Jonathan Saipe

How User Behaviour Type Influences SEO Keyphrase Selection and Website Design

19 October 2008, Jonathan Saipe

search engine user behaviourWhen running a search engine optimisation campaign, one the most important steps an SEO professional will recommend is to carry out keyphrase analysis in order to identify strategic and targeted keyphrases that will attract visitors to your product, service or brand.

Part of this step is to identify the target audience, i.e. the type of person likely to search for the keyphrases you have identified during planning.
Steve Krug - Don't Make Me Think

In Steve Krug’s fantastic book, Don’t Make Me Think (which refers to usability rather than search engine optimisation), he claims that there is no stereotypical web user. And, he is right.

However, what we can do is to identify users in the research / buying / searching process as there are normally clear trends and user types that one can identify.

Dave Chaffey’s book Emarketing Excellence, demonstrates that searchers tend to fall into three categories – “explorers”, “hunters” and “trackers” – when searching. Let’s explore these further.

I’ll use a real life example here – me! I recently had a new kitchen installed and purchased all of my appliances online. Whilst searching for my new oven, I realised that I was exhibiting the explorer/hunter/tracker search behaviour precisely as Dave Chaffey had explained it.

My initial research for an oven led me to carry out searches such as “built-in oven” or “integrated electric ovens”. At this stage I was researching and needed to establish the range of items for sale based on using relatively short tail keyphrases.

Websites with pages optimised for explorers will hone in on these kind of short tail keyphrases. Typical content could be buyer’s guides or blogs. Furthermore if the website content has clarity and good usability, these will perform best for explorers who tend to be impatient and click-happy.

By the time I had figured out what kind of oven I wanted, I went on to carry out longer tail keyphrases such as “Bosch built-in electric oven ” adding qualifier keyphrases such as “stainless steel” to the mix. At this point I was a hunter as I knew the brand, type and colour of oven I wanted.

Websites optimised for slightly longer tail keyphrases, possibly within their product range or service overview pages, will tend to rank and hence perform best. Be sure to include all keyphrases variants and synonyms (carried out using demand analysis techniques at the keyphrase planning stage).

From a design perspective, websites with the strongest or most persuasive brands as well as the most engaging content will tend to capture hunters and convert them to trackers.

After exploring and hunting for my oven, I was at the point when I knew exactly what model oven I wanted and simply needed to find the most trustworthy website or company offering my oven at the right price. At this stage I had become a tracker.

To attract trackers, websites need to focus on longer tail keyphrases such as product types or models; these keyphrases tend to be found in most abundance on product or service detail pages.

From a website design perspective, success with trackers comes down to prominent calls-to-action and persuasive design with good attention to detail on points-of-resolution during the checkout process.

I finally purchased my oven from a reputable etailer and so far haven’t had any problems!

See our related courses: Writing for the web and SEO training.

  • Sharon Jaffe

    Great Post, Jonathan! The “labelling” of the behaviours makes it much more recognisable and easier to take into account. I recently had the same experience looking for a guest bed which look me to a site for (although I didn’t even know the term “folding bed”, this is what happened when I moved from Explorer -> Hunter -> Tracker behaviour.


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