Understanding how a search engine works helps you to understand how your pages are ranked by the search engine, but how your pages are found is another story entirely. That’s where the human element comes in. Search means different things to different people. For example, one of my colleagues searches the Internet using the same words and phrases he would use to tell someone about a topic or even using the exact question that he’s trying to get answered. It’s called natural language. Another colleague, however, was trained in search using Boolean search
techniques. She uses a very different syntax when she’s creating a search term. Each of these methods returns different search results, even when the same search engines are used.
The characteristics of search refer to how users search the Internet. This can be everything from the heuristics they use when creating a search term to the selection the user makes (and the way those selections are made) after the search results are returned. It is interesting to note that more than half of American adults search the Internet every time they go online; and in fact more people search the Internet than use the yellow pages when they’re looking for phone numbers or the locations of local businesses.
This wealth of search engine users is fertile ground for SEO targeting, and the better you understand how and why users use search engines, and exactly how search engines work, the easier it will be to achieve the SEO you’re pursuing.