How People will Search In 2017

How People Post

Marketers everywhere will watch closely as searcher behaviour evolves in 2016. I'm going to share a clip that demonstrates how people are beginning to search. It's from the Netflix show Master of None. It shows us how the character Dev makes a decision on where to eat tacos in New York City.

Before we get into this amazing clip, here's something else to think about. In her popular TEDx talk on The Science of Shopping and Future of Retail, Devora Rogers makes the very astute point that today's shoppers actually take pleasure in researching and consuming information about products before they buy. This means that the information, content and media related to your product on the web must be entertaining and engaging. One example I love that illustrates this point beautifully is the YouTube channel for Kelly Blue Book. The humour and production value are tremendous. This otherwise very boring business that provides the blue book value of any given car has transformed itself into a very influential resource for car buyers! It did for me when I bought a fancy-pants Toyota Corolla last year.

So with this insight, we now know that when people set out to make decisions on what to purchase -- even if it's something as trivial as choosing a taco joint -- they want to be entertained and they want their decisions to be validated by third-party media, if not completely influenced by it. They may even be doing this research to convince someone else to come along, or even approve of the purchase.

An extreme version of this might be someone asking their spouse to pay for a breast augmentation with Surgeon X because of reviews on Real-Self or a young child asking their parents for a new bike that's detailed in a YouTube video and does A, B, and C.

Now that I have your mind stirring and have given you an idea of how people's search habits will evolve in 2016, have a look this 30-second clip that does a great job at illustrating how people search!

This really is how so many of us search! It may be a byproduct of more content being available or simply the computing power and interconnectivity we now take for granted.

I've grouped Dev's search strategies under the following categories:

  • Google search
  • Reading lists
  • Reading review articles and blogs
  • Asking friends
  • Reading Yelp reviews
  • Looking at photos

Google Search

You'll notice that he starts off with a Google search for "best new tacos NYC." From there he quickly weeds through search results and open multiple tabs. This is important. Today's user don't want to rely on one source of information. In fact, it's been shown that, when shopping for a car, for instance, the average user touches about 18 different types of media. Funnily enough, they only touch about 10 when researching medication to give their child. Learn more about that here.

Reading Lists

Lists provide (primarily) unbiased third-party information of what product or service, or in this case taco, you plan to buy. Lists are great because they save us time from having to research the information individually.

Reading Review Articles and Blogs

Getting a positive review on an owned-site can mean great things for your business. It's likely to rank well and it will make your product or service feel special to people who are actively researching it. It's an endorsement that requires editorial approval, which increases its authority and ultimately its trust.

Asking Friends

Word-of-mouth and asking friends still pulls a lot of weight. My friends know me as a headphone expert. 9/10 ask me for recommendations. In the video, you can see Dev texting his friends "where da tasty tacos at?" Perhaps he's asking a foodie friend, or someone has made a delicious meal for him lately. The important thing to note is that he's not just asking anyone, he's likely asking someone's opinion on the matter he trusts. Here's an example from my own life where my friend specifically wanted to know my opinion on which headphones to buy:

Asking Expert Friends

As Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his famous book, The Tipping Point, these people would be known as Mavens. Mavens are "information specialists," or "people we rely upon to connect us with new information," writes Gladwell." They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others. A Maven is someone who wants to solve other people's problems, generally by solving his own." According to Gladwell, Mavens start "word-of-mouth epidemics" due to their knowledge, social skills, and ability to communicate. As Malcolm Gladwell states," Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know." Source

Reading Yelp Reviews

Whether they're Yelp reviews, Google or Amazon reviews, the more you have, the better! It goes without saying that the reviews should be positive, but even having a few three-star reviews can help give legitimacy to your reviews on the while. Reviews, although not as powerful as recommendations from your expert friends, are still a very powerful third-party validation that helps people make purchasing decisions. Thus, people search for them.

Looking at Photos

I'll add looking at videos to the mix here, too. But if you think about it, adding photos is such an easy way to influence decision making. We're not only talking about the product photos on your website, but the photos that appear off your website on blogs and more importantly, Google images. Let's say you're buying a handbag and there are four photos of it on the website. Don't you think today's searcher is going to head over to Google images to see more detail, sometimes higher resolution photos? Simply flooding the web with alternate photos of your products can help buyers make the decision to purchase. Try including different photos in your press kit or encourage your bloggers to upload their own photos when you're doing community outreach. They will get indexed by Google and sometimes they will appear as regular blue links in Google search results.

Google Images In Search Results

In Summary

Before I sum up, it's important for me to touch on voice search. Google Now, Cortana, Siri and Amazon Alexa have all advanced to the point where many people simply speak their searches because it's faster than typing. For more in-depth research, I think it's fair to say that the points I outlined above will still predominate, especially when people research higher ticket items, or when they're choosing a restaurant for a big date!

It's not good enough just to be there as I wrote about when I covered Google Zero Moment of Truth in 2011. Today you've got to make sure that your brand carries a consistent story when it's covered around the web through, blogs, social media, photos and videos, etc. Customer service needs to be a top priority, although Devora Rogers hints that the idea of good customer service is changing. Today people expect a tailored experience especially in eCommerce, they want relevance and offers that appeal to them. Amazon clearly stands out in this regard.

It's important to realize that people take pleasure in researching and interacting with products and service before they buy. They want companies and third-parties to reinforce their decisions rather than influence them. That doesn't mean we should ignore Dr. Robert Cialdini's 6 Principles of Influence, but we should understand how third-parties and experts/mavens are the key drivers.

When creating content about your product, don't simply focus on the benefits to the user. Think about the other factors that will influence their decision making. Price is the obvious one, but the time it takes to deliver will also be a major factor. I would not be surprised if "same-day delivery" started popping up next to your products in Google Search Console.

The searches for "same-day delivery" is rising steadily.

Don't forget that your product or service may have a gatekeeper you need to convince, too. Think of safety features for a new car versus the audio system and horsepower. Create and inspire content that speaks to both.

Whether you're publishing great content on a weekly basis or not, a growing number of searchers want to find out everything about you. They're performing multiple searches, clicking on multiple search results, asking friends they trust and looking for third-party validation once they've narrowed down their choices. It's a brave new world for search marketers and we're forced to look at "optimizing" the spheres of influence that exist outside of the website's for products and services. If we do this, we're sure to have success in 2016 and beyond!

It's a competitive market. Contact us to learn how you can stand out from the crowd.

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Post a Comment


  • avatar

    I think these search trends will continue to follow for long. It’s almost the mid of 2017 and your article is so very relevant.

  • avatar

    Excellent post about how people will search, I hope this concept will apply to this year as well.
    Thanks again,

  • avatar

    Thanks Steve. That was quite an insight. Well appreciated. You turn simple people into ‘real pros’. Imagine sitting down with a client and telling them this stuff. They’ll be amazed.

  • avatar

    LOVED IT!! Thank you for some new focus on 2016, I agree I need to get some product videos out and MORE REVIEWS!!!

    • avatar

      Thanks Heather. So glad you found this useful! Try asking your customers to find you in Google Maps on their phones and ask them for a review. Once they find you, it’s quite seamless.

  • avatar

    Hi Steve,
    “The other side of the picture!” These are the words that flashed in my mind while I was reading this post. We rarely come across posts that are written from the user’s point of view. Quite an unusual approach.
    Will look forward to more such posts.

    • avatar

      Thanks Charles! I thought the same thing when I saw the clip from Master of None. Sometimes I’ll ask my wife: “what did you search for to get that?” That also helps me put my mind in the user’s perspective!

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