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One of the major trends explored in Econsultany’s new SEO Agencies Buyer’s Guide is that user search behaviour is changing.

In this industry, there’s no shortage of information around how and why marketers are using SEO, but to me, there seems to be a distinct lack of research which looks from the other side of the fence at how we use search as internet users.

Best practice is extremely important, but so is understanding how people are actually using search engines.

So I jumped at the chance to check out some recent research out by Performics and ROI Research, where they had surveyed people’s motivations and behaviour when using search engines. The data is US-based, but in my opinion reflect trends that are globally applicable.

Natural search vs. Paid search

When asked if they know the difference between natural and paid search results...

  • 63% said Yes
  • 37% said No

The age demographics of those who did know the difference between natural and paid search results...

  • 18-29 - 80% said Yes
  • 30-39 - 59% said Yes
  • 40-49 - 63% said Yes
  • 50-59 - 58% said Yes
  • 60+ - 52% said Yes

When asked how often they click on natural and paid search results...

Natural results:

  • 37% Always
  • 42% Frequently
  • 15% Occasionally
  • 4% Rarely
  • 2% Never

Paid results:

  • 5% Always
  • 15% Frequently
  • 43% Occasionally
  • 29% Rarely
  • 8% Never

User search behaviour

4 in 10 respondents (40%) used a search engine more than twenty times in any given week.

The age demographics of those who used a search engine more than twenty times in any given week...

  • 18-29 - 54%
  • 30-39 - 53%
  • 40-49 - 36%
  • 50-59 - 28%
  • 60+ - 26%

88% of respondents will click on a result that has the exact phrase they searched for.

89% said that they will alter their search query if they don’t find the results they’re looking for.

89%  will ultimately change search engines if they don’t find the results they’re looking for.

79% will go through multiple pages of results, if their query isn’t answered in the first page.

Universal Search

53% of respondents said they're more likely to click on a listing if it includes and image.

48% said that they click on a company or brand if they appear multiple times in the SERPs.

26% said they were more likely to click on a search result if it included a video.

Why users are searching

83% use search engines to find specific products or brands.

78% said that they did informational search queries after seeing an advertisement for a product or brand somewhere else.

80% use search engines for informational queries about a specific product or brand before purchasing online.

76% use search engines for informational queries about a specific product or brand before purchasing offline.

78% said that they used search engines to find the best price of a specific products or brand.

74% used search engines to find where they can purchase a specific product or brand offline.

Overall, these findings support what many in the industry have long suspected: that SEO is crucially important, as consumers not only trust natural search results more than paid search ones, but are also more responsive to organisations with greater visibility.

[Image credit: Danard Vincente]

Jake Hird

Published 11 January, 2011 by Jake Hird

Jake Hird is Econsultancy Australia's Director of Research and Education. Follow him on Twitter and Google+, connect with him on LinkedIn or see what he's keeping an eye on via diigo

126 more posts from this author

Comments (20)

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blueclaw

Indeed a great read - user intent of search is indeed a core focus for SEO in 2011, i would always try and think !what does the user want to see when searching for - 'apple' - do they want the computer co or do they want to know about trees? the bottom section - why users are searching - i think this claps into reputation management and now into the social sphere, judging that people are now familiarising themselves with brands face book and twitter profiles etc. Thanks for the read and food for thought JG

almost 6 years ago

Joe Friedlein

Joe Friedlein, Director at Browser Media

That is a very good collection of interesting stats.

The "89% will ultimately change search engines if they don’t find the results they’re looking for" stat must make Google feel pretty smug (based on their continued dominance) as it obviously works for most search journeys.

"48% said that they click on a company or brand if they appear multiple times in the SERPs" is also an interesting one - it would be interesting to know if that figure rises yet further if the brand also appears in the PPC ads. A good read!

almost 6 years ago

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yivanetwork

I think i saw this stats somewhere before. But still good to be refreshed. Overall, Natural vs paid has a reasonalbe portion of share, but i believe in some industries or product niches, paid is having more clicks than avg.

almost 6 years ago

Ian Harris

Ian Harris, CEO at Search LaboratorySmall Business Multi-user

Very interesting stats. I am always interested in the differences between B2B and B2C behaviour. Google have some stats on this, but they tend to want you to spend more on PPC so I would rather see the figures come from elsewhere.

almost 6 years ago

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Allan Helleskov Kleiner

Very informative. Especially "Why users are searching". If you are great SEO-wise it could be a goldmine. It's the daily SEO-work which makes you no. 1.

almost 6 years ago

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Martyn

I'd be interested to see similar information based on real user data rather than answers to a survey.

I've found in the past that if you ask a user if they click PPC ads, they'll say no, but in reality if the ad matches their search phrase or it's a brand they recognise, they'll go ahead and click it anyway despite what they've told you about their attitude to PPC.

