In my book Disruptive Marketing, I note ten trends to watch that will shape the future of marketing. What I probably failed to mention in the book is how I came about researching these trends. So I’ll let you in on a little secret: the value of search isn’t in simply the advertising we can deploy using platforms like Google or Bing, but the many tools that come with them or that can be used as a result of their existence and human behavior’s reliance on them.
For the past few years the discussion amongst many marketers was that search is a tool that is valuable but there is nothing new to learn from it. This is why many marketers seem to be spending time figuring out the ROI from platforms like social media in addition to determining what the overall holistic customer experience should be like for their product or service.
What’s unique is while many marketers try to diagnose what the customer experience is for their brand they simply treat search as a discovery tool. Like I noted in the last paragraph, too many marketers treat search as something that is a found solution to one of the many problems that ails them in the world of marketing. But how if they are looking at search in the wrong way? How if many of you reading this aren’t utilizing it in a way it should be used to spot trends and overall shifts in customer behaviors?
This is where brands can learn again from search on initiatives not just related solely to traffic, keywords, ad formats, click thru rates or return on investment, but instead on how search can be used to diagnose the future trends we all find relevant in a world of perpetual change. Here’s three ways to use search marketing to diagnose what trends are happening and how to utilize it to your advantage.
1. What are people searching for? This has always been unique in terms of understanding what’s trending. What is trending on Twitter differs heavily from what trends on search. Think of the former as a quick spark of interest that is discussed by people in quick fashion. Then think of that search on Google or Bing related to wanting to find out deeper information about the subject at hand. Who is the person? What is their history? What do I need to know about them in order to understand why he or she is trending? There are two tools for this and they are highly valuable. One is the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. The other is the Bing Keyword Research Tool. While many may think these are advertising tools to help with ad keyword planning, those who are reverse engineers and ad hacks understand these are great tools to gain a zeitgeist of what is happening across the most relevant search engines and what information can be found based on geography and language.
2. What is trending? Google has always been good about collecting trends by category. What is unique about this tool is no matter how small or niche the area you wish to find out more about, there is information that can be found. A search for the term disruptive marketing shows while searches for that term have peaked at least once per year in the last five years around 50% of peak activity for the term, searches for that term have shot up to peak search activity as of this writing. Knowing when trends are hot are great because it is indicative of human behavior, but what also helps round out in these analyses?
3. How will new technology reshape search behavior? The study of how people behave on the internet is known as netnography. This takes into account how people behave in a world filled with search engines, applications, social networks and software as a service. It’s an expanding field but one that is important based on understanding how trends influence, shape, reshape and impact our lives. One thing that can be learned from netnography is a simple theory from behavioral economics. What we think is the natural order of behavior today will be altered due to changes in technology, economics, social status, the environment and new products and services being created, combined and transformed on a weekly basis. What are these trends we need to watch for in search and how will they play out in shaping and reshaping the future for your line of business? The best way is to start where many of us in this field begin, with annual trend reports issued from Mary Meeker or trendspotting reports and blogs. But the other area to closely follow is what is happening in the technology, consumer electronics, healthcare and many other industries by asking questions around the ushering in of new trends taking hold now in new and unique ways. In the next five years it will be important to pay attention to voice search, augmented and virtual reality, beacon technology, GPS, mapping and more as these new technologies will reshape search behavior. So it’s best to understand what new search technology may be here before we know it and how that will affect the human condition.