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How Needs Shape Search Intent and Why It Matters to Your Marketing Efforts

Dec 2, 2019
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"When it comes to search, people are literally typing their needs into a form, which, in turn, generates data that lets marketers tap into insights across media." (Source) By understanding the needs of our audience, we can as marketers, create a better search strategy. In the video below, I'll share how needs shape search intent and why it matters to your marketing efforts.

Here is the article from Think With Google: https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/consumer-needs-and-behavior/

Video Transcript: 

We're going to be talking about needs, and more specifically how they impact search intent.

Now search obviously has changed quite a bit over the last few years and as Google has expanded, and doubled down on trying to deliver the best result for a specific query, we've got to have a better grasp, or better understanding of search intent. I've done a video before on search intent and understanding the different types. Whether it be a transactional search, or an informational search, or a broad search. But today we want to talk more specifically about the emotional needs of the searcher, and how that impacts what they are searching for.

Emotions drive our decisions. That's something that we have to grasp. Every decision that we make, we do so because of the way it makes us feel. A lot of people don't like this, especially people who are a little bit more analytical, but the reality is we make those decisions based on needs and emotions, and then we rationalize those after that in order to fit our worldview, or really to make sense about what we did. It's like the elephant in the rider. Maybe you've heard of this before, where the the elephant is the emotional side of the brain. The rider is the logical side of the brain and the path is your environment, where you're headed.

The elephant is obviously much bigger than the rider. It's going to make its own decisions. It's really going to go one way or the other. The rider can help steer the elephant somewhat. But if the elephant really wants to go a direction, the riders just kind of go along with it and kind of justify what had happened when he's kind of along for the ride. The same goes for a searcher. The same goes for a consumer. The same goes for you and me. We make decisions based on the emotional state we're in, and really how that emotional state is going to impact us. And then we go and rationalize them after the fact.

Now, why does this matter to SEO? Why does it matter to search marketing? Well, it matters a lot because we have basic needs. Everybody's trying to meet certain needs when they're buying a product or service from somebody. And those have to meet those specific needs. And your queries will change based on the needs that you're trying to meet.

For instance, Google did this study, and they were diving a little bit deeper and trying to understand this. I'm going to put a link to it. It's a blog on thinkwithgoogle.com. It's a really good article. And they were trying to understand these emotional needs, and how they're impacting how people searched. And they came up with these six needs for search. They are: surprise me, educate me, thrill me, reassure me, impress me, and help me.

A lot of times we would see this, and we go, "Okay, well most of search is informational. People are trying to find information." So maybe they're going more here, educate me, or maybe it's to help me side up things. The reality is though, once they started breaking down the data and looking at it, they saw that it wasn't just about educating. Maybe they were wanting educate me and surprise me. They wanted to learn something, but they wanted something just to be different. Something that they weren't expecting.

Or maybe somebody looking to buy a car. This is a really good one. Now they want information about a car, but maybe they're looking to buy a sports car. So not only do they want that car that's going to be good, that's going to meet their specs, but they're also trying to impress others. Because that car means something. It says something about who they are. And if it's about impressing, the type of query that they're going to search is going to change than if they're looking for information.

As search marketers, as content marketers, as people who are trying to attract people to our sites, we have to understand these different needs that people have, so that we write title tags and meta descriptions and content, that are actually going to meet these emotional needs first, and also drive them to our website. And then through there, help them make an informed decision. So now we've hit both sides of the brain. The elephant, the emotional side, but also the rider. And that way they can logically make the decision, or at least feel reassured that they've made the right decision, logically.

All six play a role in search. It's just not about education, it's just not about transaction, but it's about being surprised. It's about being reassured, and knowing that they're doing the right thing. It's about getting the right help. It's about impressing. It's about being thrilled. All of these play a role when a user is searching. And now the key for a marketer is to understand which one of these needs is the most important, and then what are the connecting needs? Or what are some of the needs that come in second and third? And how can we wrap those into the story that we're telling when it comes to writing our title tags, when it comes to writing our content?

If you have a better grasp of this, your content's not just going to be informative, but it's going to tug at the emotional side. The thing that really drives us towards action. And that's important if you want to see ROI from what you're doing. It's going to help you expand your content base. This gets into the natural language processing and understanding. That's why Google is doing all that. Understanding sentiment. Understanding why people are searching the way, the words and the order that it's being typed into search. The schema and the structure of it, because it tells how a person is feeling. And if they can understand that, then they can better serve results that are going to match those needs.

So if Google is doing this, marketers need to pay attention, and be smart about the words that they choose. Especially if they understand which one of those needs is at the top of the list for your prospective customers. Now I know this is not as concrete a lot of times, because it's about emotion and feeling. But taking the time to understand this can go a long way toward having really impactful marketing.

So if you have any questions about what we talked about here, again, I'm going to have the link to that Google article in the video, but also let's continue the discussion. How have you done this before? What are some of the questions you have around this? I would love to continue the conversation with you and until next time, Happy Marketing.

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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