For many marketers, search engines are a big component of the online marketing channel. But, search engines also offer something that most marketers overlook. In a word: intelligence. Quite simply, marketers should tap into search engines to find market intelligence about their products, industry and competitors. Let's take a look at how to uncover the market intelligence that search engines possess to help you achieve your marketing goals.
More and more consumers, as well as business people, are turning to search engines to research products or services before making a purchase. The keywords they use to search offer intelligence about their intent. By analyzing the search frequency of different keywords, conclusions can be drawn about the intent of the overall online population. This information can be obtained from a number of sources, including Yahoo! Search Marketing, Google AdWords and recently launched Google Trends.
Understanding demand is essential for new product development. Marketers want to know how much demand exists for their new product/service concept. Before you conduct in-depth market research, you can utilize search query data to test your concept. First, identify keywords that are associated with your concept, and then look for the search query volume and trends to see if it is sufficient to present a business opportunity by comparing its search query volume to that of known successful online products. If there is little demand for such solutions, you may have to find alternative concepts. This approach minimizes the risk in new product development.
But the intelligence that search engines offer can also inform marketers about existing products. By comparing the query volume of branded products such as "Sony digital camera," "Canon digital camera," and "Kodak digital camera," you can quickly approximate the relative market share of your products. The trend analysis of query volume allows you to identify which competitors are gaining on you. Moreover, one can assess the overall industry demand by analyzing the query trends of generic keywords such as "MP3 player" and "digital camera."
Sales are declining-- but why? Is it due to the product's life cycle, or is it because of your competitors? By examining the search volume trends over time for your, and your competitors' similar products, you can establish whether the issue resides on your end, or with the industry as a whole. In addition, you can also look at the search frequency of generic keywords -- such as "VHS" and "beanie babies" -- to identify the product life cycle stage. If your product is indeed in the final stages of its life cycle, it's time for you to move on to new products, or make product changes to add new life to the old marketplace.
Brand marketers are always interested in assessing the branding awareness created by their marketing efforts. When a user is looking for a product such as a television, she may use search engines to find the information using either generic search terms such as "television" or branded search terms such as "Sharp television."
The choice of keywords used may depend on the user's brand awareness of different television manufacturers. The use of branded search query can be considered as a proxy for unaided recall. By analyzing the volume and trend of branded searches across the online population -- such as "Nike" vs. "Adidas" -- you can assess the brand awareness, in the form of unaided recall, created by your overall marketing efforts. If you see a lift in branded searches after the launch of a specific marketing campaign, then you may attribute such lift to that campaign. However, it is not always possible to associate a lift in branded searches to a single campaign. In that case, the branded search lift can be attributed to your marketing efforts as a whole. In addition, analyzing the successful marketing campaigns or efforts of your competitors will not only allow you to set a benchmark for your organization, but will also enable you to identify opportunities to further improve your branding efforts.
Closing the loop
Overall, search engines are a lot more than a primary online marketing channel. They are a rich source of market intelligence that can provide marketers with valuable insight. Clearly they have a lot to offer. Smart marketers will learn to uncover the hidden gems within, and apply the information to their business decisions.