In architecture, a desire path is one that isn’t designed but instead is worn away casually by people finding the shortest distance to where they want to go. Visit any campus or any city park, and you’ll find trails pedestrians have worn into the grass.
Park service volunteers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park know all about desire paths. I read an article in Home & Away magazine about Great Smoky, often called the “People’s Park”. Realizing that almost 95% of the parks’ nine million annual visitors never explore more than a quarter mile away from their automobiles, park service workers have created “quiet walkways”, so people get out into the park on relatively smooth, walkable terrain.
In an earlier blog post, I compared searchers browsing the internet to people visiting a trade show. I advised thinking of your blog as a great trade show booth. People are walking around the exhibit hall on the lookout for a product or service that meets their needs. When they pass at your "blog booth", you want them to find something that draws their interest. That "something" is the appealing, fresh content of your blog. From there, you have the opportunity to invite the customer needs to come inside to your website.
If you’ve ever observed attendees at a trade show, you know they don’t all approach the exhibit in the same way. Some very few seem to go systematically through each aisle of trade booths, looking at each one in order. Most folks, though, approach the show in "desire path" fashion, skipping a large portion of the show and making a beeline for the one or two areas that appear to feature the information and products they’re seeking.
When people browse the Web, they seem to behave in similar fashion. Some have already decided what solution they think will fix their problem or satisfy their need.
The air in their house isn’t circulating properly through
They use search terms such as "attic fans", "portable
fan" , or "portable heater".
They’re researching vitamins?
They might type in "ginko biloba" or "St. John’s Wort",
because they’ve heard about those.
They’re shopping for organic coffee?
Those are the words they type into the search engine.
Others describe their problem or dilemma:
"I have Rosacea on my face"
"How do I overcome fear of public speaking?"
"How do I get my car back after it’s been repossessed?"
In other words, different people will find their way to your blog via their own desire paths. In planning the key words you’ll use in your blog and then in your website, always consider people’s desire paths. It’s your blog, but you need to think about it from their point of view. As campus architects and park designers learned, people are going to get to their destinations by the paths they choose. But, by whatever path they arrive, you want them to arrive at your blogsite!