Understanding how, and what, people search for online is a window into their real intent. It’s not reliant on what we remember doing, or how we think. Instead, it’s an unadulterated view of our thoughts and behaviours.
Pretty powerful, huh?
So what is perplexing is that understanding, and interrogating, these search patterns is still one of the most undervalued tools we as marketers utilise in our kit for unearthing consumer insights.
It’s from here that we can formulate strategies that are truly effective and grounded in customer behaviour – whether those strategies are for content, product development, or making your media-buy work harder.
There’s an increasing need to educate and campaign as to why detailed search insights should be part of every strategic marketing plan. And that when it’s done right, these insights come up the front of your planning – it’s not just a tactic at the end.
SEO: Starting at the start
In its most basic form, SEO (search engine optimisation) is all about directing organic traffic to your website (and owned channels) by targeting what people search for.
Our biggest ‘engines’ and a couple of brands you may have heard of before are Google, Yahoo and YouTube. They are all SEO-driven, and around 60% of all traffic on the web starts with a Google search.
So, SEO is about understanding what people are looking for and making sure that your brand comes up as an answer, i.e. improving your search engine rankings.
From a content perspective, this means that you can create specific assets that match customer intent, instead of being interruptive.
It’s also understanding that Google doesn’t see words or pictures; it reads code. And your content needs to be optimised to within an inch of its life to ensure its crawlers can do their job – and that you appear at the top of Google.
Similarly, SEM (search engine marketing) is where brands pay to show ads to users who are actively searching for the keywords you’re targeting. So, to improve your ‘findability’, you can pay for it through advertising on Google (for example).
However, if you’re paying for ads without it being based on actual user intent, you are most likely doing your dough – or at the very least, not making it work anywhere near as hard as it could.
Using SEO for real-time consumer behaviour
If we take this up a notch, search data also gives you real-time insights into the intent of your consumers.
Example: There is more search volume per month on “how to save/reduce my energy bill” than “switch providers”. This knowledge can change an entire strategy and provide a highly valuable edge, within a highly competitive market.
Obtaining these rich consumer insights is relatively simple too, once you’ve found your feet and are comfortable with the tools available.
So let’s play this out in real life. By starting with search data, our SEO and digital unicorn helped a client drive a 140% uplift in brand favourability.
He created contextually relevant web pages that ranked #1 on Google, increasing organic web traffic by 87% month-on-month.
And the client was able to reduce their SEM spend by $25,000 because organic became the primary traffic source of conversions.
While this approach is a solid first step, you need to build it out further to capture enough insight into what makes your customer tick.
Once you know that, you are ready to engage with them at a deeper level.
How did we do it? The short version is we used search insights to discover key consumer trends and conversations that were happening online.
This was used to power a broader engagement strategy, which included creating bespoke evergreen editorial content – that drove a truckload of engagement – and optimising their site within an inch of its life to increase organic traffic.
In unison, the insights were used to amplify paid distribution more efficiently and effectively and to inform interlinking across their owned network.
Paid, owned and earned digital inspiration based on search journeys
Understanding the online journey past search volume also unlocks rich understanding as to where consumers are getting their information, products or answers.
Mapping out journeys such as these allow us to branch out and suggest paid, owned and earned media solutions to bridge clients’ gaps within their market.
So think search early, and think search throughout – because the insights you can glean will be invaluable in truly informing your media and marketing strategies.
We do this every day to inform our clients’ content strategies and to understand their customer journey, so give us a holler if we can help reimagine your search capabilities and expertise.