Search data is not one-size-fits-all – it goes way beyond search engine marketing and knowing which search led to a specific action. In fact, if search data can be used to forecast flu outbreaks, then I think we should consider the use cases beyond just an SEM campaign.
There are various search entities where data resides – such as search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo!, and then other search entities including vertical sites, shopping comparison engines, e-commerce sites and social networks. The combination of all of these searches is creating opportunities for marketers to take search data beyond SEM and into other types of marketing territory.
Value Of Search Data Beyond Search Engines
Today’s search world is anything but linear. When you think about it, search has really become more organic; something that has grown into multiple elements and can be placed in a variety of contexts to provide greater insights. Marketers should start by understanding that the use of search data in SEM is different from the use of search in display.
Additionally, search data is a great source of consumer behavior and an identifying factor of where a consumer is within the purchasing funnel.
Given this sheer volume of data, it’s easy to see why search data is becoming more important for display advertisers. Today, search data allows display advertisers to reach a broader audience, proving that it’s no longer just a lower level, funnel-marketing channel for SEM advertisers.
This has evolved because in display, marketers aren’t buying keywords related to a search from a list, but an audience based on search. Rather than bidding on specific keywords; in display, you are targeting a much larger audience that is based on other related words, not just a single keyword.
For example, in search, marketers that want to target using the keyword “lawyer” will need to purchase all three related keywords: attorney, legal advice and lawyer.
In display, that same “lawyer” keyword is expanded to include related terms, and would result in an audience that includes people that search for lawyer, attorney, law advice, lawsuit, legal counsel, etc. These keywords are without an additional cost to the marketer and result in an increased reach for the campaign.
Search Engines + Other Search Entities = Greater Insights
As mentioned earlier, search data that is used in display advertising comes from a vast range of sites that aren’t search engines. These types of sites include e-commerce sites, vertical and shopping comparison sites and social networking sites.
The breadth of data available on these sites increases the likelihood that display campaigns based on search will reach consumers earlier in the purchase cycle. This allows advertisers to get their brand and message in front of those consumers during the influence/consideration phase, before they have made their purchasing decision.
The analysis of various sources of search data leads to a pool of insights into consumer trends, purchasing decisions, and the demographics of consumers that are searching for your product or related products.
For example, when you combine search with additional browsing behaviors, marketers get a much richer picture of how long a consumer may consider specific products, what factors play a role in the purchasing process, the kinds of sites that consumers who are interested in the product visit, and other, perhaps even unrelated products, your consumer audience is interested in, etc.
Understanding The Value Of Search In Display
While the search industry has had a proven model since the ’90s, it’s also true that display has created even more value for the search channel and its data. In my opinion, marketers shouldn’t overlook the value that comes, very cost-effectively, from the use of combining search data with display advertising, as many of the insights gleaned go beyond what Google and Bing have.
Search data shouldn’t be seen just as a marketing channel, or be used only for SEM; it should be seen as a major contributor to the overall digital marketing mix. Below are a few ways marketers can make the most out of search data for their display campaigns:
- Leverage search retargeting for search extension: Take your search keywords and work with a partner that can expand your SEM list for greater scale in display.
- Apply search insights to display strategy: Use search data to gain insights into consumer trends, purchasing patterns and trends, etc., refining your display campaign and targeting parameters accordingly.
- Use display as a method for conquesting: Search engines like Google don’t enable conquesting. By utilizing search data within display, marketers can target audiences with display ads based on competitors’ key terms.
- Break free from CPC pricing, while using search data: Buying each keyword in search quickly adds up, and some keywords are simply more costly than others. When you apply search data to display targeting, you place value on the audience vs. each individual keyword.
Summaries of Good Stuff
Since this is a knowledge graph (“Web” might be a better word), the results are designed to help you dig more deeply into related topics. Google showed us how someone might start by searching for a local amusement park, find an interesting rollercoaster as one of the “things” that relates to the park and end up digging in on details about that coaster and other similar rides. It’s a “skeleton of knowledge that allows you to explore information on the web,” said Gomes.
Analyst firm BIA/Kelsey has projected that by 2015 there will be more local searches coming from smartphones than PCs in the US. It’s a bold prediction and one that has logical merit: smartphone search volumes are growing faster than search on the PC. While local search is at least 20 percent of total queries on the PC (per Google) it’s at least 40 percent of smartphone queries, also according to Google.
Mobile vs. PC Local Search Volumes (BIA/Kelsey Forecast)
Source: BIA/Kelsey (2012)
In some categories such as restaurants and travel, mobile searches represent 15 – 20 percent or more of overall query volumes. There can be no dispute that mobile search is now a huge phenomenon. But will it eclipse PC local search query volume in three years?
Let’s think out loud a bit, shall we?
50 Billion Local Queries on the PC
Using the Google 20 percent figure as a guide we can estimate that in March there were approximately 3.7 billion local searches on the PC in the US. In the absence of significant month over month growth that would translate into roughly 44 billion annual local queries coming through US search engines on the PC. But let’s assume modest local query growth and say there will be something on the order of 50 billion local queries on search engines in the US in 2012. (The number could be higher of course.)
Now, how many local-mobile search queries are there?
Answering that question depends on whether we include app-based local search (e.g., Yelp, Foursquare, yellow pages apps, Urbanspoon, etc.). Data from comScore, Localeze and 15 Miles finds that half of US mobile consumers (survey respondents) say they use apps at least some of the time for local search. However, we don’t know the frequency or the volume of in-app search because no one is really tracking those numbers today.
Let’s limit the definition of “mobile search” to browser based search through one of the major US search engines. However right now Google represents about 95 percent of the total “mobile search” market in the US.
12 Billion Local Queries on Smartphones
If there are roughly 125 million smartphone owners in the US (50 percent of 250 million mobile subscribers) and a large number of smartphone owners do an average 20 mobile searches per month, then there are something like 30 billion mobile searches annually right now in the US. (Let’s leave out tablets of this discussion.) If 40 percent of that overall mobile search volume is local, that would mean roughly 12 billion annual local searches on mobile devices. (This number may be slightly inflated today.)
We can assume growth in smartphone penetration and some growth in per-person mobile search query volume — though this assumption is a wild card for several reasons. It also may be a bit risky to assume that the percentage of overall mobile search that is local will continue to climb significantly, though it could reach 50 percent (which is what Microsoft says it is today on Bing).
Let’s assume smartphone penetration reaches 75 percent (say 187 million people) and each person does 40 mobile searches per month (doubling our per-person monthly query assumption). That translates into 90 billion annual mobile queries. If the local percentage of mobile search volume grows to 50 percent, we’d have 45 billion annual local-mobile search queries.
That event would get us pretty close to PC-mobile local search parity, if there weren’t dramatic PC local search growth. However a number of factual assumptions must come to pass. And the future is not guaranteed to look like the past.
What If the Paradigm Shifts?
The proliferation of mobile apps (whether native or HTML5) combined with the rise of Siri and other voice assistants could mean that browser-based mobile search doesn’t grow much over time. Google has cited figures of 130 percent year over year mobile search growth. But there are reasons to believe that the current PC search model on the smartphone small screen will be supplanted, at least to some degree in the relatively near future.
More than a couple of years out it all starts to get very speculative, since mobile is evolving so rapidly. However, regardless of whether the BIA forecast comes true in three years — I don’t think it can without including in-app search volumes — it’s certainly directionally accurate. And one day in the relatively near future it’s clear that people will be using mobile devices to find local information as much or more than their laptops and desktop PCs.