It’s spring, and garden centers everywhere are getting ready to service the needs of home gardeners and small landscaping services. Garden center search traffic is similar to Christmas retail search traffic in that the majority of the searches occur during three or four months of the year, peaking in June and falling off dramatically for the rest of the year.
With such a short window of opportunity, what is the best way to exploit this traffic? The answer: understand how consumers search for your products and services.
Almost everybody gardens in one way or another. They may simply be buying houseplants, and caring for them. Or they may be buying exotic plants, shrubs and trees for a more formal backyard presentation. Regardless, consumers do exhibit a very defined set of search behaviors when looking for a garden center.
There are about 31 million global monthly searches (800 unique queries) associated with the Garden Center dataset. About half of these (15.8M) are considered local. When you classify user intent, you find 21 distinct categories of behavior. In the following table, you can see which categories interest consumers the most.
High Level Categories Of The Plant Family
One of the more interesting observations about this data is how few informational searches there are. Generally, informational searches generate the most traffic, and are usually the top category of behavior.
A second observation is that consumer behavior is far more focused which provides many great opportunities for developing custom landing pages. This data has important implications for your website’s information architecture. Let’s name two.
- Less than 1 percent of consumer searches are for a business brand name – their focus is on products and services, not on your specific business.
- The top three categories have consumers searching for products, plants by name and plants by type. This should be the focus for your website information architecture.
Sub-Categories In Garden & Landscape Searches
Often, high-level categories will have important sub-categories worth noting for architectural purposes. The next table shows that five of the high-level categories have interesting sub-groupings that provide options for experimenting with micro-sites.
Green Thumb Search Behavior Model Hierarchy
The following graph orders the search behavior categories from top to bottom by search volume. You will notice that the first category has the most traffic, but the Products category has the most complexity.
Garden Centers In More Detail
Let’s take a look at the categories in a little more detail.
With a total of 8,763,700 monthly searches, plant name is the most common category of search. It’s interesting that the top 10 names account for 90% of the traffic.
When you take a look at the top three names you see that bamboo, daisy and orchid alone account for 6 million queries each month. Certainly, the top five named plants merit special consideration in your website information architecture.
Type of Plant
The top ten searches for plants by type account for 2.2M of the 2,817,980 monthly searches in this category. Again, the top 3 to 4 types provide excellent landing page opportunities to develop information and content around herbs, perennials, garden plants and houseplants.
General Gardening Information
Informational searches tend to be vague. You can tell that they are about gardening, but in most cases it’s difficult to tell what their intent is (4,710,840 searches). For example, when consumers search on horticulture, it’s hard to know exactly what they are looking for.
Information Translates To Seeking Ideas
There is one pocket of behavior in the informational categories that is definitely worth paying attention to. Nearly 1.5 million consumers a year (127,791 monthly) are looking for ideas for their garden and landscaping needs.
They need help figuring out what to do, and they’re looking for your guidance and expertise to help them to create a pleasing garden experience. When you examine the data below, you notice that consumers are using the terms garden and landscaping interchangeably.
Searching For Landscaping & Gardening Products
When consumers search for product, they do so primarily in five ways. They look for containers, organic materials such as mulch, carts and tools. Product categories in order of volume are:
- Pots and containers – 663,970
- Organic materials – 584,320
- Products (general terms) – 445,763
- Tools – 284,290
- Supplies – 36,850
- Carts – 11,680
Product Searches– Pots
In this category, consumers are searching for containers, and they use just three terms two modify their search phrases. These are planters, pots and boxes. The preferred term is planters (429K searches) followed by pots (87K searches) and boxes (65K searches). The top ten keyword phrases in this group account for 6.1K of the 663,970 monthly searches executed by consumers.
Product Searches – Organic
These searches for products seem to be more or less organic in nature. With 584,320 searches, mulch and topsoil dominate this group with organic fertilizers coming in third place.
Product Searches – General
These 445,763 searches are varied and numerous, but consumers are clearly looking for a specific manufactured product. Some of the searches are vague such as garden accessories and garden products. The rest are individually named such as retaining walls, garden edging, rubber mulch and railroad ties.
Product Searches – Tools
When it comes to the search for garden tools, consumers are searching at a high-level 50% of the time. Here they are not saying exactly what they are looking for. They use terms such as garden hand tools and garden equipment. When consumers do specify a tool, it’s just in three categories zero turn mowers, watering cans and sprinklers. There are 284,290 searches in this category.
Product Searches – Supplies
There is not a lot of search traffic in this group, but these are somewhat transactional queries since they are looking for supplies. Consumers are clearly looking for un-named products when they use keyword phrases such as greenhouse supplies and nurseries supplies. There are 36,850 searches in this category.
There are three primary categories of behavior when consumers search for trees. They search for a species, they search by the type of tree and they search for trees that are on sale.
In the first category (1,194,960 searches) consumers are searching for trees by species. The top 10 trees account for nearly 80% of the search traffic in this category (864K searches). Since dogwood is the most commonly searched for tree, it should be prominently placed on a landing page that features only trees.
Trees – General
There are a number of searches for trees that are vague in nature, but imply that they are looking for a particular type of tree. You see searches for small trees, indoor trees and potted trees. These particular searches do provide opportunity to experiment with custom landing pages. There are 327,500 searches this category.
