Bright Lights, Big Data

The first time in a big city it’s easy to get overwhelmed and distracted by all the lights, the signs, the people, the options. You are overwhelmed by the amount of information thrown your way as you step off the bus. But maybe you have a guidebook, or did a lot of research in advance. Maybe you found a way to distill all that information into just the useful bits that will help you enjoy your trip.

This is similar to how one may approach “Big Data.” Data is important -- probably the most important resource you have -- but it is not the amount of data that makes it important, but the insightful and actionable information within is. It’s easy to get lost, and be standing in the glow of all that information, unable to take your first step into the city (not to mention figure out how to get to Carnegie Hall, according to the old joke*).

There is so much talk about Big Data, but what does it really mean for digital marketers?  The quest for insights and knowledge is a good one, but we have lost track of the reason why. All the data in the world won’t help you if it doesn’t help you communicate more effectively with a real-life user. So how can digital marketers leverage user-level data?



True understanding of attribution paths: If all you care about is the last click before conversion, then this won’t interest you. But if you really want to optimize your marketing, you need to have a clear picture of the full conversion path that users take. This information can help you across all cross-channel efforts.

Understanding how media affects engagement: If conversion isn’t your only goal and you want to be able to drive website usage or brand engagement, user-level data can help you see what media and interactions help drive behavior.

Delivering display ads: Users deserve to be served the most relevant message, wherever they are. To do this in a dynamic display ad you need to be properly leveraging the data on every user. And when you are working in an RTB environment, you need to be really smart in your bidding and take into consideration who each user is and how valuable each individual impression is before you bid.

Optimizing the user experience:  Whether you are personalizing content on your site, initiating call to actions, or tailoring email campaigns, it’s important to keep the user in the center. Make each experience built around everything you know about her.

But what does this mean for search marketers in particular?  The more you understand your customers before you reach out to them, the better you can be at your job.  This information can be used to target your search effectively.  Whether through geo-targeting, device targeting, when developing ad copy, or expanding your negative keywords you can leverage user data to improve search marketing.

When put user data in the center of your marketing efforts Big Data doesn’t seem so big and scary anymore – because it all comes down to the user.

*Practice, practice, practice. :)

2 comments about "Bright Lights, Big Data".
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  1. Rich Morgan from Discount Tire, December 11, 2012 at 4:20 p.m.

    I love last click attribution, because my branded keywords and (direct/none) always win. Media affects engagement? Do tv ads, billboards, and display ads really assist in branded searches and interest? My cash register doesn't tell me that. I wish there was a tool like web analytics, Google Trends or customer surveys that could show me that. I thought the website was built for the employees, not the customers. Boy do I have a lot to learn.

  2. Andrew Montgomery from MMG, December 12, 2012 at 11:58 a.m.

    Well said. Big data sounds horribly unruly and when not trained to do what it's supposed to do, it can be. Train the data to do what you want, then enjoy the results.

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