Interview: “Internet Search Data Drives Thought Leadership Success”
Technically, it is difficult to say exactly how many Google searches are being done every day but estimates from Internet Live Stats say these may sum up to around 5,5 billion Google searches per day. That’s truly a staggering amount of data and analysing this search data can certainly help companies improve their decision-making. Marketers, for example, can use this treasure chest to learn more about target customers’ intent, identify trends and patterns or simply determine effective SEO keywords.
Insights produced from this data are very valuable – retailers, for example, can use such insights to produce content, effectively combatting attention shifting away from their sites to publications as shoppers research the best deals for Black Friday. More specifically, communicators can use this data to create content with a focus on search queries that will be trending or simply exploit a surge in search activity falling within the context of their campaigns and communication objectives.
But, intent data derived from search analytics can also be equally helpful within a B2B context. Reason enough for us to talk to Maarten de Kok, founder and CEO of Trendmark, a new company that focuses on extracting the “wisdom of crowds” out of Internet search data. Maarten told us about the reasons why Internet search analytics is of great use for corporate decision-makers and communicators alike and what it takes to make search analytics work. Read on to find out more!
What is Trendmark and what does your company do?
Trendmark is a research consultancy helping clients by informing their strategic decision-making and to market their brand name. We use ‘Big Data’ to provide unique analyses of concepts, technologies, sectors, companies, brands and products – locally or globally. Trendmark does this by extracting the ‘wisdom of crowds’ out of Internet search data and places it on a single scale, guaranteeing that analysis is always consistent, whether search frequency is high or low. We build a custom list of topics that matter most to our clients.
The link between Internet search frequencies and sales, profits and share prices helps clients to monetise trends that matter. Our service also acts as a risk radar as we help to monitor relevant competition and identify other threats that might be lurking on the horizon.
Generally, Trendmark focuses on three types of clients: Investors such as portfolio managers, private equity and commercial bankers, specific corporate functions such as strategy, product development and marketing as well as different types of researchers such as consultants, economists, trendwatchers and journalists.
What industries and corporate functions profit most from using search data?
Any industry can profit from search data but companies with consumer products probably benefit most. This is mainly because the more people search for something, the more representative the data is.
Why does search data matter to organisations?
Simply put, search data is a pure manifestation of what people are interested in. People search for three reasons: entertainment, information or to buy something. Organisations who monitor the right search terms can get early insight into the development of their client’s interests (see visual – source: Trendmark).
What are the typical use cases of search data?
Search data is mainly used for two purposes, either to enhance decision-making or for branding. In terms of strategic decision-making, our methodology enables us to analyse patterns and determine how significant changes in search frequency truly are. By connecting macro trends with the micro or company level through the frequency scale, we can give insights into the big picture, thus improving decision-making and possible outcomes.
In terms of branding, Trendmark can help clients to drive thought leadership success in the respective industry by attaching your brand name to an index made up of search terms that are relevant to your respective industry.
Why should communicators integrate search data analytics into their workflows?
Search data is a ‘pull’-type of data and that makes it complementary to the ‘push’-type data that many companies are used to work with today. Pull-type data can directly connect to what your clients are looking for instead of monitoring this through sources that are written by third parties.
You can also use this data to measure the success of marketing campaigns as well as those of competitors, as you can understand what your customers are looking for when they are searching for information about your industry online.
Trendmark search data helps to determine the level and the change of search. We can reveal how frequently potential clients search for your company or your product. During a communication campaign, you would want that attention to go up. Preferably it will alter the search trend positively on the longer run. Trendmark can monitor all of these different aspects.
By the way, since Ubermetrics data is ‘push-style’ and Trendmark is ‘pull-style’, the two datasets are very complementary. Higher levels of Ubermetrics data correlate with higher levels of Trendmark data but it gets interesting when the two diverge. Sometimes written sources (read: media coverage) set a trend, other times people’s search behaviour will take the lead.
What skills or competencies are required to effectively integrate search data into workflows?
Some basic data analysis skills as well as an understanding of what your potential clients are looking for on the Internet.
Are there other companies offering a similar search data analytics service?
No, the Trendmark frequency scale is unique in that, no other company uses one single scale for all their Internet search data analysis. This means that other companies are not able to determine the significance of search levels and a change in trends. Of course, other companies also use Google Trends data to help their clients. For example, Eagle Alpha from the UK uses Google Trends data to forecast the financial results of listed companies. Here Eagle Alpha’s focus is on quarterly or annual sales and profit numbers and the company does not look at the ‘bigger picture’ trends.
Other companies such as SEMrush use click-style data as well as Internet search data within their offering but their Internet search data has many drawbacks. First of all, their search frequency estimates are derived from Internet providers’ data and thus, much more indirect. Secondly, their data is more like a ‘photo’ as they will tell you their estimate of the Internet search levels for a certain period, let’s say a specific month. Trendmark data, on the other hand, is more like a ‘movie’ as our data goes back to 2004.
What are the typical issues with search data?
Every advantage has a corresponding disadvantage. For one, typically, we cannot directly determine the reason for the search which might either be entertainment, information or the intent to buy something. Also, pure search terms need to be carefully analysed before they are used in a structural way: we need to check for all misspellings and check if there is an overlap between two different ‘intentions’. For example, the search term ‘apple’ may refer to people looking for the fruit but may also refer to people searching for the company. Fortunately, Google has a categorisation feature that offers effective help here: “apple” <corporation> will not contain people looking for the fruit.
And, we include search data from all of Google’s platforms but, today, we can only access ‘words’ and not other forms of search data such as visual data.
‘Dark Social’ is a problem for communicators – is there ‘dark search data’?
Not easy to answer. On the one side, the answer is yes since not all searches are included in the data and, consequently, some search is ‘dark’. For example, searches on other platforms such as Bing or webshop search data from Amazon or Zalando – let alone the Dark Web – are not included. However, since Google’s market share in search is near monopolistic, if you exclude China, you get a pretty good idea of what people are looking for.
On the other side, the answer would be no since Internet search data is very pure, as it only represents what people are looking for on the various Google search platforms. Therefore, search data is not ‘diluted’ in the same way click data is diluted by direct links or reposted links.
Search and search data – what can we expect in the next years in terms of trends and developments?
We are planning several exciting new services based on search data with the main one being our new Trendmark Tech Tracker. This tracker will indicate if a technology is becoming truly relevant or is just being hyped. We monitor all of Gartner’s Emerging Technologies as well as a list of important technologies they don’t focus on.
Maarten de Kok
Maarten is the founder and director of Trendmark. Maarten is an economist by education and has over 20 years of experience in asset management with a focus on strategy. He was a portfolio manager at Robeco and APG as well as an investment strategist at MN Services and Pension Fund ING.
The Ubermetrics team thanks Maarten wholeheartedly for this interesting interview.