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How people search and interact with Google

24 June 2014

  • Google
  • Search

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Knowing how people use Google to find your web page is an important pillar of understanding the role search engine optimisation has in your online marketing strategy. Armed with this knowledge you can effectively target and reach your audience.

We’ve all used Google to help us find a massive range of different web pages, so let’s categories our mindsets when we perform search queries.

I need to get something

Transactional queries are when you want to buy a laptop, or download an eBook, they represent a query that will end in a transaction (not always for money) between the service provide and you. If you operate an ecommerce website these types of queries will be your bread and butter for sale conversions and gaining quality visitors to your website.

I need to know something

Informational queries relate to when you are searching for information, say you’re out in town and can't remember the address of the restaurant you're going to, well you grab out a smartphone, type the name in Google and boom, there is the address using an informational query such as “Papa Italian postcode Northampton”.

I need to go to a website

Navigational queries are when you can’t remember the exact web address of the website your looking for, so your search in Google for the brand, company, team or band name, for example “northampton town football club”.

(Thanks to Bernard J. Jansen, Danielle L. Booth from College of Information Sciences and Technology, The Pennsylvania State University for their query type categorisation).

The results of a query

Once you perform your search query, Google goes off to find relevant pages within it’s index and presents them on a SERP (Search Engine Result Page), you then trawl through what you think is relevant and click onto a web page of interest. Now it get’s interesting, Google is listening to your actions and tracking if you come straight back to search page (known as a bounce) or whether your spend time looking at the web page clicked on and other pages on that website, because if you are reading more content and spending more time on a particular website, then it must have been relevant to your search query, so thats a good result served up for Google.

Google is trying to serve up the most relevant results it possibly can by listening to 1000s of signals and how you search and then interact with the clicked on website is one of them. Without relevant results, Google’s core product would be useless and you the searcher (i.e. Google’s customer) would use another search engine.

Inside a typical search session

We all use Google without really thinking about it, so let’s run through a transactional query session from start to finish:

  1. I want to buy a pair of jeans (This is the person's intent)
  2. Search google for “blue denim jeans.
    1. This resulted in mens and womens jeans, I am only interested in mens jeans so adjust query to “blue denim jeans for men”
  3. Click on
    1. Spend 5 minutes browsing, didn't find anything I liked, return to google
  4. Click on
    1. Landing page doesn't appeal to me, straight back to Google (A bounce)
  5. Click on
    1. Found the jeans I want, called “Diesel superbia-np”
    2. Left wondering if I can get them cheaper elsewhere, back to Google
  6. New search for “Diesel superbia-np”
    1. Found some on an outlet store ( with a markdown of 30%, site looks good, but on the checkout there is an option for a discount voucher, one final Google search for “farfetch discount coupons”
    2. Couldn't find a discount coupon, will just checkout anyway.
    3. Completed transaction and completed my goal, new jeans are on there way!

What's interesting about this session is that we started with a fairly wide query, no mention of brands or size, then we narrowed it down after visiting a few websites and finding a brand we liked, but it didn't stop there, once we found the product it was then a case of getting the cheapest price and on top of that trying to find a discount coupon. There may of been 10 - 20 websites involved before a purchase decision was made. Therefore it’s incredibly important to get top rankings to gain visibility, but don’t take your eye from the offering, presentation and conversion optimisation too as the visitor can easily click away.

Some astonishing statistics

The top 5 search engines in the United Kingdom from August 2012 to July 2013 where Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Ask Jeeves and AOL. However, Google has a 90.54% market share! That’s why RANK! is focused solely on the process of ranking in Google.

StatCounter search engine GB monthly 201208 201307 bar

It’s obvious to see that a top ranking in Google is going to potentially bring you a tenfold return in visitors compared with other search engines.

How your ranking dictates click through rate (CTR)

Getting on to page 1 of Google for your keywords is a fantastic success, but don't get complacent. Your position on page 1 of the SERP will dramatically affect the amount of people that click through to your website. A study by SlingshotSEO revealed these click through rates:

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You can instantly see how important position one is, even over position 2, with nearly double the amount of click throughs. It essential to dominate the top 3 positions for your keywords to see a decent return on your SEO time and money investment.

The other “lost” percentages are made up of:

  • People that clicked on paid for adverts
  • People that didn't click at all and searched for something else
  • People that went onto page 2
  • It’s also worth noting that seasonality affects the CTR of certain keyword pools, near christmas time (December) CTR’s increase as people look for gifts.

So what can we take away from all this?

  • Your rankings in Google matters, a lot, but you knew that already
  • The first 3 positions is where it’s at, if you want to be found
  • Search queries can result in online transactions and offline transactions
  • The intent of person searching will heavily weight their final actions

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