Is Search evolving into Online Anthropology?

Fri 18 December 2009 16:00, Lisa D Myers

Is Search evolving into Online Anthropology?

We were very excited to have Lisa Myers join Searchcowboys as a columnist and ever since her first column, "Is Search evolving into Online Anthropology?" she hasn't dissapointed us. Her first column right away was a blast. She showed us that though search is technical, it is also human.

Is Search evolving into Online Anthropology?
First posted at January 27th 2009

First of all I just want to say how excited I’m to be in the Searchcowboys crew, I have been following the Searchcowboys blog ever since I met Bas at SMX in London back in November.  Hopefully I won’t disappoint.  So here I am, a Norwegian SEO Chick living in the UK blogging with the boys at searchcowboys. Yehaw!!

I’m fascinated by search marketing, both paid and organic and I think most search marketers can agree that search is much more than just the relationship between a website and the search engines. It’s about the relationship between:

  • The user and the search engine
  • The user and the keyword/s they use in the search engines
  • The search engines and your website
  • The user and your website

You could say that, initially, search is about an interaction between a potential buyer and a search engine, the interaction starting as a result of a keyword or combination of keywords. But the reality is that several external factors can have an impact already before this stage.  Other forms of marketing, such as TV, press, other online marketing or even WOM (word of mouth) can have a big impact on the user before they start searching. Knowing that you can influence these external factors is an important part of successful search marketing. The words people use when performing a search can be influenced and changed to your benefit.


Search Engine marketing, whether SEO or Paid search should be about generating relevant traffic that converts into business! Therefore our job needs to delve a bit deeper into which keywords needs to be presented to the searches in the correct time in the buying cycle and also which additional marketing efforts you can utilise to influence the search path of the user. The tendency to look at search purely from the perspective of  “what can we do to make sure that the search engines displays us first” is a common mistake, we cannot rely on “pre programmed” keywords and assume that for example someone looking for new office furniture will type in “office furniture”, see your result, click on it and convert. The user and their behaviour are far more complex.

Commonly it’s presumed the users search patch goes something like this:


Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately =) It’s very unlikely the path is that simple. It’s more likely to be something like this:


And the conversion at the end is highly speculative; in fact this might only be the journey of the first session. If a user is “buying” online it’s even likely they will come back at a later stage and their search query might be totally different based on the information and research they have gathered in previous searches. The point here is (and can you believe it, I actually have a point lol) that the user behaviour when it comes to the search engines are complex, not only when it comes to what search query (keyword/s) they use but also the method and the path they follow to arrive at the final goal.

Add on the additional challenge of targeting different countries where people are speaking different languages, cultural differences and online maturity you have a whole new world of research to do as well as knowledge to gain. The bottom line is: Search is no longer just about understanding the technical aspects of how to rank a website highly, it has become the knowledge of understanding the user and the paths they take - like online anthropology with a geeky twist ;p

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