The holiday season is in full swing with the usual number of injuries reported in over zealous black Friday shopping. A Grand Rapids, Michigan man was trampled on November 26 while attempting to begin his holiday commerce activities at Wal-Mart. Meanwhile, a woman dove onto the floor of a Lincoln Nebraska Wal-Mart desperately clinging to a highly discounted laptop computer while other customers ran over her to reach the remaining sale computers.
In spite of increases to online activity and overall spending, human nature still prevails each holiday shopping season. According to a late October prediction published by Forrester Research, online expenditures will increase 25 percent and 2.5 million new households will discover online shopping this year.
Human nature is also accurately represented in search activity, and while most search initiatives are being refined, adapted and optimized to capitalize on this season's commerce festivities, marketers still struggle with the core of every search engine advertising program: finding the right keywords. Help in the form of advanced keyword selection is on the way with Hitwise's Search Intelligence Version 3.0, released today.
Buy me some traffic
Keywords initiate the interaction with any search activity, and while there are many tools to help you refine a search initiative, few if any focus on the untold gems that lie in undiscovered or "gap" keywords. While beating your fellow man senseless might be a neat way for some to kick off the season, finding new ways to reach online shoppers in the controlled online environment is paramount to executing a successful search initiative.
Hitwise monitors over 25 million internet users, as well as over 500,000 websites in 160 industry categories according to the firm's latest measurement statistics. Add search intelligence to that equation and you have a recipe for adding value to search initiatives beyond the scope of traditional existing data gathering.
"There are plenty of tools to help optimize, but sourcing information is something of a challenge," says Bill Tancer, general manager, global research at Hitwise. "We help our clients discover what terms they do not have."
You have to find it first
I took the new and improved Version 3.0 for a test drive this week. The first thing that struck me was how easy it was to use. With little or no training, a search marketer could reach inside competitive search data and discover all permutations of keywords that resulted in visits to competing sites and dissect the data by industry as well.
In the quest for search term intelligence, keyword suggestion tools offer combinations of words or phrases that users enter in the course of a search interaction, but without information that allows a marketer to see if that keyword or phrase resulted in a site visit the data is far less valuable.
Often, search sites will provide competitive intelligence about search activity within a category, but that information is habitually un-sourced and can be most aptly categorized as anecdotal and motivated by a desire to increase advertiser spending.
Site analytics information will provide keyword intelligence once visitors have found you, but that won't fill the gap. Match technologies -- if used in a progressive negative capacity when compared to site side data -- will also help bridge the gap, but it won't fill it.
Why you need this
Among the new developments in Hitwise Search Intelligence Version 3.0 is the ability to upload an entire keyword lexicon so an advertiser can compare existing keyword lists to keywords that resulted in site visits to competitor sites. This "Gap Analysis" report can then be exported and applied to a search initiative.
A word or two of caution in using this type of comparison: just because a keyword or phrase exists in a competitor's campaign or resulted in a visit to a competitor's site, this does not automatically qualify it for your initiative. In other words, don't abandon relevancy disciplines to add keywords: make sure these phrases belong in your search initiative first.
Other tools in the Hitwise service shed include category separation, which allows a comparison of shopping specific and industry specific search activity. There is also competitive charting of search behavior across time periods to allow an evaluation of purchase intent, buzz, viral initiative and public relations effort effectiveness -- activities that have become very popular in online marketing.
An advertiser can also develop keyword lists around seasonality and filter out brand names that might present a problem with regard to competing brands and trademarks. One can also compare terms across categories and websites, providing depth for comparing terms that generate traffic to competitor's sites.
It's not tool late
Holiday online shopping activity might be predictable using your existing data sources, but it is never too late to go after shoppers you may be missing. As we have learned over the years, almost anything can happen during the annual holiday gift shopping jamboree.
Historically, site traffic and online shopping daily revenue will peak in the week following Black Friday. For the first time in Hitwise recorded history, Walmart.com beat Amazon.com for site traffic in that peak time frame -- proving once again that it's anyone's game online and every little bit of competitive intelligence helps.
I leave you this week with my own spin on the ubiquitous adult beverage safety deus ex machina. With online shopping days quickly slipping away, please consume offline goods responsibly this season.
iMedia Search Editor Kevin Ryan's current and former client roster reads like a "who's who" in big brands; Rolex Watch, USA, State Farm Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Minolta Corporation, Samsung Electronics America, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Panasonic Services, and the Hilton Hotels brands, to name a few. Ryan believes in sound guidance, creative thought, accountable actions and collaborative execution as applied to search, or any form of marketing. His principled approach and staunch commitment to the industry have made him one of the most sought after personalities in online marketing. Ryan volunteers his time with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, and several regional non-profit organizations.
Mr. Ryan is managing partner at Kinetic Results.