SEO Strategy:
The Search Continuum

By James Atkinson, LLB and Sarah Jamieson

The Search Continuum: When prospects look for a solution online they’ll usually start searching on Google or perhaps another search engine.

In my internet marketing experience I’ve found that the average “search” in a market range is typically between five to six searches. This is because searchers don’t usually find everything they need to know about a subject on the first search.

Each segment tends to search on keywords in a certain order, usually progressing from general to specific. Usually, searchers find new information with each search. They do a search and read some of the results. This leads them to realize they will need to refine their original search based on what they’ve learned from reading.

This process of search-learn-refine goes on until they find what they’re looking for or the searcher gives up. This progression from inquiry to inquiry is called the search continuum.

I state above the importance of surveying your market – see: Market Segmentation. A proper survey should reveal the search continuum of your market. Your survey should lay out not only the information prospects want now, but also the information they will want in the future.

If you think about the idea of the search continuum - knowing what searchers will require in the future in a tremendous advantage for the online entrepreneur!

After discovery – you can cover their requirements with appropriate search engine optimized content. See: SEO Copywriting.

Searchers may also progress from segment to segment. For example, with a dog market example, here’s a hypothetical series of searches:

  • A searcher wants to buy a dog for her family. The first search is quite general – “family dogs”. She reads a web page from the search results describing good family dog breeds and decides that the family would like a Golden Retriever.
  • She then searches on “Golden Retrievers” but finds that the breed has a genetic predisposition to hip problems.
  • The next search is more specific: “Golden Retriever hip problems”. The searcher learns that breeders can screen dogs through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) to ensure they aren’t predisposed to hip problems.
  • Now she wants a breeder near home whose dogs are OFA screened. This leads to a more specific search yet: “Golden Retriever breeders California OFA screened”.
  • At this point the searcher may find a breeder and stop searching.

Knowing the search continuum for each segment means that you can actually discover not only what someone has just searched for, but also what they will want to learn in the future.

In other words, you’ll learn the sequence of information they will want to know, and in what order they will want to learn it. You can anticipate their needs before they even know they have them. And you simply cater for those needs in advance.

Understanding the search continuum allows you to build a relationship with prospects by educating them about how their needs can be met. By showing that you understand their needs, you gain their trust and position yourself as an expert.

You can create free content pathways on your site that present the information that each segment wants to learn about, in the order they need to know it in.

You should optimize this information so that it ranks high in the search engines for the appropriate keywords. For technical SEO see generally Step 5 of internet marketing strategies.

Let's lookat the next step in the continuum.

SEO Strategy > Buyer Persuasion Points > Sales Prospects Perceive a Need > The Search Continuum > Educating Online Prospects >