7 Things My Girlfriend Taught Me About SEO

No, she doesn’t work in SEO…

I love seeing how my girlfriend uses the internet. I take note of her search methods, the kind of keywords she uses to search, the types of sites she buys from. And of course, I’m frequently called to the computer to “have a quick look” at something mind-blowing.

I see it as a chance to see how “normal” people use the internet, you know, people that don’t live and breathe SEO like we do everyday. So without further ado, here’s a post I’ve been meaning to write for sometime; here’s what Sylvie taught me.

1. People spend far more time discovering than they do searching

“Normal” people are lazy and they live in a world that is geared towards them. It’s easy to be lazy. Sylvie doesn’t actively search for stuff that she wants, she simply hangs out in places that give her suggestions related to the stuff she has expressed an interest in before. Pinterest and YouTube are constant streams of information that feed her with things she likes, without her needing to even think about “searching” for it.

Search should compliment discovery, and vice versa.

2. Long-tail is the norm

People’s search queries are getting longer and wilder. This is a social shift. If we have problems, we expect the search engines to solve them. We ask fully-formed questions and expect perfectly tailored answers.

Smart companies should invest heavily in their on-page content – think “problems and solutions” 

3. YouTube really is the second biggest search engine…

Most people in our industry would agree that the first thing we do when we need to find something, is go straight to the search engine. But I’ve noticed that Sylvie’s search habits lean towards Pinterest and YouTube. This may very well have a lot to do with the fact that she is a young female and I a young male, but the differences were recently highlighted whilst searching for furniture for our little balcony.

Ever the SEO, I started my search at Google with a query for “balcony furniture” – yep, I went straight for the money. Sylvie, on the other hand, went straight to YouTube and searched for “how to furnish a small balcony”. I quickly found sites that sold balcony furniture, but I was instantly hit with my next problem – I didn’t really know what I was looking for. Sylvie, on the other hand, was watching her 5th video and was now on her way to being awarded a master’s degree in Small Space Landscaping. The videos took her to the sites that had taught her so much about getting the most out of a small space, and guess what, they also sold the perfect products – mega double whammy!

Search engines aren’t always “search engines”

5. Searching for reviews is part of the buying process

Back in the day we’d ask our neighbors or friends at the pub for recommendations before buying stuff. We still do that now with social media, of course. but Sylvie has taught me that there are review sites for everything these days, and they’re very powerful. She wouldn’t dream of buying something without finding third-party reviews first.

It doesn’t matter where you rank if you don’t have the reviews to back it up. 

6. Infographics are “a bit stale and a bit scientific”

What can I say, something tells me that no-one loves infographics quite as much as SEOs do.

7. Looks matter

By nature, SEOs can often get a little carried away with rankings – what’s more important than ranking, hey? Well apparently; looks are. Sylvie taught me that, regardless of whether a site ranks in position one or not, if it doesn’t look right, then no-one’s going to trust it enough to send it their money.

Don’t forget to optimise for people, not just our beloved search engines.

About Ben Holbrook

Ben Holbrook is Head of Content at Verve Search and has a particular interest in content marketing and developing sustainable link development strategies.

44 thoughts on “7 Things My Girlfriend Taught Me About SEO

  1. I have worked in search for the past 10 years and am too taught alot by my girlfriends online shopping habits, Two weeks ago, i spent 20 minutes choosing a holiday before showing my girlfriend the choice, the next two weeks were spent by her choosing another holiday after using lots of reviews sites and despite my only requirements being it had sun, a gym and beer, we now have a much nicer hotel which is ranked 10th out of all the hotels in that country, for exactly the same cost compared to the supposed dive I chose which was ranked 211th out 229th. I was before happy to go on holiday but now I cant wait to get to the luxurious so called palace that she found. Trust women when it comes to shopping, o and great article.

  2. Great post Ben, thanks. It’s easy to get blinded by this job and going back to basics by watching what users do, not what we think they do or should do, is invaluable.

  3. Ben–Great title. Even more important is the fact that we can learn more about marketing by watching what consumers do. As research shows, they’re often ahead of the marketers. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  4. I so enjoyed reading your article, Ben. 🙂 I guess the most important thing we need to keep in mind about SEO is this: you don’t learn it in schools, universities or from bulky, long established research material. It’s something you study by talking to any web user, by understanding his behavior and understanding your own behavior.

  5. Great post Ben. Its funny to watch how people search when they don’t know what is going on behind the scenes. I still find it scary how many people click on paid listings thinking they are the same!

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