A Vital Source Of Business Intelligence

Searchmetrics CEO, focused on how data from search can help enterprises understand and optimize digital demand and unlock business potential

The phrase “search engine optimization” implies some sort of manipulation of the search engine algorithm to secure a higher placement than would otherwise be the case. That’s harder to do nowadays as Google, Bing, Yandex, Baidu and the others have refined their algorithms to such an extent that simple and obvious tricks to spoof a higher placement are, for the most part, no longer effective.

Instead, ranking highly today is increasingly about understanding the market and the customer so that your company’s online content answers people’s search queries better than anyone else. Far from reducing the value of SEO, this underlines how its focus is expanding into delivering market intelligence — insight that’s highly useful across the wider business.

Search As An Expression Of Demand

When people search, they’re expressing a demand, whether they’re researching or completing an online purchase, want information about a topic they are interested in, searching for a specific website or need directions to a physical store. Analyzing this demand provides important clues not just to drive superior content creation but to power business decisions such as how to optimize product offerings, inventory and merchandising.

Hundreds of millions of individuals type in billions of search terms daily, not just into search engines, but search into sources such as Amazon, Facebook and YouTube. By corralling that data and analyzing it in relation to your own market, you can extract a wealth of insights.

At the start of the pandemic, for example, in the toy and games sector, searches for jigsaw puzzles for adults were climbing steeply as locked down consumers scoured the web for things to do. Our internal data indicates that queries for children’s puzzles were plateauing, while those for 2000-piece puzzles for grown-ups were two times higher than in 2019.

It’s not just search volumes that fluctuate. Around 15% of monthly searches today are new — having never been used before. That’s because people have moved away from entering single keywords to typing (or speaking) more nuanced and complex sentences into search engines. For businesses, this means you can home in much more closely on the specific desires and demands people are expressing when searching.

Understanding Demand In Practice

This sounds quite technical, so here’s a real-world example based on one of my personal passions: volleyball. If your company specializes in volleyball shoes, search experts can map a taxonomy of all the ways that people search for your products, including the different types of searches and the words they use.

This can help you arrive at a proxy or estimation for the level of potential demand in the market, distinguishing between transactional searches (when people search with an intent to make a purchase now) and those in which they’re researching or looking for information, possibly ahead of a future transaction.

You can analyze the brands people look for and the level of interest they generate, not just the “big guns” like Nike and Adidas, but also the specialist suppliers your company might compete with directly. There’s potential to understand seasonality and geographical differences (when searches are spiking across the year and where) as well as the questions people ask and the features they look for.

A Multitude Of Possibilities

You can see the possibilities. Insights from search can inform everything from production, distribution and marketing to the nature and timing of new launches.

To make the most of this data, the obvious next step is to engage with your internal search team and ask them about possible behavioral or demand shifts in your market that are being signposted by the search data they are looking at. You can also look externally for specialist providers of search data that cover your market.

For a long time, anything connected with SEO was seen as a technical discipline that senior management didn’t need to involve themselves in. Not anymore. The way things have evolved, the next generation of SEO is turning into a vital source of intelligence that can be tapped to drive the business forward.

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