Search terms are powerful indicators of how consumers think and feel about a subject or a product or a brand. And for a marketer trying to understand consumer preferences and attitudes, this information can be extremely valuable. The challenge is how to derive insight from this “big data.”

Recently I was asked to conduct a webinar on this subject as part of Big Data Academy from Data Informed. This webinar series provides information on how to use “big data” technology to improve business performers. I was very pleased to be presenting next to David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR, a book that influenced me significantly when I read it in 2007.

Google provides the ultimate “big data” and our team here at JPL has developed a good way to use this search data to learn about consumer preferences. The key to this approach is seeing how search queries correlate with consumer needs. To illustrate this example, let’s look at searches related to “bed bugs.” It so happens that there were 46,241,401 searches in the U.S. for subjects related to bed bugs (yes, we might have a problem).

First, we use Google AdWords Keyword Tool to see all the searches related to “bed bugs.” We find 801 different search terms related to this subject. These include terms as general as “what are bed bugs” and as specific as “bed bug exterminator Brooklyn.” Next we organize these search terms according to how they correlate with the three main stages of the marketing funnel: awareness, consideration and purchase. And we find that there are lots of search terms that correlate with each stage.

Next, we study the types of search terms that fall into each stage to see what they say about consumers. Just looking at the list above, it is easy to picture how the bed bug problem is affecting people. First, they try to understand the creatures they see crawling around their homes. Then they look for solutions. And in the final stage, they look to buy a product or service. While “bed bugs” might seem like an odd example, this same process works for lots of business categories ranging from home buying to healthcare solutions. Consumers seek to understand, then they look for solutions, then they buy.

What is most useful about the insight revealed by these search terms is how it can help create a targeted marketing plan that engages consumers at each stage of their decision journey. Using the insights revealed at each stage, it is possible to plan appropriate marketing strategies. Here are sample ones that might make sense.

  • At the awareness stage, reach consumers with blog content (including photos) that helps them identify bed bugs
  • At the consideration stage, use website content to explain specific solutions to the bed bug problem
  • In the last stage, use targeted digital advertising to offer consumers market-specific services

Of course these are only examples, but this approach can apply to your business category, and the beauty of it is that it provides accurate, inexpensive consumer insight fast. It can also help you rid your home of bed bugs­ good luck with that!

If you’d like more information on getting consumer insights from search data, check out the webinar: Search Data is Your Secret Weapon. This webinar is available on demand from the Data Informed Big Data Academy Marketing Analytics & Customer Engagement series.