The Three Search Behavior Patterns: Answer … Educate … Inspire

Three mindsets of search, from Latitude consumer research survey (2011)Not long ago, I blogged about how the Internet has become as fundamental to our existence as the very air we breathe. On any given day, millions of people log on to the web to find answers to any number of questions they may have.

But despite the limitless subjects that are the topic of these searches, it turns out that search behaviors can be divided into three distinct categories.

That’s what research conducted earlier this year by survey firm Latitude Research found. The results of this highly interesting survey, which queried ~925 Americans age 21 to 54, revealed that users searching on the web exhibit just three major behavior patterns:

Answer Me – People in this mode want answers to exactly what they’re asking for … no less and no more. They also want the answers delivered to them in the most direct way possible. These types of queries are the largest component of searches … representing ~46% of all searches.

Educate Me – People in this mode are looking for comprehensive understanding on an issue, and they’re usually interested in multiple perspectives. They’ll search until their goal is satisfied … and this may occur over a lengthy period of time and through multiple searches on related topics. These types of queries make up ~26% of all searches, and they’re often on topics like finance and healthcare.

Inspire Me – The third category of queries are the creative, exploratory type of search where people have an open mind, are willing to be led, and are open to surprises. These types of searches represent the remaining ~28%, and are often on topics pertaining to the arts, hobbies, travel, home inspirations and gardening.

The Latitude Research report recommends that web sites include content that can appeal to all three categories of searches … although there will usually be a preponderance of one type over the others depending on the market segments, products and services involved.

The following suggestions were made for aligning content to query behaviors:

For “answer” searches … it’s wise to feature product/service benefits, in addition to presenting content in quick, easy-to-find answers. Clearly defined “selling” pitches work well in this setting.

For “educate” searches … present informative content that also provides ways to explore more facets of the issue … plus offering relevant links to additional online information sources. The “selling” in this case comes more in the form of educating and informing.

For “inspire” searches … focus on sparking the imagination of site visitors, with “surprise” moments that will generate interest and spur creative thought. When this is done effectively, strong sales pitches don’t need to be pushed because the viewer will be drawn into the buying process naturally and effortlessly.

For more on the interesting findings from the Three Mindsets of Search research study, click here.

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