Ten Ways to Use Search Data Beyond SEM
Faithful Search Insider readers will know I'm a big fan of "Top Ten" lists. In the past year, I've written no fewer than ten columns featuring Top Ten lists. If Letterman were a search geek, I'd like to think his body of work might look like this. Here's the run-down:
Today I'd like to add one more to the collection. I've always believed you can learn a lot from a query. Here are my top ten ways to use search data beyond your search engine marketing program.
1. (Re)Define your audience. Search query data can be a great barometer for your current audience. Using tools like comScore Marketer or Microsoft Advertising Intelligence, you can see the demographic profile of people searching for your brand and your products and services. Mapping this to your traditional target audience can shed some light on if you're talking to your best prospects -- or even who your best prospects really are.
2. Competitive Intelligence. Tracking competitors' keywords and ad copy with tools like AdGooroo SEM Insight can do more than inform PPC campaign optimization, it can help you understand how your competitors are positioning themselves in the marketplace. Meanwhile, tapping up/downstream data from Hitwise can show you how well your competitors are doing at meeting customers' needs. And, of course, good ole Google Trends can give you a sense of your "share of mind" relative to competitors.
3. Refine your USP. Sure, creative testing can help you improve your click-rate and quality score, but how else are you leveraging those insights? Do people respond better to messages about price or product benefits? And what do people do on your site after they've searched? Mining your Web analytics to see where people click and when they convert can tell you a lot about your brand's sales proposition -- unique or you-reek?
4. Adjust your product line/features. As has become habit, I put the call out on Twitter for input on my column and @KrisMcDermott responded with this sage wisdom: "I bet purchasers could get a lot of use out of seeing what people are looking for, using query trends to select new inventory." Indeed. And if you need help deciphering some of those trends, try semantic mapping tools -- including The Bird's The Word, Visuwords, and Google's Wonder Wheel -- to see related themes.
5. Decide what markets to support. Along the same lines as tailoring your product selection, search data can also be used to gauge what geographic markets to penetrate. Google Insights for Search can show you how demand for your brand or category is distributed over specific regions. And your own PPC campaign data can tell you which locations are more likely to convert. So make sure to Google yourself before building that next store.
6. (Re)Develop your Web site. This one's a bit of a no-brainer but still worth noting. I won't belabor the obvious applications of search to Web site development like SEO or on-site search. But how about mining search query data to determine the intent of your site visitors -- informational, navigational or transactional? From there, you can develop paths on your site that are most appropriate to various entrants. And you can create custom content focused on awareness, consideration, and/or action depending on where in the funnel your visitors tend to arrive.
7. Tweak your non-search advertising creative. What calls-to-action are people exposed to your search ads most responsive to -- free shipping, 10% off, buy one/get one? Test them all and then rollout the winner to your creative across all media channels. And tap the zeitgeist via tools like Yahoo Buzz and Twitter Search to see what's hot in pop culture and/or your category. What are people talking about right now? From there, figure out how to incorporate that into your messaging. No better way to pick a celebrity endorser than search query volume.
8. Inform your online display media buys. Checking out what sites your brand (and related) searchers also visit is a great way to assemble your online display media plan. Using tools like Google AdPlanner and comScore Marketer, you might see that consumers that search for your competitors or high cost keywords also frequent a specific category of Web properties -- say news sites. So, rather than (or, in addition to) bidding on competitive or expensive terms, you can try and reach your target on newspaper dot-coms.
9. Measure performance of offline ads. We've all seen the Google Pontiac case study demonstrating the impact TV commercials can have on search activity. The opportunity to use search to gauge media performance doesn't end with TV, though. Query volume for your brand terms and other trademarks used in your offline ads can give you a sense of how other spots are resonating, as long as you can isolate when they ran.
10. Predicting elections. It's become quite fashionable to use tools like Google Trends to try and predict outcomes of events ranging from presidential elections to "American Idol." Last year, I pulled out my magic Google 8 Ball to see if Google could predict the U.S. election looking at query volume state-by-state and, sure enough, the answer came back, "Yes we can." "American Idol"? Not so much.