Thursday, February 4, 2010

Deep Searches and Content Proliferation

Sometimes, the evolution of what is available online and how buyers access it tends to form a bit of a positive feedback loop that rapidly changes behaviours, and therefore what marketers need to do.

Take, for example, search. Today’s buyers are rapidly becoming accustomed to the prevalence of valuable information online, and the increasing accuracy of search engines. In response to this, buyers are beginning to adapt how they perform searches, and are seeking ever more precise and deep information. As the effect of social influence on search results increases, this trend will only increase as deep content, of a quality determined by the social influence of specific experts in that topic area, can be even more easily discovered.

What this means is that buyers are not searching for broad topic areas as one might flip to a section of a newspaper. Instead, prospective buyers are using longer and longer terms find exactly the information they need. According to a Hitwise study on search phrases over 56% of searches involve three or more words in the search phrase, while close to 20% involve at least 5 words. This is a significant fact as it means that prospective buyers are seeking information that fits a very specific challenge they are facing or precise question that they have.

To keep on top of trends, buyers might search for how specific new capabilities are affecting their industry (“augmented reality in real estate”) or trends in businesses like theirs (“small business adoption of CRM”). As they move towards a purchase cycle, and look for particular vendors to have on their evaluation list, prospective buyers may seek particular traits (“funds making ethical investments in latin america”) or specialized capabilities (“high availability network backup solutions”). Similarly, when moving towards the final stages of validation of a purchase decision, the searches may involve specific brands or product names, along with capabilities, objections, or perspectives that the buyer is looking to learn more about (“Eloqua email deliverability specifications” or “Eloqua marketing automation in financial services”).

Over 56% of searches involve three or more words in the search phrase, while close to 20% involve at least 5 words.

The Challenge for Marketers

The resulting challenge for marketers is an interesting one. If searches are becoming more precise, this means that we must strive to both create a wealth of quality content that is interesting and relevant at all phases of the buying process. Similarly, as search results are being guided by social influence, we must strive to build influence and reputation among the appropriate audiences so that our results are found to be relevant.

As we do this, it is key to keep a close eye on both our search discoverability and the search terms that currently drive visitors to our sites. If we watch these metrics, while at the same time increasing our focus on creating deep, high-quality, subject-matter expert content, we will be found by those buyers and have a chance to influence their thinking at each stage of the buying process.
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
Come talk with me or one of my colleagues at a live event, or join in on a webinar