Mesothelioma – A Search Behavior Model

Mesothelioma search behavior model

How a search behavior model can help you target your customer’s needs.

When I hear the word Mesothelioma (cancer caused by exposure to asbestos) I immediately think of the herds of law firms chasing victims on TV with infomercials. A search on Mesothelioma returns a set of search results where ten of the eleven ads are from law firms, or lead generation outfits that sell leads to law firms. So, one is left with the impression that there are a lot of angry victims out there that are looking for the nearest lawyer so they can sue the pants off of somebody. But, when you actually look at the search behavior associated with Mesothelioma it shows that legal-related searches amount to less than 10% of the total search on a monthly basis (400.1K of 46.9M searches). My assumption would be dangerous if I allowed it to drive my choices for content and webpage development. A savvy law firm looking for clients who are considering legal action could take advantage of this search data to provide information to help this targeted group.

The data (table below) reflects that searchers in very large numbers have much more serious concerns than legal action in the beginning stages of their search. They or a family member has been diagnosed with Mesothelioma, and they are doing research to understand what they are dealing with and what their options are. The categories of behavior reflect what they are interested in, and which categories are the most important to them.

Consumer search behavior

Let’s take a look at each category to see what we can learn from this behavior, and how it would influence your content to target visitors early in the conversion funnel.

Treatment: 50% of all searches every month are questions about treatment. They want to know about treatment in general, clinical trials, their available options and is there a cure. This category cries out for a comprehensive content strategy around treatment.

Informational: One third of these searches are looking for specific types of content (photos, facts, articles, news) and asking what is and why is questions. Some of these searches are vague, but there are enough to construct custom content.

Type: 3.3M searches specify an aspect of the disease that they are interested in. They are using medical terminology to focus their search (i.e., peritoneal, epithelial, calretinin, bihasic). This behavior probably reflects consumers that are further along in their research.

Research:  3.2M searches are inquiries into new treatment options. This includes current and future clinical trials.

Organization: 2.9M consumers are looking for non-profit institutions, cancer clinics, interest groups and programs. These people are clearly in navigation mode, and know where they want to go. It would make sense to provide a list of resources on your website so that you can at least generate an impression that may bring them back in the future.

Causes: 2.4M consumers want some answers. They know that exposure to asbestos causes cancer, but that is all they know. They want details; your site is an opportunity to give it to them.

Diagnosis: 1.1M consumers want to understand how Mesothelioma is diagnosed. Though they sometimes ask about symptoms, this is really an opportunity to provide detail about the process of diagnosing the disease.

Symptoms: 990K consumers are asking about symptoms. This type of inquiry lends itself to providing this information in a bulleted list. Clearly symptoms are closely related to Diagnosis, and these two categories could be combined to create one comprehensive set of content.

Legal: This is an interesting category. It contains 192 keyword phrases (almost 25%) but only accounts for fewer than 10% (440K searches) of the traffic. Consumers are also using a half-dozen terms to specify legal intent (i.e., Attorney vs. Lawyer vs. Litigation etc.).

Prognosis: 314K searches are about death rates, survival, life span and progression of the disease.

Resources: 156K searchers are looking for help, support groups, resource centers, charities, doctors and experts. Resources are closely related to searches for Organizations, and these two could be combined to provide a single comprehensive resource.

That’s it. There are just eleven categories of behavior that can be used to develop content to target consumers earlier in their research cycle.

To validate my point a Google search on Mesothelioma shows that websites on page one search results have content that is reflected in the above analysis. If you go to each website and review the content and menu structure for each home page you will find that their offerings almost perfectly mirror what consumers are searching for. This is why they do well in search results, they have content rich pages that specifically answer the consumers questions most often asked about this terrible disease.

Search Result for Mesothelioma

These are the top ten websites that Google presents on page one search results.

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Mesothelioma.com (Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance) (focus: Treatment, exposure and legal)
  3. Mayoclinic.com (Focus: Information, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Support)
  4. Abestos.com (Focus: Causes, Treatment, Legal, Types, Diagnosis, Prognosis, Support)
  5. NIH.gov (Medline Plus) (Focus: High-level Informational into Diagnosis, Symptoms, Treatment)
  6. Mesotheliomasymptoms.com (Focus: Symptoms, Support, Treatment, Prognosis, Veterans)
  7. MDAnderson.org (Cancer center) Focus: Treatment, Research, Symptoms, Diagnosis)
  8. Cancer.Gov (Informational, Treatment, Research, Causes, Clinical Trials)
  9. Simmonsfirm.com (Law firm) (Focus: Legal, Diagnosis, Clinical Trials, Settlements)
  10. Surviving Mesothelioma (A book) (Focus: Informational, Treatments, Resources)


The above search results generated eleven ads, of which ten were associated with law firms.

  • 8 ads by law firms
  • 2 Lead generation firms
  • 1 Info site

Call now for free consultationAs consumers go through the process of educating themselves they are relentlessly bombarded with legal ads. Day-by-day as they do research, read and come to grips with the details of the disease, these ads are making an impression even though the consumer has not clicked on an ad. By the time they have finished their research they may well be primed to do so at an average cost of $158.86 per click to the law firms. At these rates you would think that law firms would experiment with content and organic search strategies. The law firm at position number nine does not pay a nickel for the traffic generated from that position. It’s not surprising that law firms are relegated to generating leads via PPC – mainly because they simply do not have the content that consumers are searching for at their websites.

Final Thoughts

Categorizing consumer search behavior allows you to focus your organic search strategy in ways that were not apparent before. For example:

  • You can target traffic statistically – 50% of all searches are questions about treatment. Would this be worth an experiment with a content-rich landing page for a law firm’s website? You bet.
  • You can build a model (using categories) that reflects behavior over time: Stage one (information); the consumers are in research mode – they need answers. Stage two (navigational); these reflect searches for resources such as support groups, institutions and experts. Stage three (transaction); these reflect consumers searching for clinical trials or legal help – they want to enter into a transaction. This lends itself nicely to a three-part website conversion process.

When you understand what consumers are looking for you can service their needs on your website with content specifically targeted to the questions they need answers to. That’s why it pays to do your research on search terms up front.

Find Out More

To find out more about how we can help you with your Keyword / Content strategy please call me now at 781-862-3126 contact me at: Mark@MSprague.com

Lexington eBusiness Consulting

About Lexington eBusiness Consulting

Visit Asheville NC based Lexington eBusiness Consulting for your Keyword Research, Content  and other SEO needs.

Mark Sprague’s 25 years of product development experience which includes expertise in Search Engines, Information Products, SEO platforms and Social Networking applications provide in-depth expertise to help you refine products and services, and improve your web sites performance by:

  • Developing a superior data-driven SEO strategy for your website.
  • Understanding your customers’ search behavior and normalizing it to your content strategy.
  • Understanding how search engine technology practically impacts SEO and content strategies.
  • Understanding how search technology impacts content in a social networking environment.
  • Developing a superior user experience based on sound information architecture, usability and coding standards.

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