What is the search journey and why Google also need it

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Just a couple of months ago we described what the customer journey is and why it is important to make it easy the customers’ path in the relationship to our brand also through SEO optimizations. Today we are going to address a similar concepts, the user journey and search journey, which relate more specifically to the interactions towards our site, the approach to Google Search and, more generally, the decisions and intentions of users.

The search journey, the SEO and Google

Live on our italian Facebook page a few weeks ago, where he showed how real-life events can have an immediate effect on organic search engine results, too, Ivano Di Biasi also focused on the importance of the search journey for SEO and Google itself.

Analyzing the search behaviour too

Knowing your user and identifying his path in a precise way allows us, for example, to focus more precisely on the context in which our site – or our content – must be placed. It is necessary to analyze the entire user search process, from the birth of the need to the choice of the solution, because search behavior is a reflection of the priorities of the users, and then work to intercept the search intent and propose our solution.

Awareness make you offer better contents

In practical terms, this study allows us to apply a good organizational structure and an effective editorial plan in order to promote our site and achieve the desired results, also based on the “time factor” to figure out at what time of the search journey to intercept people, orienting accordingly our content and our offer (and updating when necessary the articles so to provide different answers to the same questions at different times of the year).

So you need to be aware – of your industry, your users and even the content of your website – so to know what could happen and when (even with seasonal trends to anticipate), and to reach a strategic goal with a high potential. To make the right traffic, for the right users, at the right time, having targeted the right user who finds the web page that offers quality content and suited to his need.

Google, too, uses the search journey

This process applies to us and our activities, but it also serves Google to understand what to answer to our queries: “surely algorithms do a good part of this work, but in reality we give the answers ourselves using the search engine and providing information with our behavior”, says Ivano, who explains how and why in a simple and concise way.

To us Google “only presents a search box” with which we can interact (or we can activate a voice search); the first input we give to the search engine is “when“, the moment we do the search and our path begins, but also when there is interest in a given topic (useful for seasonal statistics). The second signal, closely connected, is the “what” we seek and want.

The search engine gathers info on the user journey

From here the search engine starts to collect more information about our journey and sees what we do: the feedback in these cases is the click (or not) on one or several search results shown in SERP that we choose because they seem to better meet our needs. “We told Google that, starting from the search we did, we chose the result we were most interested in. On large numbers, these actions of users go give Google information also on the liking of its page”.

When we open the site that we clicked among the other search results we can behave in two ways: the content satisfies us and we read it, or we go back. In turn, this situation generates two different actions: we go back to the Google SERP because we do not like the page and choose another result among those proposed (the phenomenon of pogo sticking), or we change search and type a new query, maybe more specific and thorough.

When this case occurs, “we give two informations to Google as users: first, the ten selected results are fine, because we clicked twice or more inside that SERP”. But at the same time we tell Google that there is something wrong, because we are not satisfied with one of the results or the entire SERP (if we repeat the search), helping the search engine to acquire information about the quality of its SERPs. In addition, Google also has correlation signals between the various queries searched, connecting them in a logical path.

Each step generates useful data for Google

The last step is that of the final choice, of the content that completes our journey and expresses a “grade”: it is like saying to Google “because I looked for this thing, I did a lot of other researches to get to what I wanted – you made me waste time with SERPs and pages that I was not satisfied with – I found the right query to get answers and I also found the right result among the sites”.

And so our path, our search journey, determines a grade to “the best website throughout the search process”, because Google transposes the information and saves it in its database along with those of other users who have made their journeys in the same period and on the same topic.

Google perfects the search engine thanks to the users as well

In short, the study of the search journey of users allows Google to understand everything it needs to improve the operation of its search engine, and in particular to know:

  • When we want something.
  • Which result we do not consider an adequate response (and if so many feedbacks indicate the same lack of appreciation for a result, it is likely that page will start to lose positions and totally disappear from the first page as it is not suitable for the search intent of the majority of users.
  • How we search again when we are not satisfied by the first query.
  • Which result we consider appropriate and satisfying.
  • How many times the algorithm has failed to satisfy us during our journey, with indications both on the wrong results and on any misinterpretations of the query.

So, starting from a simple search box we provide a lot of directions to Google, we provide all of our preferences, we simplify its work and we tell it “how to play the search engine”, Ivano concluded.

What is the user journey

Leaving the Research mechanism, it may also be useful to deepen the more general concept of user journey or experience journey. According to the classic definition, user journey is the path of interaction between a person and a service of various types, which is outlined through all the stages of experience and all the actions or activities planned.

Its graphical description is executed with the user journey map, usually builded representing the time line along a horizontal axis, following a logical sequence of interaction between user and service and inserting information on all the channels used. For each phase it is also necessary to specify the activities carried out, the criticalities that eventually hinder the path and the consequent level of satisfaction or frustration in the experience.

New ideas from the analysis of the criticalities

Due to its characteristics, the user journey allows to generate ideas starting from the existing critical issues, to create an increasingly smooth and pleasant path for people and, ultimately, improve the user experience. With this tool in fact we can visualize the way in which a user interacts with our site/product and have the possibility to change perspective and observe from the point of view of the user, encouraging a design approach more focused on the needs and expectations of users.

Focusing on the personas and touchpoints

In concrete terms, the first step is to identify who the personas are, that is, the representations of our target audience, with information such as age, occupation, position and details such as the device used to reach us and the activities they want to carry out. It is generally recommended to create a user journey map for each of the main personas.

In the subsequent stages of creating the map we must identify the touchpoints, the points of contact with our brand, and then create a narrative based on emotions, feelings and motivations of people, who have a fundamental role in channeling their actions (which is why user feedbacks are always helpful to improve understanding of the process).

How to organize a user journey map: the crucial questions

In schematic terms, the user journey and its map must contain the answers to these (and other) questions:

  • Context: where is the user located? What is around them? Are there external factors that might distract them?
  • Progression: how each step allows the user to go to the next?
  • Devices: which device are they using? Are they beginners or experienced people? What features does the device have?
  • Functionality: what kind of functionalities do they expect from our site? Is it feasible?
  • Emotion: what is their emotional state at every stage? Are they involved, bored, annoyed?

Other key questions for each user journey are:

  • Motivation: Why do people try to do that specific action or to interact with us?
  • Channels: Where does the interaction take place?
  • Actions: what are the actual behaviors and steps of the users?
  • Sore points: what are the challenges that users face?

The goals of this kind of work

The goal of a user journey map is to create a shared vision, able to help all team members look at the entire user experience from the user’s point of view and use this information when creating a product or service. For this reason, information should be translated into truthful narratives and it is necessary to use data from usability testing sessions and analytics of the apps so to make sure that the described path is similar to a real use case.


Cover image: www.tecmark.co.uk

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