Why Data Matters to Search

By Eric Anderson, VP Business Intelligence

Google’s Chief Economist, Hal Varian, recently blogged that data matters because it yields better science. In Google’s case, they use data collected from their search operations to improve their proprietary indexing and page ranking algorithms. Google uses data to fuel and improve their single most important competitive advantage – their ability to do search better than anyone else.

Certainly, data is important to search marketing agencies as well. In fact, it is what differentiates digital advertising from traditional advertising. Data provides the competitive advantage that drives the search industry, in particular, forward. It differentiates search marketing from traditional advertising in several important ways:

- Search is held to a different standard – Calculating ROI for print, billboard, and even broadcast advertising is often at best an educated guess. Search lets advertisers know next day, to the penny and/or click, how their investment is returning. Advertisers expect this of search.
- (Near) real-time optimization – Optimization is not a selling point for traditional advertising. The timeliness of search campaign performance data allows for budgets to be moved to where and when it will have the most impact. Campaigns can be throttled on-the-fly to drive cost efficiency or volume.
- Search is consumer-initiated – Search begins with the consumer’s expression of interest, or the query. In this way, search is demographically agnostic and can react to the consumer’s query to provide a more personalized message. Traditional advertising pushes its message out to where it believes its audience will be and predicts what the best message should be to entice the consumer.

Search agencies have to decide how they want to leverage data to drive their operations, but there’s no mistaking the importance data has in making search work. Successful agencies will find new and better ways to make data work for them and ultimately drive their own competitive advantages. The most successful search agencies will think of data as an organizational asset and expand their use of data beyond search engines and post-click tools to create operational efficiencies and ultimately deliver better service to marketers.

Posted by: Eric Anderson, VP Business Intelligence


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