What Do Consumers Want? Search Stats Provide a Clue

Danny Sullivan on Search Marketing

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There's so much attention paid to search, but what makes it so special -- the ability to target based on the desires people express through their search requests -- sometimes feels lost in the shuffle.

A first port of call for any marketer is Google Trends. Selling cellphones? The product shows that in July searches for "iPhone" overtook "BlackBerry" and have stayed high ever since. Even if you specialize in BlackBerries, knowing that there are searches for the iPhone can be helpful. Put together some comparison content on why the BlackBerry perhaps still beats the iPhone, promote that through search and you can tap into that growing iPhone traffic.

Trends was recently upgraded to show searches happening within the past hour. The service offers a look at "fastest-rising searches," those that are showing a huge spike in activity from out of nowhere. This is a fascinating way to kill time, but it has marketing applications as well.
Danny Sullivan
Photo: Jason Meyer
Danny Sullivan has been covering the search-marketing industry for more than a decade and is editor in chief of SearchEngineLand.com.

As I write this, fires are sweeping across Southern California, and Google Trends has lots of fire-related queries. Folks are also interested in the Colorado Rockies making the World Series and Britney Spears' new lips. If you have content that can match some of the queries, promoting it through paid search can be a way to catch an interesting search wave quickly.

Want more glimpses into how people are searching? WordTracker and Trellian have free tools that let you search against the databases they've compiled with the help of some search engines -- though not from any of the majors, so these provide rough guides only.

A fascinating way to figure out what you should be targeting is to look at what terms are sending traffic to your competition. ComScore, Hitwise and Compete all have paid tools that do this spying for you by monitoring of panels of searchers, as well as internet-service-provider data.

Using Compete, I ran a comparison between Wal-Mart and Target. "Prepaid cellphones" came up as a term for which Wal-Mart was trumping Target. A quick check on Google showed that, sure enough, Wal-Mart ranks tops for that phase, which is clearly driving traffic to its site. Perhaps Target needs to work harder to go after that term, through both search-engine optimization and paid-search efforts.

Check out those tools. Consumers are telling you exactly what they want. Are you listening?
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