Why Marketers Look For The Next Search

Phrases like first click, second click, attribution and others undoubtedly swirl around your head like gnats during a summer hike across a field.   You can brush them away all you want, but if you read about online marketing, you’re still going to hear a lot about them.

Today you’re going to learn about search query refinements.

Let’s pretend your business is a men’s apparel shop and an unimaginative someone looked for a tie as a Father’s Day.  They may have arrived at your site after typing the phrase “men’s tie” into Google.

As you can see, that’s a standard search for many people. But knowing whether the person then uses your own site’s search form to refine their search and look for “bow tie”, “silk tie” or some other tie can change your business.  Here’s how:

1.  Our visitor searched first for a generic term that an apparel retailer may not even use. After all, women’s ties are not exactly hot sellers.  So we know that someone is searching with an idea but without explicit regard for price, brand or even style of tie.  We know their intent, which is simply to learn about ties at this point.

2.   If our visitor then uses our search form to type the word “bow tie” or “wedding tie” or “silk tie”, we learn a lot more and can begin understanding the linkage between the searches.  If some big percentage of our bow tie sales start off as a search engine query for “men’s ties”, it doesn’t matter what we think the right words are.

The market is telling us the proper keyword phrases.  We only need to listen.

3.  If a tie ends up in a shopping cart and your user searches for something else, congratulations!  You’re on your way to building constructs–models of typical shoppers.  Imagine 80% of your bow tie customers also purchase cuff links.  You might be tempted to advertise on the phrase “cuff links”, but your typical customer may want to square away the tie issue first before looking at other items.

Your takeaway is to create a website with the least possible “friction”.  Don’t make visitors think–guide them based on your analysis of past visitors.

Of course you have to have the tools on site if someone wants to immediately flip from “men’s ties” to “cuff links”, but that’s a different shopper.

Google just did a similar analysis on its own primary business–its search engine–using World Cup search queries.  The search company analyzed what people searched for after searching for a World Cup participant.

Their three main findings:

1.  Search for one of the world’s most popular players, and you’re likely to search for another player of that caliber.  In our example, if you search for a designer tie, you may then search for cuff links or a pocket square before searching for sandals.

2.  Players from the same country are usually connected.   This makes sense too.  If you’re looking at “men’s ties” and shift to “designer ties”, you’re going to stay in the country of ties until you buy, find a substitute or choose not to buy at all.

3.  Players on the same professional team are linked.  Professional athletes often play for their home country in international competition.   The analysis cites Spaniard Fernando Torres who plays professionally for Liverpool.  People searching for Torres might be interested in his teammates from Spain (see #2), but they may also be looking for his Liverpool teammates like Steven Gerrard who is playing for England.

Picture your tie buyer one more time.  They’ve looked at designer ties by Prada.  They may next look for Burberry.  They likely are not going to search for Covington ties, which is a Sears house brand.  If they do, you’ve just defined another shopper type–someone who is looking to move upmarket, but doesn’t close.

If you use Google Analytics, setting up your internal search forms to capture data as easy.  If you use clickstream analytics or otherwise look at individual visitors, this is going to be easy.

But starting now means that your website can be more profitable as you design pages that give customers what they want instead of making them search.

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