Strategic SEM Planning for the Real World

I’ve written previously about keyword-driven marketing and understanding the language of the customer. But a recent paper sent to me by a fellow marketer and friend just blew me away with its depth of analysis into the subject. Nicholine Hayward came online in 1996, and pretty soon she was using search engine data to discover what people were searching for and how many searches they were doing per month (initially using the GoTo keyword tool). In this new paper, she describes how her research methodology has evolved and developed over the years.

“Strategic Planning for the Real World” is pure gold for marketers. And it’s free. Hayward, are you nuts?

The paper describes a research methodology wherein the intelligence can be applied to every stage of business and marketing strategy, from developing the products that people are looking for and improving the ones they’re already buying to devising communications campaigns that really strike a chord. The methodology also creates excellent insights into dynamics reflected in consumer awareness and demand, to find out what people think about a brand; to create rounded, realistic pen portraits or a resonant tone of voice; or to gain awareness in consumer behavior, from shopping to socializing.

Section one walks through the tools and techniques required, starting with data collection from Google Insights for Search, where you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, timeframes, and properties. Next stop is Google’s Keyword Tool to get an insight into what the most popular buying criteria are and broad market and category dynamics. Still with Google, the next check is with Trends for Web sites to gauge the approximate level of traffic to one or more sites and for seeing what else they searched for and where else they went, either before or after.

This process continues through online news services, blog monitoring, blog comment tracking, and Facebook Lexicon and on to photo and video sharing sites, wikis, and Q&A forums. It’s a totally thorough process, and the paper has live links to all resources.

Section two takes us from insight to strategy. Where are we now and how did we get there? Where do we want be? And why? How will we get here? And how will we know when we have succeeded? This is all about understanding the context, the environment. The market forces and competitive pressures. Once again, Hayward provides plenty of practical examples of using online research tools to discover market/category data, the consumer, and the brand. Google provides tons of data, but data-rich sources also include Twitter, BoardReader, and even niche resources, such as Saga Zone for audiences over age 50.

The intro to the executive summary refers to the “vast and easily accessible repository of fresh, free and authentic insight and intelligence from search engines and social media sites. The insights come, not from people sitting in a focus group filling out questionnaires or standing on a street corner talking to a researcher with a clipboard, but from unguarded conversations on forums, social networks, blogs and queries at search engines.” It’s “the largest, most honest and unselfconscious focus group in the world.”

This really is a look at how search and related Web properties can help rationalize your entire marketing strategy, both off- and online. As marketers, we’re all aware the information is out there. This paper tells us where to look and what to do with the data once we have it. And that’s a whole lot of spadework done on our behalf.

You can download the paper (yes, it really is free) here.

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