Trees – For Sale
There’s not a ton of traffic here, it is however, very valuable traffic. Consumers are telling you that they want to buy products from you. This provides an opportunity to develop a custom “trees for sale” landing page featuring fruit, palm and bonsai trees for sale, which are the top three specified trees in this category.
Seeking Lawn & Garden Services
In this category, 50% of the search traffic is consumers searching for a specified service. The rest of the traffic is for maintenance services. Of the 728K queries in this category, 696K searches are in top ten keyword phrases.
You could make a case for the queries with architect / architecture in them that they should belong to the next Service-Design category. However, search engines being what they are, they do not associate the term architect to the term design.
Service – Design
Approximately 80% of this traffic is high-level. Consumers are using just two terms, landscape and garden. The remaining 20% is focused on specific design projects such as patio or Japanese gardens.
The specificity in these search queries provide opportunity to create landing pages where you can give consumers exactly what they’re looking for. Of the 687,280 search queries in this category 669K of them are in the top ten.
When consumers search for a garden by type they have very specific requirements for the types of plants, tools and accessories that that are to be used. This gives you the opportunity to develop a custom page that would detail the types of plants found in Japanese gardens, and feature tools and accessories that would make this garden complete.
This provides a very nice cross-sell opportunity. About 80% (873K) of the traffic (1,131,910 searches) is contained in the top ten keyword phrases.
Though the term center dominates how people search for a garden supply business, there is a fair amount of variability in the terms used. The opportunity here is to ensure that you work the terms nursery, shop, stores and companies into your webpage ad copy. There are 988,769 searches in the company category.
In this category the term shrub accounts for 30% of the search traffic. This is fairly high-level traffic; however the rest is fairly focused, and could be developed into specific landing pages such as Azalea and Rhododendron. There are 954,600 searches in this category.
When consumers search for content and your website can provide that you have launched the first critical step to generate a new customer. House and garden is very likely a search for the popular magazine and the traffic is not very useful to you. However, their request for plans, guides and catalogs provide a targeting opportunity.
Content – Pictures
People love pictures and videos. With 248,010 searches a month it is worth investing in high-quality photographs of gardens, plants and flowers for your website.
Generally, when consumers search for products they deliberately use the terms cheap and discount to specify value. In this case they do not, instead they are using the terms sale, clearance and prices. It might make sense to think about a custom landing page that is focused upon sales and clearances during the September / October time frame.
This is fairly high-level traffic and you cannot tell what is on the consumer’s mind, other than they’re looking for a source for garden supplies from an unknown source. 95% of the 172,121 searches are contained in the top ten keyword phrases in this category.
These transactional queries are very valuable. The consumer is telling you that they want to purchase products from you, and the majority of this traffic uses just three keyword phrases: buy plants, buy garden and buy trees. There are 163,691 monthly searches in this category.
The following three categories speak for themselves and they don’t provide any particular advantage. You will certainly want to monitor your own brand, and you have to make sure that your website is properly marked up so that it gets included in local search indexes.
- Location: 294,723
- Brand: 201,763
- Event: 110,000
The following two categories have very little traffic, and this traffic is high-level. Consumers are searching for an unnamed company using terms like garden supply store or flower nursery.
- Company – Type: 21,860
- Company – Supply: 4,400
The next three categories are off-topic, and want to make sure that you are not inadvertently capturing some of this traffic, which is not consumer related.
- Software: 38,320
- Industry: 34,770
- Jobs: 33,320
Type – Grasses
There are only five search queries in this group of 2,360,300 searches. Clearly consumers prefer the term Turf over Sod by a two to one margin, therefore turf should be the preferred term in writing webpage copy.
Type – Seeds
When it comes to seeds, consumers are using a number of adjectives to specify interest. With the exception of Zoysia, the remaining terms are non-specific, and describe large numbers of species. With one million searches a year the term Seedling may provide a micro-site opportunity worth experimenting with. There are 403,340 searches in this group.
Its always worth looking at how often terms appear across all search phrases. This allows you to review the list for possible custom landing page opportunities.
In the following list, Tree and Flowers are a little to high-level to be of much use, but the terms design and herbs suggest a broad category of interest. In addition to being a search category, the term design appears in 738K search strings each month.
To take this one step further, you can take the searches for ideas that are found in the information category (previously discussed) and combine it with the concept of design (from the list below) and fashion a custom landing page around Garden Ideas and Design Services.
The list below is also statistically important because it provides you with a focused short list of terms that consumers use over and over again, which should be in your website copy.
Key Insights For Garden Center Owners
- 250K consumers search for garden ideas, plans and tips every month. This is a micro-site opportunity.
- 50 percent of consumers, who search for content, want to see pictures of gardens. The second largest group is looking for catalogs.
- Less than 1 percent of consumer searches are for a company brand name. Their focus is on products and services, not on the name of your business.
- 80% of the 8.7 million searches for plants by name are for just four plants; bamboo, daisy, orchid and hibiscus.
- When a consumer specifies the type of garden they are interested in, it provides you with opportunities for cross-selling accessories (e.g., water gardens).
- Consumers are interested in purchasing trees over shrubs by a two to one margin.
- The term buy is the transactional term of choice. Consumers are not using any other terms to indicate their desire to purchase your products.
Need To Know More?
A search behavior model is a data-driven process for classifying user intent for each search query to a specific source, type or subject. It’s a reflection of the total business search experience for products and services in any single market segment.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.