By Chris Pitt, Managing Director of Vertical Leap
Consumer behaviour is constantly shifting – and brands that have their finger on the pulse of ever-evolving trends can steal a march on their rivals. We all know the key to this is data; but all too often, search marketing is overlooked as a key weapon in brands’ armoury.
Its value should be too great to ignore. SEO professionals are increasingly enhancing what we can learn from raw data. They’re identifying behavioural indicators – not just trading on the surface meaning of user search terms.
Through search, brands have access to a wealth of unbiased, unfiltered data about their audience. Not only can it tell us what consumers are into today, it can also predict the trends of tomorrow.
1. Make sense of the customer journey
Since the advent of digital, consumers have increasingly shopped in a non-linear fashion. In truth, their journey to purchase looks more like a plate of spaghetti than a straight line. They might enter via one channel, drop out for weeks at a time, only to return and buy via a completely different channel.
To make sense of this topsy-turvy landscape, including lulls and spikes in activity, brands need bucketloads of behavioural data. And marketers must start making search data part of that.
Through identifying patterns in search history, customer terms and intentions can be mapped alongside consumer trends, to gain insight into the behaviours that drive prospects to purchase.
This is true across a whole range of sectors and sales opportunities. For example, we’re witnessing an increase in new retail outlets being opened based directly on search volumes indicating user locations.
Google, as you’d expect, has cottoned on to this new era of search data value and is turning its focus to behavioural insights. But how reliable is this data really and what’s the best way of getting the best from it?
2. Jump on consumer trends before your competitors
With huge volumes of data on offer, it can be hard to ensure it is being utilised effectively. There are swathes of touchpoints and customer interactions to take into account and the data must be managed properly to achieve the best insights.
That means turning traditional wisdom on its head. Understandably, marketers can fall into the habit of starting with the data and looking for the insight. It’s imperative, however, to define what you want to know first and then go looking for it within the data.
Frankly, you can seek out anything you want to know. What colours are key for your product at present? What will be the next successful brand extension? Which influencers should you invite to back your brand?
An example of search data’s predictive effectiveness was the prediction of the rise of veganism. There was a clear increase in vegan-related terms from the early 2000s, gaining real velocity by 2008/09. Taking each year in isolation doesn’t tell us much. But the real explosion of veganism seen in the late part of the decade showed that if brands paid enough attention to the trend over an extended period of time, they could have more easily got ahead of the curve and created products and campaigns to capitalise.
3. Provide unfiltered insight into what users really want
There are many reasons why search data can be a valuable tool to a brand. Mainly, there’s the fact it’s not monitored. Compared to other forms of market research there are no preconceptions or biases associated with it. The pressure of a research group can make an individual conform to what others are saying or be needlessly controversial.
With search data, it’s just a user and their keyboard without outside influences. This provides an honest, true picture of what the user is really searching for and how and when they might go on to buy it. In other words, search as a data source affords marketers unfiltered immediacy. That’s surely a tool all brands will want to tap into.
To make that happen it’s vital search data is not left to languish in silo. It cannot be used in isolation and must be combined with a wider understanding of the market in unison with other data sets.
With the clear value search data can demonstrate, brands that place it front and centre will gain a clear view not only of a moment in time but also – crucially – of predicted consumer behaviour in 2023 and beyond.
Then marketers can really give consumers, markets and even whole societies what they desire.