Getting people to find and visit your website isn’t easy, but it pales in comparison to the challenge of getting visitors to convert.

shows people lined up in a book store waiting to buy the lastest book in the Harry Potter series
RIA Novosti archive, image #168856 / Sergey Pyatakov / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
A website conversion is when a visitor does what you want them to do:
  • give you their email address;
  • register for an event;
  • download a white paper;
  • fill out a lead / contact form; or
  • buy something from you.

One way to increase your chances of having someone convert is to spend time learning why people search. If you understand why people search, it’s easier to craft content that will satisfy their information wants and needs so they remember you when they’re ready to do business.

People Search With Intent

People search for a reason. They want to:

  • navigate to a specific website or web page;
  • find information; or
  • transact.

a group of people, young and old, in a park staring up at the sky with binoculars on the how people search blog post

The difference between these three types of searches is intent:

  • The first group knows exactly where they want to go, they just can’t remember how to get there. They type navigational queries into a search engine, typically a brand name like “Sprint” or “Verizon” rather than an actual web address like or
  • The second group doesn’t have a destination in mind. They want information to answer a question or get things done. Informational queries consist of phrases like “cell phone comparisons” or “iPhone vs Samsung”.
  • The third group is ready to transact. They know exactly what they want but don’t know where to get it. Transactional queries include specific brand and product names like “Samsung Galaxy S6 4G” and often contain words like “buy,” “purchase,” or “order” and place names or ZIP codes.

Once you know why people are searching, you can pick the type of searches you want to rank for and then craft content to satisfy their needs.

Give People What They Want and Need

I can tell you now there’s no point in trying to rank for someone else’s brand. It’s very hard to do and won’t produce the results you want.

characters from the disney movie Pinocchio

If a searcher types “Sprint” into a search engine, they want and expect to be shown search results that will take them to the Sprint website. If they end up somewhere different, they’ll form a negative impression of your site.

Do not manipulate or mislead searchers. Your reputation (and rankings) will suffer.

50-80% of search queries are informational. People who conduct informational queries want answers to questions and how-to information. The best way to rank for those queries and give people what they want is to create content that is genuine, specific and accurate. If you establish yourself as being trustworthy, honest and helpful, people will remember you when they’re ready to transact.

By Ben Schumin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Schumin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
To get people to transact, you need to augment great content with two other things:
  • a crystal clear explanation of why people should do business with you (and not your competition); and
  • a quick and easy conversion process.

So how do people search?

People search using keywords.

Keywords are the words and phrases people type into a search engine when they’re trying to find something.

keyword definition

Search engines use those same words to try to match queries to content on the Internet. When the words in a search query match the words on an Internet page or blog post, that content becomes eligible to rank. Eligible to rank content doesn’t necessarily rank at the top of search results, but it is in the running.

People Search Using Google

65 – 85% of the world’s population searches using Google depending on who you ask and what they measure.

According to, “In December 2012, 77 percent of the 1.52 billion search engine users worldwide conducted a Google search at least once. That’s 1.17 billion Google users, as opposed to 293 million users of Baidu [China] and 292 million users of Yahoo’s search. Microsoft’s Bing was used by 267 million people in December, clearly distancing Yandex [Russia] in terms of reach.”

If you care about getting found on the Internet, focus on Google.

People Search Top-Down

Most people will cycle through using informational, navigational and transactional queries when using the Internet. They start with short, broad informational searches.

Let’s say I’m looking to find information about the latest cell phones. If I’m a typical Internet user, I will start with an informational query and type something like “cell phone comparisons” into my favorite search engine (Google).

google search results for "cell phone comparisons"As you can see in the results shown above, Google returned 8.89 million search results for that query. The last 2 look highly relevant.

After reviewing these results, I decide I’m leaning toward the Samsung Galaxy S6 4G phone, but want to find out more about its camera. I lengthen my informational query so it now becomes “Samsung Galaxy S6 4G camera reviews”.

google search results for samsung galaxy s6 4g phone reviews

This time I get about half as many results, roughly 3 million. After reviewing those, I decide I’m ready to buy. I type “buy Samsung Galaxy S6 4G cell phone near Philadelphia” into Google.

search results for "buy Samsung Galaxy S6 4G cell phone near Philadelphia"

I’m starting to catch on now. I realize the more specific the keyword phrases I type into Google, the fewer and better results get returned. This time I was shown just over 2 million results, and the top results are very familiar to me, Samsung itself, Best Buy and Verizon.

People like to do business with those they know like and trust. I know both Best Buy and Verizon. I know I can get the phone either place, their prices are the same or very similar, and the Best Buy website checkout process is lengthy and complicated.

I don’t have a good impression from my past experience with the Best Buy website, so I decide to do a navigational search for “Verizon”.

verizon search result

Google’s top organic search result is for the Verizon Wireless website ( I’m also shown a map (off to the right) with red push-pins indicating the stores closest to my searching place.

I now have exactly what I need. I can either go online and order directly from Verizon, or I can drive a couple of miles down the road and go to one of their local stores.

People Search Top-Down Using Keywords and Google

The process I used was top-down.

  • I started with a short, broad Informational query and keyword phrase that returned close to 10 million results.
  • I quickly narrowed my options down to something more manageable using longer, more specific, keyword phrases.
  • I decided WHAT I wanted to buy, and entered a Transactional search (using the words “buy” and “Philadelphia”) to figure out WHERE I could get it.
  • Relying on my past impression of one of the options presented in search results, I decided to buy from Verizon. I did a Google Navigational search (using the brand name “Verizon”) and was shown the company’s website and nearby store locations.

top down search process

I got exactly what I needed.

There are a couple of lessons learned from this example.

  • It’s important to know how people are searching for your goods and services. Your website content has to use the same language as your searching audience.
  • Most people don’t look beyond the first page of search results.
  • There’s no point in optimizing for your competitor’s brand names.
  • Create lots of original, detailed, and high-quality content to help people get answers to their questions and differentiate you from the competition. If you do a good job, you’ll be top-of-mind and easy to find when your best prospects and/or customers are searching for you.
  • Include your business location on every page of your website. It won’t guarantee you’ll rank on top of search results for queries containing those words, but you will at least be eligible to rank.
  • Differentiate yourself and provide a quick and easy checkout process to “seal the deal”.

i want a samsung galaxy S6 G4 phone

Don’t waste time, energy and money chasing short and highly competitive search terms. Savvy business owners can rank faster and convert more customers quickly by optimizing for long-tail, informational keyword phrases, differentiating themselves clearly, and enabling a quick and easy conversion process.

What do you think? Does this make sense? Let me know your thoughts and/or questions in the comments below.

This article was originally published on the B-SeenOnTop blog as Convert More Customers By Understanding Why and How People Search.

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