%
Search + content + display + 11.3%

Take away:

“Power of Three” = Synergistic Branding Impact. Good correlation between search lift and multiple display types in Microsoft search. I missed her exact wording here.


Thinking Beyond the Search Results Page
Larry Cornett

Beyond the SRP

  • Search is just one point in time. Lots of activities that happen before and after this point. They’re doing a task. You need to understand what their task is.

Types of Research at Yahoo!

  • Search editorials
  • Bucket testing
  • Metrics and analysis
  • Search science
  • Focus groups and surveys
  • Eye-tracking research – gives a lot of answers that users cannot always verbalize.
  • Ethnographic field studies
  • Usability lab studies.

How users experience search

  • Starting context
  • Quick scanning (spend very little time on page)
  • Information scent (ex. keyword bolding)
  • Matching intent
  • Quick decisions
  • Looking for answers
  • Feeling safe

Crafting Searches
How to help people complete their query, get at what is in their head. People don’t know how to enter query, not sure what to do to start. The predictive search is so people don’t have to work so hard to get information from search engine. It’s not just a problem of being in an artificial environment in the lab, they saw this in the field visits too.

From “to do” to “done”
How to get them to their goal, get them to the answer. He talks about Search Monkey. Owner can tell what is most important about their site. Gives more information than would just be in a text link.

What does this mean for you?
Before the SRP

  • Starting context – how is the user going to ask for this in the search engine? What do they want?
  • The “real task”

On the SRP

  • Intent and information scent
  • SearchMonkey!

After the SRP

  • Fulfilling expectations
  • Being their “answer”


Bill Barnes

Both search marketing and research company. Research born out of search marketing, which gives insight into research. Obsessions with wanting to know why is why they started research


  • Why is the first listing seen as so important
  • Why do we scan in groups of three or four?
  • What branding is important

Another picture of heat maps and the golden triangle!

How important is the area of greatest promise? They played around with top sponsored listing, ad copy, did a/b test – one good text that was targeted to the search, one generic text. Everything else on the page was the same.

A good ad vs. bad ad influenced user’s answer about if they would use the search engine again.

Why do we scan in groups of three or four? It has to deal with the way the brain works.

A 16% point increase in brand association when brand is in top sponsored and top organic results. There were lots of graphs here that I couldn’t replicate, but they can be found at this presentation at

Yes, do buy branded terms!

  • Brand fixations occurred in the URL and title of the listing, not in the description.
    • Place your brand in the title, URL, and as close to the start of the description as possible in your sponsored and organic listings
  • Subjects with established affinity for the brand spent 25% less time on the top sponsored listing, jumping down to the organic listings 73% faster than the non-affinity group
    • Sponsored listings appear to have a great opportunity to lift brand affinity among new customers, write and target them as such.

Key findings

  • Understanding intent is key
  • Top sponsored and top organic combined give the greatest brand lift
  • Be aware of who else and what else is on the SERP
  • Play with the enemy
  • Missed the rest of the key findings, my apologies.

Liveblogged by Keri Morgret


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