Which content is King?1 It’s the content that answers the question the customer has now. As an ecommerce marketing operations director at Dell, I’m curious to learn about customer needs real time. So, insights from organic search can be a complementary addition to direct customer feedback, traditional market research, and social media listening.
I find that organic search tools such as Google Adwords have more utility and power in both planning and tracking of new trends than most marketers may realize. Great product launches and marketing campaigns balance good planning and quick inclusion of new information. So, in this article, I’m sharing ways we’re using search data to inform our content planning, and my hope is our lessons learned will help you advance your content practice.
Customarily, we equate natural search with search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is typically an operations step done in the middle of product launch production during webpage construction. SEO teams analyze keyword interest for the page topic and advise the web team to include high traffic terms in the page. We optimize page titles and meta descriptions to compel searchers to click on our Google results.
For example, a Google search for ‘Dell Laptops’ returns this page as top result. The title includes ‘laptops’ as well as other common search terms: ‘Notebook’, ‘Ultrabook’, ‘2-in-1’ and Dell’s laptop brands. The meta description lets searchers know they can shop and buy on this official Dell site.
Google sees this:
The searcher sees this in the Google results:
Although optimizing pages for search will help draw relevant traffic, it’s limited to how relevant the content is to what searchers are actually seeking.
So, let’s look at a different approach to using search insights.
We can turn the SEO model upside-down and use search insights to instigate new content creation and, consequently, reach more customers. I have identified four opportunities to use search insights this way.
Include keyword and trend analysis at the research stage, ahead of the brief and the copy. Marketing planning teams can use search insights along with other primary and industry research sources to size customer interest and identify market needs. For example, a quick check of Google Trends tells us if the immensely successful Chinese ecommerce shopping event ‘Single’s Day’ is gaining momentum in the US.
Search research can identify questions and needs that the creative team can answer. For example, high volume searches related to Internet of Things ask for ‘examples’, ‘applications’, and ‘definition.’ Content that answers those questions will draw traffic. And search gives copywriters a simple check for the most popular words and spellings for a topic. The spelling “All in One” is 8x more common than “allinone” in searches for desktop computers.
Both the content and the technical page design matter for strong SEO. The web teams check each page has a high interest unique topic, complete metadata, and design that aligns with Google’s guidelines.
Tracking search trends guides what to create next. Retail brand Zara disrupted the fashion industry by using a nimble operations model that allowed the company to watch actual sales trends and quickly bring new clothes to market. Search provides that trend-tracking for content strategy. Market interest changes.
Here’s another example. Ahead of the Microsoft Windows 10 release, searchers looked for the release date and reviews. After the release, searches changed to how to download and how to update. But it’s not enough to track emerging buzzwords and tack them onto existing pages. Marketing needs to write new content that truly meets the market need.
So, how do we take advantage of these opportunities? It requires changing the way search and marketing teams engage with each other.
Successfully expanding search as a marketing tool requires the search team to fully engage in marketing planning. That, in turn, requires two essential changes in scope and process.
The search team needs to know the products. To provide pertinent research insights, the search team must understand what market needs the product meets. Identifying that ‘security’ is a high volume search term is easy; separating insights for data security from insights for network security is hard.
Marketing teams working toward launch deadlines need customized information quickly. The search team should build connections to existing marketing processes versus working in a silo. For example, most launch processes include steps for a marketing brief, copy review and work-in-process web review. The search team can contribute insights, keywords and metadata at these existing steps of the launch process, adding value without impacting schedules.
Content that is crafted around what potential customers search for most will drive relevant visits and sales conversion. When your SEO teams and marketing teams better understand the opportunities and change the way they work together, you can make the most of search data to inform content planning.
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