The who, when, why and what of internet searching is basically applied psychology. The type of consumer that visits your brand new web site, when they do so, why they do it and the device that they use is governed by their own thoughts, beliefs, and values.

Users can do anything that they want on the internet. They can search for images, share life experiences on social media, find directions to a store or buy things. All of this will affect how one brand is ranked compared to another in the search results. The key to providing search engine results that work for the consumer is the interpretation of intent. What did they want to find when they typed the words into the search box and were they pleased with the results?

Is the smartphone the new way in which everyone is using the internet or is desktop search taking over? Internet usage is a continually evolving picture and if your business cannot keep up with the changes then you will struggle. Instead of continually playing catch up by adopting the latest search engine fad, it may be better for you to get inside the head of your visitors with some clever psychological principles.

User intent and state of mind

If search engine giants like Google are going to provide the results that consumers want, they need to do a lot more than simply matching keywords. They need to understand phrases, appreciate user priorities and understand their state of mind. This enables them to optimise the search ranking algorithm and reconcile it with what users actually want to see.

This information is useful to you as a marketer. You can put yourself along the route of customer trains of thought.

Defining a micro moment

This is a critical moment during the act of searching when users are most likely to be swayed by search results. It is when it is most easy to ‘get at’ them. The moment may be different between mobile and desktop users as the intent of the user may be very different on the two devices. The aim is to build up an intent profile so that users can receive what they are looking for.

Users who want to know things

Many users access the internet because they need information or ideas on how to tackle a problem. They are very useful to internet marketers because your product or service may be the one thing that solves their problem. The intent is to find information or to sort out a problem. The search may be very specific such as “what did the prime minister announce today”, or more generic such as “how to keep kids occupied in the school holidays”.

Users who want to go somewhere

These are highly used on mobile devices and are location-based searches. The intent is to get to a particular location. Searches can be international, regional, local or hyperlocal. Typically, the search will use the words “near me” when trying to find a restaurant or pharmacy. Alternatively, they will have a specific location in them such as “Tower of London”. This introduces location into your marketing strategy. If you want to attract local business, you need to include specific locations in your marketing strategy.

Users who want to do something

These are users who have a problem that needs to be solved and the intent is clearly to get the information that will help them solve that problem. The searches typically include a “How do I” phrase or a “How to” phrase.

Users who want to buy something

These are very valuable visitors for you as an online marketer. They have already made a decision that they are going to need a product or a service to solve their problem. They may have even decided what that product or service will be. They may use a generic search term such as “grey linen dress” or they may specify a brand such as “BMW X3”.

Small keyword changes can make a big difference

Despite the new focus on user intent, there is still much to be gained from keywords in terms of interpreting a user’s state of mind and intent. If for example, you search for “hotels in New York” this is all about the location and the results are based on where you want to go. On the other hand, if you phrased your search as “best hotels in New York” the intent is interpreted as needing information on the quality of the hotels, the facilities offered and perhaps some reviews of what people thought of them.

Getting inside your visitor’s heads is a rational approach to marketing that could yield great benefits for your business.