The majority of SEO practitioners have extensive knowledge of a number of specialized tools, from Google’s Keyword Tool, to Advanced Web Rankings, to SEM Rush. Each are used for different activities and process points within a campaign, but the goal remains the same: to ensure a brand is positioned high in the search engine rankings when the largest number of target customers or clients types in a particular query.
To execute, report and constantly improve a search campaign, tools are essential. In particular, Google’s Adwords data that provides traffic volumes will often determine the most beneficial keywords to target. However, the search market leader has recently announced that its offering is changing. Not only will broad match data no longer be provided (the number of people searching for a term with X words within a longer phrase), but it will no longer be possible to separate the traffic from desktop/laptop searchers to those on mobile devices. This, added to the fact that Google Analytics doesn’t make available the keywords that visitors have used in their search when they were signed into their Google account, has made it increasingly challenging for SEO professionals to pinpoint the most valuable terms to target.
By taking a step back from the most customary SEO methods, while keeping one eye on the aim, it’s possible to consider how consumer search behavior might also be understood. One very simple method to put in place during the inquiry or conversion stage is to ask the potential client or customer how they found the brand and, if it was via search, what query was posed. Whether this is a question asked via the website, on the telephone or at an in-store point of sale, such intelligence can be used to inform future activity. This approach could also be applied to a wider range of tools such as online market research software, more typically used by brands, businesses and publishers to appraise products, marketing messages or content.
SEO is a marketing function, so why wouldn’t undertaking market research be suited to gathering the intelligence needed to successfully implement a strategy? The target audience is likely to be the same, so at the time of asking if X visuals and messages appeal to them, or as a distinct insight gathering campaign, businesses can discover more about search behavior. By asking people about their habits and opinions, companies can determine whether Bing or other search engines are being used by target audiences, and therefore ensure efforts are appropriate. Asking if people typically use their desktop or mobile when searching for a type of product or service and when they make their purchases are also important questions considering the upcoming change to Google’s Keyword Tool. Most of the research performed in this area tells us that search patterns are very different on mobile devices and as elements like meta descriptions must be shorter to fully display on mobile search, this would be an area to focus on within an overall SEO strategy.
Other questions to consider might be how many search result pages people view, whether questions make up a high proportion of search queries and what makes people more likely to click on a result, such as an author’s photo. The opportunities are endless and with online software, relevant panels of consumers can be polled, or a detailed demographic can be chosen. Surveys can be deployed in a matter of minutes and results can be gathered in as quickly as a day if required.
With the SEO landscape an ever-shifting plane and with the imminent change to one of the industry’s most crucial tools to consider, the view from the highest point is always going to be the most beneficial; consumer research tools, like those provided by Cint, can be used alongside others to gather intelligence and inform a successful strategy.
Bo Mattsson, is the chief executive of Cint, a global provider of technology for obtaining market intelligence. Bo founded Cint in 1998 when he decided to apply his experience of trading online to the market research industry. He then took over as CEO in 2003 to revamp the core market research software into an exchange-based offering for respondent access. For further information, please visit www.cint.com.