Tap Into the “Big Data” Power of Search


Jeremy Hull

Search can be a marketer’s best friend. Here are three ways to tap into search’s vast wealth of data to improve your content marketing strategy, offline planning, and other marketing efforts.

Search is a fantastic channel for driving conversions. It’s a user-initiated engagement opportunity, and it provides a plethora of granular data that we search marketers love to dig into – segmenting, analyzing, and identifying learnings we can leverage to further improve performance. But all too often this is a closed loop, not taking advantage of the full potential of search data for overall marketing efforts.

Search more than just a marketing channel. It’s is the world’s largest, deepest ongoing consumer survey. Searchers tell us what their needs are with their queries and vote on the best answers to their questions with their clicks. Below are three ways to tap into this wealth of data for your content strategy, your offline planning, and other marketing efforts.

1. Listen to Your Current Visitors via Onsite Search

Search is inherently a two-way conversation, and brands that carefully listen and answer the user’s query thoughtfully provide the best user experience. However, your ability to answer effectively is limited by the content on your site – so it’s important to analyze your onsite queries to identify content gaps and room for improvement.

Users who are searching on your site already have an affinity for your brand, so they’re a great resource for determining what new assets will drive value. You should mine your onsite searches at least once a month and examine them alongside conversion rate and bounce rate. Onsite searches with a high bounce rate are great indicators of content that would be valuable to your site visitor, and their volume can help you prioritize the development of this content.

2. Dig Into Large Search Trends

Google TrendsĀ is one of my favorite sites to explore. You can examine and compare search trends going back to 2004, then segment by country and region to see geographic breakdown of searches.

Review how your brand is trending year-over-year, and take a look at what parts of the country/world have the most interest in your brand (as shown by search volume). Then take a look at rising trends or topics related to upcoming products or content you have planned for the coming months. This is a great way to prioritize initiatives – simply enter both of them together and see which will capitalize most effectively on current audience interest.

3. Segment Paid Search Traffic by Device and Location

While Google Trends is useful, the one drawback is that the data is indexed, rather than absolute. If you’re looking for hard numbers, paid search data from Google AdWords is a fantastic source to mine.

Hopefully your campaigns are already well-organized by category/theme – if not, take the time to apply Labels in AdWords to mark the themes you want to learn more about. Then create a report segmented by device, time, geographic location, or a combination of the three. By combining your Exact match keyword volume and the Impression Share column, you can get a very accurate read on actual search volume, segmented extremely granularly.

As mentioned above, this data is useful for optimizing paid search (setting bid modifiers, determining budget allocation, choosing ad extensions, etc.), but it’s also a fantastic data source for planning offline media. For example, by looking at tablet/mobile search volume in the evenings for markets where you’re running television commercials you can get a very specific read on second-screening activity, and feed that data back into your app development strategy. If you have brick-and-mortar locations, comparing brand search volume in markets where you have a presence versus markets where you don’t can highlight potential new store locations.

As search marketers, we’re used to diving into this detailed, granular, real-time data – in fact, we’d feel lost without it. Search is more than just a channel, though. It’s the glue that connects all channels, the place where branding initiatives in other channels combine with declared user intent to connect a searcher and an action. By tapping into the wealth of data in search and sharing it with other channels, you can create an even more effective ecosystem, which will drive better consumer engagement and customer experience – it’s just a matter of sharing this data outside of search.