Searcher Behaviour – where is the traffic?

Search behaviour – increasing impatience of search engine users

49% of search users change their keywordphrase before checking out the second page. Does this mean that searchers are growing increasingly impatient with the results served by search engines. Absolutely, there’s no doubt that in the “think-it-get-it” environment of the web, users expect to have the right information at their fingertips.

Additionally if you appear after page 3 in the SERPs for a phrase, you can expect only 2% of users to go that far down the list. A whopping 68% of searchers don’t venture past the first page.

TAKEOUT – Your listing on the search engine returned page(SERP) not only has to be in the top listings on the top page, it needs to be as compelling as possible. Engage the searcher with content which meets their needs.  It goes back to understanding searcher demand and levels of intent. Too many keyword research projects focus solely on looking at volume and search share. This misses out half of the equation and has optimisers placing effort in the wrong keywords – lowering ROI. By understanding how searchers behave, how they communicate their needs and relfecting this in your content and messaging, you balance traffic volume with relevancy.

Search isn’t about throwing as much at the wall and hoping some of it will stick. The search industry is full of people being busy achieving nothing. By applying communication principles to search, commercial and communication objectives have a better chance of being met.

GoCompare whopped by Google’s bad link big stick

Really good post on the Hitwise blog following up on GoCompare’s natural search visibility for the term “car insurance” plunge after being hammered by Google’s inward link moral authority. Great graph on the change in proportion on natural “free” traffic to paid traffic from PPC. That’s gotta hurt!

Insurance, as we digital marketers know, is one of the most competitive industries online, (should show you the proportion of insurance spam I get on this blog!) with profits being made generally on the 2nd or 3rd year of a policy, affiliate commissions have been squeezed over the last few years. Can any player in the insurance arena take the risk of getting into Google’s blacklist?

With natural search continuing to be provide the backbone of digital marketing activity, playing fast and loose with the Big G and it’s seriousness about linking is to be avoided.

Agencies and Paid Links

Links from a bad neighbourhood is a sure way to destroy a site’s ranking. Getting paid links (I have no idea if this is what happened to GoCompare) from 3rd party offshore organisations has been used by many SEO agencies. Highly profitable for the agency (i’ve heard of examples of at least 50% pure cream on 6 month campaigns with agency work limited to sending over a few anchor text variations to some link farm sweatshop in Asia.) and in the past it worked with these campaigns getting great results with linking shoring up some pretty pedestrian SEO campaigns.

Allelulia – that’s over!

Now we’re into a much more interesting times. The risks of bad neighbourhood liking is a reality which in-house marketers are picking up on. (Cue epiphany moments, shafts of sunlight and heavenly choruses).

Linking will always remain a challenge but, to state the bleedin’ obvious, the creation of valuable content (not hit and run link baiting) and utlising web2.0, and indeed 3.0, platforms responsibly will sort the men out from the boyos!

Bet Gocompare think so.

Digital Marketing in a Downturn

What happens if the credit crunch becomes the marketing budget crunch where wrestling with the CFO becomes a grim weekly reality? God forbid!

A lot has changed since the dark, fearful days of the last recession at the end of the 80’s, early 90’s. Back then it was the era of faxes and regurgitated Kotler and McLaren. But from adversity comes success. Recessions can be a breeding ground for marketing innovation in the face of tremendous financial challenges.

Online marketing wasn’t really around during the last recession, nor for that matter were most of Britain’s online marketers out of college (or indeed secondary school!).

Very probably the cost effective aspects of digital marketing would take a larger share of the overall marketing budget in a time of recession. Here’s a few aspects to ponder on.

Metrics – The good times and bigger picutre marketing go hand in hand, a down turn is a time of detail. If you’ve only been giving those stats a cursory look, it’s time to get into the detail. Mine it for the gold.

Competition – Keep a good weather eye on the competition through online tools and be opportunistic. Remember they’ll be feeling the pinch too.

Brand Equity Marketing – inevitably a target of the brown suits in accounting but a refocusing of brand spending to online and more granular activity of Social Media Optimisation will help.

Consumer Decision Making & search – test going against the usual agency SEM mantra of investing in generic keyowrd paid search. Refocus on terms which show a clearer intent on purchase e.g. “value egyptian cotton sheets” rather than “bedsheets online”. Measure the effect of this over a quarter in terms of both ROI and revenue.

Natural Search – it’s cost effective and sustainable if you spend some time getting it right. 90% of all site visits in UK have an element of search engine so make sure your infront of your potential customers when they are looking for you.

Online Inventory – harden up on your online media buying. Relook at the basics of time and geography, layer on context and investigate behaviour opportunities in large networks.  Negotiate!

Social Media Optimisation – can be very confusing for most marketers at the start. Invest in putting a strong strategy together and you’ll find that for ongoing minimal effort will reap strong returns.

Email – get into the detail and segment your database. If your email set up doesn’t give you the detail you want invest consider investing in software or move operations to an online emarketing provider. Focus on building loyalty and repeat sales with existing customers by creating incentives that match their behaviour/interests.

Is the World Becoming Vanilla?

So there may have been a glass or two of wine taken, but you know that when you get two or more digital marketers gathered, even over cheap pizza, there’s going to be a discussion on a) ideas for niche cool start ups b) latest virals on youtube etc or c) search. Last night was all three, but the conversation about personalised search is the one that stays with me during this slightly out of focus day.

So web 2.0 has been all about user generated content, web 3.0 is all about personalisation. Digital is getting to grips with some amazing behavioural and preference based opportunities. But with the convenience of personalisation comes a darker possible reality.

Take your profiling music engine. You like Tom Waits and based on this preference you get to hear Mr Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat. You continue to review the content and based on your choices and the neural networking of the choices of other users, you continue to be fed music in one genre. But what about your penchant for latent 80’s, blue eyeshadow and big hair power ballads… should it remains buried somewhere deep in you subconscious. The problem is that you’re being fed content which is already part of your ken and experience, the randomness of life and musical exploration is dampened. (or is this the onset of middle age?).
But from a marketing/commercial side, this thinking is almost the antipothesis to the Long Tail i.e. supplying to the infrequent niche to large populations can be more lucrative in the digital sphere than following traditional demand and supply models.

So it’s similar with personalised search. Great; you can turn it on and off. Fantastic; getting results which have a higher probability of being what you are actually looking for is no bad thing! Search is already taking us through the back door of sites to what is perceived as being content relevant to our needs, but is there a danger that we’ll loose all that colour that an engine can bring to daily searching and all that will be on offer will be vanilla.