Just Behave, A Look At Searcher Behavior

My brain is completely behaviored out at this point. Consider this your warning. I apologize in advance to the speakers. Please don’t judge them by my blogging. Speaking of which, the line up is moderator Gord Hotchkiss (Enquiro) with speakers Michael Ferguson (Ask.com), Laura Granka (Google) and Ben Hanna (Business.com).

Gord says this panel’s going to be a little bit different. I have fear. Oh, no. This is going to be mostly Q&A? No fair!

We have different types of memory. Long term memory is like writing something in your personal journal. We rewrite memory every time we recall it. There’s another type of memory called working memory which is short term. There’s not unlimited capacity in working memory [See the previous explanation of how many things you can track at a time from yesterday.]

We use search to fill up our blank slots. We have relationships with brands and different brands mean different things to us. Each triggers something that we associate with that brand. It’s not just a blank slate when you see brands on a search page, there’s already baggage attached.

When we start down the decision making process, we have thousands of options open to us. We like to think we’re rational beings [again, see yesterday] but what we do is cut it down to four or five. That’s bounded rationality.

[Actually, just assume you can go read the Search Marketing and Personas panel from yesterday for Gord’s presentation.]

Michael Ferguson is up next.

He explains that we don’t see everything in reality, we throw out a squadrons of simpletons and that interprets reality into a shorthand. The brain really only looks at one trillionth of things at one time. If we had to take in everything, we’d never cross the street or get out of bed.

Transactive memory (theory by Daniel Wegner) is knowing what other people know. It’s that you don’t need to remember everything or learn everything because there’s a collective brain forming. For example, each of your friends is good at something, so you can do to them for their level of expertise and you don’t need to do it all yourself. [It’s like they say. Surround yourself with smart people and get out of their way.]

[I enjoy that the Ask guys are always all about theory and big ideas. It’s not practical but it’s always interesting.]

Search is becoming part of transactive memory. The engines are taking more chances and taking on the role of experts. They’re bringing people in and trying to anticipate needs. He shows the Google page for the Rolling Stones, it’s got a news, video, image result. He also shows off the Ask results page, also with their information.

They’re moving towards giving you more information up front but there is still a lot they don’t do. The next step is social networks. They’re fun and goofy but they’re also good ways to find other people who can be your memory.

A lot of what we’re seeing is that individual pages need to evolve to be more like a person. Even for quick transactions there should be a personality, it should be trustworthy, it should be distinctive and helpful. It needs to be approachable and referable.

Ben Hanna from Business.com steps up to the plate and says he doesn’t have the same production value of the last presentation. Hee.

He’s going to cover the difference between B2B and B2C and share some observations from his perspective. Two things to keep in mind. People are people and peope are influenced by content.

People are people: You’re the same person that you when you’re at work or at home.

On the other hand, people are influenced by context. We can’t see or do everything so we kind of just respond to what’s salient. Social situations create discontinuity in thought and behavior. We might be aware of it or we might not.

Context can affect:
-risk taking vs. conservatism
-being action-oriented vs. passive
-Persistence on a task
-Beliefs about others (Stanford prison studies.)
-Beliefs about our selves
-sense of time
-speech patterns
-and much more.

At the end of the day you end up with multiple Mes. You have work!you, home!you, family!you, chef!you. etc.

What this means for search behavior is that you’re affected by context. In a work context, you’re under higher pressure, you’ve got a higher average risk, you’re looking at a rationalized and formal process. Your experience is higher, your requirements are more specific.

More information helps people that are less expert. Google helps in an earlier phase but more expert users might go to a more niche site. Think about your audience and the context in which they’re searching.

Laura Granka rounds out our short presentations.

They do usability studies, eyetracking, field studies diary studies. They use anonymized search logs.

Online search is an acquired skill. They have to meet several challenges.

Expressing needs as a query is hard. They can express themselves in a paragraph but they can’t boil that down to a single line query. They usually start too broad. They’re starting to add refined queries at the bottom to address this.

Rephrasing your search needs is not always intuitive. Even if you know what you want, you can get stuck in a rut and not get to the right wording.

Familiar brands matter. They search for familiar sites. Navigational queries are failures for Google (?)

They ran a little experiment reversing the top ten results, sticking number one at number ten to see if anyone would notice. Not so much, apparently. Selecting a good result is hard.

Users don’t always know what’s searchable online. Particularly true of local search. People don’t expect their local services to have any kind of presence online.

Sometimes people just want a quick answer. Weather, time in another part of the word, simple facts.

[Once again, I’m going to skip the Q&A. Barry’s over at the other table, maybe he’ll cover it.]

Susan Esparza is former managing editor at Bruce Clay Inc., and has written extensively for clients and internal publications. Along with Bruce Clay, she is co-author of the first edition of Search Engine Optimization All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies.

See Susan's author page for links to connect on social media.

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