Should Search Campaigns Be Built Around Audience Analysis?

By David Levy, Associate Director, Strategic Partnerships

I’ve been chewing on this for a while. Is there a reason why search campaigns aren’t built around the target audience? As search marketers, we often believe website structure and product categories mapped to query intent to be the key driver of how we build our campaigns. And why not? This has certainly proven itself to be effective.

But, might it work better to build them based on who these people really are? All other media (to the best of my knowledge) begins with a plan around a specific target audience – i.e. “young males, aged 18-24 who are influencers.” Extensive (and expensive) research is conducted to understand this information at a detailed level. With tools like comScore, Google Insights for Search, Microsoft Ad Intelligence, and others at our fingertips, we can access similar information…for much cheaper and at a larger scale. So, why do we, search marketers, continue to build campaigns around site structure and product categories?

Well, I guess it’s because that’s what we know and changing is difficult (especially when it works).

We have an opportunity to forge a new path and leverage the plethora of digital data that we have at our fingertips. We can see where these people go before and after they visit our client’s site. Web analytics data tells us where they are spending most of their time on the site, where they are dropping off, etc... ComScore tells us the age and HHI at the keyword level. Microsoft Ad Intelligence gives us gender at the keyword level. If we start to marry this data with all of the extensive research that is conducted by our other on- and offline brethren, then we can build highly targeted campaigns that speak directly to the audience and not just to the assumed intent around a product or query. And not to mention, deliver an integrated and cohesive message to the end user.

Don’t get me wrong, query intent is still paramount…but, how much more powerful is a message if you’ve accounted for the gender, age and HHI of a keyword, and not just the features and benefits of that particular product? I think it’s time to find out.


Bryson said...

Dave, great post. Definitely agree that demographic information is crucial. I wouldn't say that it's separate from query intent, however; only that it allows us to better understand user intent by having more information about the user's context. Agree with your conclusion that the marketing message has a better chance of resonating with the consumer if targeting includes demographic information. I just think that it is specifically because it aids our analysis of user intent, and increases the chance that our message will be relevant to the user. It seems like this is your message, to some extent, I would just caution against thinking of query intent as a separate animal. In the search behavior analysis we typically map website structure, product categories, semantic relationships between keywords, demographic information, keyword frequency, buzz, perceived query intent and search volume to better understand the intent of our audience. More data generally means greater relevance to our audience. Anyway, great post!

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