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Web users psychology

User psychology: how do people approach Search engines?

Meta data, until a few years ago, played a key role in web ranking. Search engine spiders, in fact, classified the content of web pages according to keywords and meta description and, consequently, serps depended on these piece of information. But, first and foremost, meta data have been designed to decrease the redundancy and lack of clarity of the net. People welcomed this innovation with enthusiasm because they wished to obtain a properly mapped Internet. But, like all new-born methods, it lacked monitoring system. Many stakeholders grasped the occasion and, instead of investing time and resources on keyword brainstorming, they chose to adopt massive keyword stuffing. As time passed, stakeholders usedbad SEOmore and more, until search engines decided to penalize all those websites which adopted this non-functional behaviour.

Today I won't dwell on companies and the methods they adopt to build keywords. This post, instead, focuses on someone who has been forgotten for too long in the internet logic:the user. How long are people willing to search for something online before giving up? Do they just scroll through the first Google results or do they perform another internet search if not satisfied? Do keywords play an important role in queries formulation process?

To answer these questions, we have to analyse how users approach online searchfrom the beginning. It all starts from the desire of satisfying personal needs. When people can't find an answer to their needs in the real world, they use a device and an internet connection to reach it. Consulting a search engine is not the first cognitive process. Long before web surfers access the internet their brains translated the mental image of the desired object into a string of words.

Having taken this into account, we can affirm that a query formulation processstarts off-line and that keywords are not considered in this first phase. This is particularly true for average users, which are not native digital beings. When this kind of cybernauts perform an Internet search, in fact, they express through complete sentences rather than through a short sequences of words. I'll make an example to make it clearer: a couple is on holiday in London and they'd like to have dinner in the best restaurant of the city. Before going out, they decide to search for the best solution on line. As a first attempt, they'll type “What's the best restaurant in London” in Google search engine box rather than “Best restaurant London”.

It's common belief that most of the users won't analyse a whole SERP. According to the stereotypes, average web surfers would read the descriptions of the first Google results only, while they'd pay less and less attention as they scroll through the page. On the other hand, all those websites which appear at the bottom of the page would be penalized. About a decade ago, different researches based on eye-tracking method proved these statements to be true: most of the people who took part in these experiments, in fact, tended to focus on the upper left corner of a page, named "Golden Triangle" area.

Through the years Google SERPS aspect changedsignificantly and thus these researches are no longer representative of users real online behaviour. Look at this Google search result page below: due to the introduction of many brand new items, such as local listings and knowledge graphs, organic results shifted down the page. So web surfers have to scroll the entire SERP if they are not interested to sponsored insertions. Recently, Mediative, a company providing digital services, conducted a new eye-tracking based research, which points out how users approach to Search Engines evolved. According to Mediative data, the famous Golden Triangle exists no more. Nowadays, the graphs show us, people are more likely to “draw” an F with their eyes when scanning SERPS.

The company asserts that Search Engines interface aspect transformations are not the only reason for the users' behavioral evolution. Respect to ten years ago, in fact, they employ many devices to reach the Internet (Smart phones, Tablet and so on) and to think that these tools affects their on line activity is just obvious.

What do internet addicted do if the first Google result page does not present satisfying contents? The question may sound lame, however considering the era of fast pace life where people are used to obtain everything in few minutes, it will be interesting to dwell in the question. Rationally, the only useful thing to do would be to perform another search typing a different string of words. But how many people do this simple operation?

According to anItalian Survey conducted by FullPlan, 38 out of 100 web surfers who use Search engines every day, change keywords after reading the first Google results page. Some others (24%), instead, are more obstinate and seek for information in the second page of SERPS too. But only 6 users out of 100 venture themselves in third page. So, if you want to grow your business you have to look carefully on SEO evolution and users behaviour. Otherwise you'll be forgotten forever. 

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