As explained in my last article, search engines can tell you a lot about your customers. Specifically, I shared a few tools that enable marketers to identify buyer needs, emerging market trends, and competitive threats.
Today, I’ll cover another (free) tool that can help you understand your customers’ entire search process, and the best ways to capitalize on this data to improve marketing results.
Expand your keyword focus
One of the most common mistakes B2B search marketers make is researching only those keywords that are directly related to their company. A tremendous amount of time and energy goes into analyzing keywords associated with their brand, products and services.
Perhaps it is not intuitive to think beyond your own keywords. But, marketers should really be asking, “What else are my customers looking for, and how can I address their broader set of needs?”
Understanding the relationship between searches related to your company and all the other things your prospects look for – can provide some valuable marketing clues.
The search funnel
One of my favorite tools, the search funnel, is part of Microsoft AdCenter Labs. This type of tool shows what people searched for either immediately before (incoming) or after (outgoing) a specific query.
Here is what the Microsoft Search Funnel interface looks like:
Search funnel data
Let’s take a look at some search funnel data related to Verizon, a company regularly listed as one of the largest B2B advertisers.
By running a series of search funnel queries for outgoing searches, you can see that the most common search made immediate after a query for “verizon” is a search for “verizonwireless”. This makes sense. People start with the brand name, and then move to a search for the service.
Perhaps more insightful is the data for a search oerformed after “verizonwireless”. Amazingly, four out of five of the most popular next searches are for a competitive service. This type of data really verifies that prospects do indeed use search engines for product comparison purposes.
How can a marketer capitalize on this? Think about how to best meet peoples’ needs as they move through their search process. What about promoting a wireless service comparison chart in your PPC ads and on your landing page? This clearly seems to be what most Verizon wireless prospects are looking for. This type of marketing message anticipates prospects’ needs and will likely boost response and ultimately, conversion rate.
Let’s review some search funnel data for the popular small business accounting software, Quickbooks.
By looking at outgoing search data, you can see that people who search for “quickbooks” are also interested in these four things:
- Learning about the parent company (Intuit)
- Understanding the differences between various Intuit products (Quicken, QuickBooks, Quick Books Pro)
- Finding where to purchase the product (Staples, Office Depot, Office Max)
- Comparing Quickbooks to competitive software (Peachtree)
How could a marketer capitalize on this? My first thought is that the PPC ads and corresponding landing page for the keyword “quickbooks” should include items like: a table that allows people to quickly compare features and functions of various Intuit products, a competitive comparison chart, a retailer locator function, and a link to information on Intuit.
Capitalize on the search process
Searching is (usually) a process. This is especially true for B2B companies and firms with long, complex sales cycles.
Search funnel data can be used to anticipate needs, provide truly helpful information, and associate your brand with prospects’ needs as they move through the process.
Marketers must strive to learn more about how their customers search. In addition to keywords directly related to your company… what are your prospects looking for?
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.