Just like our daily lives are mostly structured and ruled by a comfortable set of every day habits, our search behavior is fueled by unconscious decisions and search habits. When you first open your internet browser, most likely you will first go through a selection of sites you regularly visit, without even thinking. The fact that you know these sites and navigate easily through its pages will give you a comforting feeling and reinforce you to come back. These sites have become a habit and you enjoy it, they have been “cognitively locked in”.
Think of the how easy it is for you to shop in the supermarket around your corner, you know where to find your products and that is making your visit nicer and faster.The same applies to websites. The succes of Google is largely built on their consistent design and easy navigation (in a perfect mix with superior technology). Google became a habit for millions of searchers and hence the search market leader.
Search is about the most repeated action one performs on the Internet, so can easily be called a habit for millions of searchers online. As a result, keywords entered for a search are rather impulsive images of the mind thrown into the query box than well-thought and accurate descriptions of the searched item. Keep this in mind when you start of your next ppc campaign.
An average search takes about 10 seconds, which includes the scanning of 4 to 5 results. That is 2 seconds per result, barely enough to make a cognitive choice. Although searchers often have the impression of considering every option, they actually scan the page down, startingfrom the upper left, till they have gathered enough information. When the searcher has acquired enough information scanning the first few results, he will click. These non-cognitive responses in search stresses again the importance of high rankings accurate site descriptions and catchy titles.
Finally, when the searcher lands on a website he will again asses it unconsciously in the first milliseconds of his visit. It takes as little as 50 milliseconds for a human being to determine the aesthetic attractiveness of a website (Lindgaard, Fernandes, Dudek and Brown, 2006). The initial unconscious impression will also influence the further (cognitive) evaluation of content, whether positevely or negatively. This means your design is as important as your actual content.
The bottom line here is that search is a human activity influenced by various unconscious decisions and habit forming behavior. When optimizing a site it is important to remember how immensely complicated the human mind is and how well your site responds to that.