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About.com Identifies the Three Mindsets of Search

Why do people search online? According to a survey commissioned by About.com, they do it for one of three reasons. They want answers, they want to be educated or they want to be inspired.

Answer Me, is all about finding a quick solution to a problem or that little detail that’s niggling at your brain. “How do I get a broken light bulb out of the socket” to “who is that actor I just saw on TV?” Quick, doesn’t always equal urgent, but the searcher still doesn’t want to spend a lot of time on this. About says marketers can capitalize on these types of searches by presenting ads with clear benefits. “Smudge-proof” mascara, “dinner in under 10 minutes” or an exercise DVD that will help you “lose 10 pounds in 10 days.”

Educate Me is the longer route. These people are willing to put in the time if they come away smarter in the end. Health and finance are top topics for these searchers. They want information and the more detailed the better. About says marketers can capitalize on these folks by providing informative ads that tackle a topic from a variety of angles. For example, a company selling organic foods might present an ad that allows searchers to follow the food from farm to table, with detours that talk about the health, safety and economic factors.

Inspire Me folks have some time to kill and they want to be transported to another place. Travel and home are popular topics, but they might also be browsing through books and movies, discovering new images or playing a game. For this searcher, it’s all about creativity and a world of possibilities. To hook these surfers, marketers need to present something that captures the imagination. It could be images of an ice hotel or a video trailer for a new book.

Who You Gonna Call?

Now here’s where things really get interesting. If you want answers, it’s logical that you’d want to talk to an expert, but About says it isn’t so. People in “Answer Me” mode said that finding an expert isn’t very important. They simply want a solution that works and they don’t care if it came from a doctor, home improvement specialist or an unknown stranger on a Q&A site.

The “Educate Me” folks do value the input of experts but they’re also willing to learn from their online friends and followers.

For those free-spirited “Inspire Me” searchers, there are no experts. They take their cues from their friends and social networks.

When asked about brands as experts, the results were very positive. 64% said ads helped them find great options or deals. 86% said they notice and enjoy brands that stop trying to sell in favor of teaching something useful.

Answer. Educate. Inspire.

It’s time to take a look at your ads to see where you fit in.

  • Bob

    They forgot a big chunk of search, which is “Entertain Me.”

    • Jonathan Carroll

      Yes, and where is “wank me” and “sell me”

  • jmb98115

    same thing librarians have been doing ever since there have been enough materials in one place to constitute a collection.