Interesting info nonetheless.

almost 6 years ago

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Nigel T Packer

From our work with Adwords management and search marketing for clients, we find that the biggest ‘turn off’ for a user searching with keyphrases is the content of the classified advertisements that appear is unrelated to the search or the users’ task.This is why so many do not use the sponsored links.

Experience has also shown them that the link destination page is also unrelated to their task and therefore a waste of time.

There is clear evidence that many companies are spending a high proportion of their budgets on wasted click throughs.

The process of achieving a successful paid search campaign is more complex than the pick some keywords, write content for the classified Ad and put a link on it to your website.

This is an interesting set of stats and further contributes to the understanding of user experience in search marketing.

Kind regards

Nigel T Packer

almost 6 years ago

Peter Leatherland

Peter Leatherland, Online Sales Manager at Ethical Superstore

Would be interesting to see the actual questions used, if the info here is derived from them, so the question for - 89%  will ultimately change search engines if they don’t find the results they’re looking for. was "would you ultimately change search engines if they don’t find the results your’re looking for" then it would seem a bit leading, of course people will say they will change but how many people would do it in practice?

Also whats up with the people who say they only click on natural results Occasionally (15%) Rarely (4%) and Never (2%)?? Not sure if they have answered the first question properly (do you know the difference between natural and paid search results). I don't see why anyone would deliberately not click on natural results as they provide visibly more relevant results and are impartial.

almost 6 years ago

Fran Jeanes

Fran Jeanes, Internet Business Consultant at i-contact web design

If you are in the 2% of those who never click on natural search results, are you human?!

An interesting read. Thanks.

almost 6 years ago

Jake Hird

Jake Hird, Director of Research and Education at Econsultancy

Thanks for the comments, everyone. 

Not much I can really add, but as some of you have pointed out, a more in-depth study could be useful: Maybe something for me to do in the future...! 

almost 6 years ago

Peter Leatherland

Peter Leatherland, Online Sales Manager at Ethical Superstore

Fran Jeanes - "If you are in the 2% of those who never click on natural search results, are you human?!" Perhaps they just like clcik fraud!

almost 6 years ago

Vincent Amari

Vincent Amari, Online Consultancy at Business Foresights Ltd

The 2% of those who never click on natural search result could be users fed-up with their search results being full of spammy content sites, so have more 'faith' in websites that pay to be displayed?

almost 6 years ago

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John Crenshaw

I've got another stat: 100% of surveys track what people think they do, not what they actually do.

These kinds of surveys are entirely pointless.

almost 6 years ago

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Justin Gottlieb

Peter Leatherland - Just to clarify, it's not that "89% will ultimately change search engines if they don’t find the results they’re looking for", but rather 89% say that if they don't find what they are looking for on one search engine, they will try a different search engine. So it is not that people are switching loyalty from let's say Yahoo to Bing, but rather are willing to try Bing if they can't find what they are looking for on Yahoo. The question asks respondents to agree/disagree (on a 5 point scale) with the following statement: "If I don’t find what I’m looking for on one search engine, I will try a different search engine". The 89% is a summary of those who somewhat agree and strongly agree. I hope that clarifies it for you.

almost 6 years ago

Peter Leatherland

Peter Leatherland, Online Sales Manager at Ethical Superstore

Justin - That makes more sense, didn't realise it was on a 5 point agree/disagree scale. I think John might be a bit harsh saying research like this is pointless but he has a point that there can be a difference between what people say they do and what they actually do. I’ve had conversations with people in the past who have insisted a site is 'broken' because they were typing the URL into Google (the site had not been spidered) and absolutely insisting they were typing the address into the address bar and not a search engine. (You would be amazed how many people do this and don’t even realise the address bar is there!) My point is many people who are new to the web just use it and don’t really know (or care) what is going on and how it works, and I would guess their answers to these questions would not be what they actually do. I still think it is interesting research and certainly useful, perhaps more difficult to run but it would be interesting to test real people sitting at a screen running real searches and monitoring their actions.

almost 6 years ago

Fran Jeanes

Fran Jeanes, Internet Business Consultant at i-contact web design

Peter, you bring up a good point about users typing urls into the search box. Though I haven't seen this from a non-spidering point of view, just people using the browser in a sub optimal manner.

I can't tell you how many clients, friends and family I see do that! To them it seems perfectly fine to type in the url as a search term and then select the domain name from the search results. They know there is another, larger, similar looking area [the address bar!] at the top of the browser but don't use it. 

Go figure how reliable the survey results are if users like that are being questioned. :)

almost 6 years ago

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Lyndsey

This is remarkably useful data!! Thank you!

almost 6 years ago

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Marty Cairns

@Fran Jeanes


I am also amazed at the numbers of people who do that. Stand in a public library and watch older people use the free internet there and it must be 75%

almost 6 years ago

Fran Jeanes

Fran Jeanes, Internet Business Consultant at i-contact web design

Marty, I am going to the library later today so I might be able to witness it first hand! ;)

almost 6 years ago

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Vivek Parmar

never knew many of the terms, thanks for including them at one place

almost 6 years ago

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