What does this tell us? Well, first off, SEM has to be better integrated into user research initiatives. It’s not enough to know what a client thinks is its main keyword. Instead, you should conduct user research to validate or determine what keywords actual users prefer.
Of course, keyword analysis is only one small part of search-engine marketing; there are many more opportunities for SEM and usability professionals to work together other than these specific examples. The bottom line is: in order to create optimal, findable, usable solutions for clients, collaboration is necessary during all stages of the project-development process to ensure that the best interests of users, as well as clients, are met.
Optimize through analytics
In addition to user experience, analytics is also integral to creating optimal search campaigns. At the mention of analytics, it is possible to reach the mistaken conclusion that we can learn everything we need to know using available site data. Site data indicates what users’ needs are by where they go on a site and what their expectations are of the information architecture by the paths they take, the paths they don’t take and by which ones convert. It also shows where users run into trouble by where they leave a site, particularly if they leave in the middle of a process.
But web traffic data only tells part of the story in that it is not an indicator of users’ intent. It can’t tell you what users are really looking for or how they would describe it. In conjunction with search analysis, it is possible to gain a good understanding of users’ intent.
I would hazard a guess that the majority of people working in interactive have a basic understanding of search. They understand the difference between an organic and a sponsored listing. They know what paid inclusion is and how some engines power others and why search rankings may not improve overnight.
What many people don’t see is the big picture. Understanding how users search, what keywords and engines they use and how they respond to content within the context of their search peels another layer off the onion. By looking at how users find a client’s site, you can learn much more about intent and perspective than you can by simply looking at a user’s path out of context.
A great example of this bigger picture occurred while our analytics team was working with search to develop and measure keyword categories. Analytics took the keyword list selected for optimization and created logical groups. By looking at keyword groups, the team built customer segments that provided greater insight into behavior. Now, we are able to track the popularity of searches within keyword groups to see the effect of business cycles, news and promotion on search behavior. We can also track conversion by keyword group to better understand how our client’s site meets the needs of different audiences.
As search continues to attract more revenue and attention, its usefulness at reaching proactive users will be reinforced. By making user experience and analytics integral to the process, its power has infinite potential.