Commentary

Throwing Search Query Data Out With The Bathwater

As mobile becomes the dominant media to access information on Web sites across the Internet, will search engines have the same impact when it comes to identifying real-time trends? Deep linking will assist in the ability to track trends from search engines to pages inside mobile apps, but how does that work when starting the search from within the app?

The questions arose after reading a piece from The Guardian Reporter Juliette Garside. She points to a study from researchers at Princeton University that suggests that Facebook users will largely abandon the site by 2017. The researchers use Google query data to support the thesis.

Rather than support the theory of abandonment, the real question becomes whether search engines or search query data can continue to provide accurate trend analysis to target intent for other types of online media such as display advertising.

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When I asked Magnetic CEO James Green whether with an increase of mobile app use, search engines or search query data can continue to provide any type of trend analysis to target intent for other types of online media such as display advertising, he said "we've gone from living in a two-dimensional to three-dimensional world, because we must get data from apps, mobile Web and desktop, and tie them all together."

"This is easiest for the big boys like Facebook, Google and Twitter, which see a lot of data and can tie one person to multiple devices through login data," Green said. "But they don't have everything because, as your question notes, they don't have all app data, or all Web data for that matter."

The truth about media, including search, it always fractures over time no matter how much powerful players try to resist it, Green said. So it's up to marketing technology and ad tech companies to aggregate as much intent data as possible, tie it together across devices and serve it to brands and marketers.

The millions of monthly searches that begin on Facebook or retail store sites like Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus now begin via smartphones apps, rather than a search, which could explain the drop in Google searches for "Facebook," because the app replaces the need to search on Google, Bing or Yahoo. While marketers may lose the ability to track trends from searches, mobile captures GPS location, time of day, and other data. It is clear behavior changes when using an app, per a Pew Research Center study.

Respondents were asked to complete two surveys per day for one week (using either a mobile app they had installed on their phone or by completing a Web survey, and describe how they had used their phone in the hour prior to taking the survey. This report examines whether this data collection is possible to understand the differences in participation and responses when using a smartphone app as opposed to a Web browser.

Pew conducted a study last year analyzing referral traffic to news sites via social and search. The study revealed at the time that direct visitors view roughly five times as many pages per month -- 24.8 on average -- as those coming via Facebook referrals -- 4.2 pages -- or through search engines -- 4.9 pages. And they visit a site three times as often -- 10.9 -- as Facebook and search visitors. So what happens when consumers more often go direct to applications?

While the 2014, Pew study doesn't explore the shift to searches in apps, compared with browser-based Web searches, it does provide insight into the loss of real-time trends data on search engines.

I realize this piece provides more questions than answers. Just a thought whether search query data will become the best way to measure intent in the future.

 

 

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