Closing The Loop: How Search Can Inform Your Overall Marketing Decisions

The Market Research industry was born out of the need for marketers to gain insight into who their customers are, how they think, and how they identify with brands. But what if there was another rich data source that could provide you with key insights into how your customers think. Would you use it?

Well, such a source exists—and it’s right at your fingertips.

Search user behavior data is an exceedingly rich source that can provide you with valuable information about your customers. And while I am a big fan of market research, I believe that search data is so rich that marketers should be mining it to help them formulate their messaging and brand positioning for all their marketing activities. In essence, search behavior data offers a way for marketers to close the loop.

Why? Search is unique in that it provides marketers with insight on how people use language. Think about it. Do customers consider their portable computer a “laptop” or a “notebook”? Do they “copy” something or “Xerox” it? Understanding the language your customers use is paramount, and search behavior data can help you do just that.

Let me illustrate with one of my favorite examples of how insightful search data can be.

During a meeting with a large consumer package goods company, we presented key search insights to the entire brand and marketing team. When we informed the client that two of the top referring keyword phrases to their site were “swirl marks” and “removing swirl marks,” the response was telling. One of the brand managers shot-up from his chair—as if a light bulb just went on—and exclaimed, “That’s amazing! We have the language all wrong! Here we are selling and promoting rubbing compounds in all of our marketing messaging, while our customers are looking for something that will remove swirl marks from the hood of their cars!”

Since that meeting, the company has launched a product called Swirl Mark Remover.

This is just one example of the kind of key insight you can obtain from search data that you may never get from market research.

What should smart marketers be doing to leverage key search insights?

First and foremost, marketers need to mine the keyword data at a detailed level. Compare the conversion rates for different keywords, and see if there are patterns in the data. Remember that you should look at both impression data (when available), as well as click data. Also, be mindful that words that are not found in the data can provide just as much insight as words that are found. For example, do people use my company slogan or tag line in their search queries? If not, why? Is it because they don’t identify with it, or because can’t they remember it? Are they using my branded keywords more than my non-branded ones? Also, consider the volume of queries and clicks against your best selling products. Are they consistent?

Next, you will need to map the language of your audience to your various products. You will need to map which keywords led to which product conversions. Can words be grouped together into product categories? Do some products tend to be searched using your brand while others do not? Why would that be? Do branded keywords convert better? If so, why? You must follow the trail from query to conversion.

Finally, you must ensure that the messaging in all of your marketing is consistent and uses the same language as your keyword mapping above. Do not get caught up in “marketing speak.” If the keywords searched do not match the language in your messaging, then you are speaking to your audience in your language, not theirs. Your customers are telling you how they identify with your product and brand through these keywords. When possible, keep to this script. Imagine the impact your marketing messaging would have if it were delivered in the language your customers actually use. If you can deliver upon this successfully, your marketing efforts will be much more successful. I have little doubt that it would improve your response and conversion rates.

Also remember that offline messaging impacts online search behavior dramatically—as was evidenced by our recent study on the topic—so make sure your language and messaging are consistent throughout all your marketing initiatives.

At the end of the day, marketers need to leverage every resource they have for insight about their customers. They need to realize that search behavior data is a rich source offering insights about customers in ways that market research cannot. Smart marketers will tap into this source and use the information to inform their overall marketing decisions.

Robert J. Murray is president of search engine marketing firm iProspect and can be reached at rob.murray@iprospect.com. The Brand Aid column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Brand Aid | Channel: Strategy

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About The Author: is president of search engine marketing firm iProspect and can be reached at rob.murray@iprospect.com.

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