Search data is valuable for search marketers for obvious reasons, but when this data travels to other parts of the marketing department and beyond, it can guide a company’s broader marketing strategy in the right direction and offer a better experience for the customer. eMarketer’s Lauren Fisher spoke with Wes MacLaggan, senior vice president of marketing at ad management platform Marin Software, about why marketers need to keep mining search and other types of data to stay competitive. MacLaggan was interviewed as part of eMarketer’s August report, “Using Marketing Data for Merchandising: Optimizing Inventory Levels and Launching New Products.”
Marin Software has deep roots in search advertising, but do your clients also use search data to optimize their broader marketing efforts?
One of the benefits we’ve always pushed with our platform is the ability to extract the data and insights and share that with other parts of the organization. How do you become more strategic as a marketer by providing that information to other areas of the company so they can make decisions?
Search is one such source of data. For example, Google’s search query report tells you exactly what people have searched. That’s a fire hose for any company to see what their customers are really looking for.
People don’t usually search for the exact product. They search for something broader. Understanding and mining that data can be a valuable source of insight, both for the marketer and deeper in the organization.
The rise of voice search makes this even more of an opportunity. With voice, searches tend to be much longer, and that gives you more detail and more information to work with.
What’s a specific use case you see often in the search space?
Many companies use this information to tweak the merchandising of their landing pages and the messaging of their landing pages for their search programs.
Even for Marin, I use this data to figure out how to best position our company. There isn’t a super crisp, clear name for our category. Whether someone’s searching for a bidding platform or digital ad management, we want to be able to identify all of those terms and match what they are looking for from query to actual conversion.
If someone searches for an optimization tool, I want the ad they see to include optimization tools in it. I want the landing page to be about an optimization tool. If I don’t show that in the ad or landing page, there’s a disconnect. It gives them a chance to re-evaluate and say, “Is this what I’m really looking for?”
What other sources of insight do your clients marry with search data?
There are tons of analytics in digital marketing. Many marketers use the basic analytics built into Facebook and Google to understand the time of day or geography where certain things perform best. First-party data is one of the most powerful tools that marketers can bring to the table to stand out and connect with their customers. If you can customize the customer experience based on what you know about that user, you’re going to be able to connect with them and personalize the messaging in a really powerful way.
If someone is searching for your brand and you know they’re already a customer, that’s a great opportunity to upsell or cross-sell them. For example, subscribers to Ancestry.com often go to Google and type in “Ancestry” there. They’re already an Ancestry customer—they know where they are trying to get to.
But a company like Ancestry would want an ad there to make sure its competitors don’t come in and try and steal that user. Rather than just having an ad for Ancestry for existing customers, they can use audience targeting and that knowledge to change the messaging and cross-sell their DNA tests. It still blocks out the competition, but it puts a message in front of the customer to sell them something they haven’t yet bought.
What are some examples in other industries?
You can do similar things in the retail world. If you know someone just bought shoes, you can sell them socks next.
Financial services is another. One of our clients is a UK financial services firm. They know when someone buys insurance through them, and they know when a customer is about to renew. If someone is coming up on that renewal cycle, they’ll not only adjust their messaging, but also their bid price. They’ll bid more aggressively to make sure they’re showing up for that specific user on broad category terms like car insurance they might not be as highly positioned on because they know that customer is more familiar with the brand. It’s easier and less expensive to retain that customer than to find a new one.
Marin also helps clients with their Amazon efforts. What’s your advice for marketers that look at Amazon as a similar source of insight?
First, given where Amazon fits in the purchase funnel and given that roughly 50% of product searches originate on Amazon—not Google—any brand that ignores it is doing so at their own peril. Amazon is another important source of data for what people are looking for and for connecting with them.
Marketers need to be aware of how their products are positioned on Amazon and the messaging they use. If someone searches for a printer and lands on one of your printers, you want to make sure that if it’s not the right model, you have a table in your product details of the eight other Amazon products you’re selling.
You also need to look at Amazon’s data to understand if someone clicked on an ad, did they purchase your product or something else? That can help you understand how you should be connecting that initial intent with the right product to make sure you’re putting the optimal SKU in front of each person.
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