Want to know what your customers are searching for on Google? Understanding the way people use search engines can give you valuable insights into your customers and your market.
The way consumers are accessing information is changing. Web search is so embedded in the daily lives of people around the world that it has become a barometer of what’s on our minds; not just what we’re excited by or gossiping about but what’s bothering us, as well as how we’re spending our free time and extra money. This means that business owners and marketing experts have tremendous insight into their customers’ thoughts at their fingertips.
At any given moment, we have the tools on hand to find answers to our questions. Do you know how your customers are searching for information? If you’re trying to attract customers to your mid-year hardware sale, would you promote ‘discount tools’ or ‘cheap tools’? Google Insights for Search is an online tool that tells us Australians search more for ‘cheap’ items than they do for ‘discount’ items. Let’s look at how one small business owner uses this tool to help reach her customers online.
Penny Parsons, joint CEO of online holiday accommodation site takeabreak.com.au, knows how important it is to stay ahead of the competition. The family-owned business is competing online with the big players so Penny has an AdWords search marketing campaign which she manages with the assistance of Google. AdWords are paid-for text link ads that appear above or beside the organic search results.
She has used Google Insights for Search extensively to help her identify and take advantage of growing consumer trends and capitalise on takeabreak’s competitive difference. For example, online searches for ‘pet friendly accommodation’ are on the rise and Parsons knows her competitors can’t offer this service so she is bidding more on that search term to take advantage of the increased interest. Another interesting observation is that the misspelling of accommodation (with one ‘m’) is common, so she includes the incorrect spelling in her AdWords search marketing campaign search terms.
Seasonality plays a big role in the travel industry. Many people think Easter holiday bookings are last minute but Insights for Search shows that people start looking for Easter accommodation straight after Christmas, which means Parsons plans her Easter promotions well before March.
She says: “We use Insights for Search all the time. It’s a crystal ball that allows you to look at your industry and focus your marketing activity. This allows us to be really responsive to trends and make sure that our communications and offers are relevant to our customers.”
According to Roy Morgan research, more than 11.9 million Australians use Google each month. The internet gets more traffic than any pavement in the country. But do you know if search engine queries in your industry are growing or shrinking, or if your sector experiences seasonal spikes? You can learn a lot about your customer and your sector by looking at what people are searching for the most.
So, how can Google Insights for Search help you improve your marketing strategy? With it, you can see consumer search engine queries from a specific period and within a particular industry, illustrated in a graph that plots the volume of online searches. On the same screen, you will be able to identify spikes in the searches, the top related searches and the growing related searches. An example of a related search is ‘chicken recipes’ when you search for ‘recipes’. You’ll also be able to see which states are more likely to conduct a particular search.
Entering new markets
If you’re starting a business, Insights for Search can help in the research phase. Many start-ups don’t have huge budgets for research so this is one way to begin.
Let’s look at an example. You might be thinking about opening a chocolate shop in Melbourne. What will you specialise in? Who are your competitors? What is the best time of the year to open the business? How popular is chocolate in Victoria? A search for the past 12 months shows that:
- The top searches include references to recipes
- The most common type of chocolate searched for is white chocolate
- The searches for chocolate peaked leading up to Christmas and Easter
- Victorians generally search more for “chocolate” than they do for “diet”, except after Christmas.
So what can you learn from this? The references to recipes may be in response to the hugely popular television show Masterchef, which is a social trend driving an interest in cooking. You might decide to run cooking with chocolate workshops if this is still a trend when you open your doors. White chocolate is a hot ticket search term so you might consider offering it as a specialty, or at least highlighting it in your marketing campaign. Peak times for searches are an indication of consumer demand so you would want to be established by Christmas or Easter to take advantage of heightened consumer activity. Searches have been building since April 2009, an indicator that chocolate is on people’s minds during tough economic times. Running global searches also gives you a taste of international trends that could be making their way to Australia.
Anticipate seasonal spikes in demand
There are a number of reasons small business owners may like to delve into the role that seasonality has on their business. Insights for Search can help you do this by identifying peaks in searches, as well as gradual rises and falls. Results show that people start to think about Christmas around late August, with a surge in searches from September onwards. If you’re a retailer selling Christmas lights, for example, this gives you an indication of when you might want to bulk up your marketing campaign to include references to Christmas. This can assist you to better tailor your online marketing campaigns, as well as offline promotional activity. You might want to send out a newsletter advertising a special Christmas lights deal during September, when people are starting to think about their festive purchases.
Capture your buzz… and your competitors’
If you’re creating a buzz offline, make sure you back it up with online advertising. As a small business, you may not have the budget to run huge offline advertising campaigns but that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of those who are.
For example, Insights for Search shows that while searches for a specific airline advertising cheap flights to LA will be high, so too will the related search for ‘cheap LA flights’. Any travel agent with AdWords campaigns can take advantage of the buzz, provided they have a relevant service offering cheap flights, and should make sure they add the terms ‘cheap LA flights’ to their keywords.
Understanding what customers are looking for
One of the many practical uses of understanding how people use search engines is to help improve your AdWords campaign. If you’re a real estate agent that lists rental properties in Sydney and Melbourne, you might have an AdWords campaign that only targets people in Sydney or Melbourne. At first, you may assume that Sydney and Melbourne are pretty similar cities, but if you do a little research, you’ll see that people looking to rent in Sydney are more likely to search for ‘rentals in Sydney’ than ‘share house Sydney’. Cross the border and you’ll see that people searching in Melbourne search more for ‘share house Melbourne’ than ‘rentals in Melbourne.’ This might encourage you to bid higher for the most popular search term in the respective market.
When a product or service has a technical name for it, it’s important to understand that a potential customer in the search phase might not know the correct terminology for the information they are seeking. For example, when someone is researching weight loss options, they will search for ‘liposuction’ not its medical name which is ‘suction assisted lipectomy’.
Identifying new trends
There are trends that happen globally with every facet of life. We can look at what people are searching for to identify emerging trends. Trends in searches for cosmetics over the past 12 months show that queries for ‘mineral makeup’ have grown by 50 percent and searches for ‘Thin Lizzy’ (an all-in-one makeup brand) have grown by 60 percent.
You won’t often hear of a killer marketing strategy that came from a gut feeling. Some people get lucky but more get smart. The more insight you have into your sector and your customers, the stronger position you’ll be in to reach them at the right time with the most compelling message to close the deal.
–Julian Persaud is head of online for Google Australia.
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