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August 28, 2011

Users searching on the Internet exhibit three distinct human behavior search patterns according to proprietary research conducted by About.com in collaboration with Latitude. The behaviors identified by the “Three Mindsets of Search” study include “Answer Me”, “Educate Me” and “Inspire Me.”

The Three Mindsets of Search study combined quantitative and qualitative methodologies to explore the search landscape as it pertains to behavior patterns. The three search patterns identified include:

Answer Me (46% of all searches) – People in an Answer Me search want exactly what they ask for, and no more, delivered in a way that allows them to get to it as directly as possible. The top categories in Answer Me search are Entertainment, Fashion and Beauty & Style.

Educate Me (26% of all searches) – People in an Educate Me search want 360 degrees of understanding, and multiple perspectives on critical topics. They will search until their goal is achieved – which may stretch over long periods of time and through related topics. The top categories in Educate Me search are Health and Finance.

Inspire Me (28% of all searches) – The fun, “browsy” type of search, where people are looking for surprises, have open minds and want to be led. The top categories in Inspire Me search are Travel and Home & Garden.

“People’s behaviors, needs and preferences in the offline world drive their behaviors and preferences online,” said Laura Salant, director, research, About.com. “Understanding how human behavior affects patterns in search behaviors can help marketers know and connect with the people who use their products. The right formula for your brand is critical to reaching your consumer in a relevant way.”

By understanding these three search types, marketers can better connect with people in all three mindsets. Marketers can capitalize on an Answer Me moment by featuring product benefits front and center, in addition to aligning content that presents quick, easy-to-find answers. For the Educate me search mindset, it is essential to create messaging that is informative, in addition to providing a way to learn more about the topic from multiple angles and aligning with content that presents in-depth information and resources. For the Inspire Me mindset, marketers should align with content that inspires creativity and offers endless choices. Too many ideas are never enough – people consume inspirational content in multiple formats on the same topic as long as it excites their imagination.

“These findings offer advertisers and marketers a better understanding and valuable insight into the way consumers search online,” said Tracy Raiser, senior vice president, sales, About.com. “The Three Mindsets of Search study aims to improve the understanding of how consumers search. It’s a real opportunity for marketers to think about campaigns in a whole new light.”

The study also revealed that the meaning of expertise is evolving to include multiple types. The type of experts desired in a given situation depends on the search type, search category and search intensity. When it comes to defining experts:

96% of those surveyed included self-taught “allies” with deep experience and motivation.

87% of those surveyed included traditional credentialed experts, who are formally educated.

89% of those surveyed included the wisdom of crowds or other experienced users in social or outside networks.

In addition, the Three Mindsets of Search study showed that consumers look to brands to provide their own expertise through advertisements, as long as it is the right kind. When it comes to advertising, the study found that:

64% of the respondents agreed that ads have helped them find great options, deals or discounts.
77% of the respondents agreed that ads can be useful when they are very relevant to their search.
88% of the respondents felt the best ads are the ones that work with the information source to help you get what you need.
86% of the respondents noticed and enjoy when brands stop trying to sell you something and focus on teaching you something.

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