Fine-tune search data analysis

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The purpose of search engines' evolving complexities may be to deliver more precise results for users, but a byproduct of that accuracy is more targeted data collection for marketers. "Search is the only opportunity you have where somebody is purely coming and saying, 'This is what I'm in the market for,'" says Paul Elliott, partner in consumer products and retail at Rosetta.

Search allows marketers a peek into the long tail of search-to-conversion. Vural Cifci, director of search and acquisition marketing at 
Walgreens says that in mid-February, "we were pulling some data, and it showed us that there were 12 searches done over the course of a 48-hour period by the same user before they made a purchase."

Insights like these are beginning to chip away at the last-touch attribution model that many marketers and agencies perceive as inflating the ROI credited to search. 

Compounding that distortion are the diminishing returns found in keywords, says Steve Latham, founder and CEO of Encore Media Metrics, which measures keyword attribution. He cites market saturation that will allow only incremental improvements driven by fine-tuning. Latham says the question will be "how do you get more for the same budget." 

One way that companies could stretch their dollars, says Cifci, is to capitalize on the integration of social media and search by "building custom landing pages around the content they are trying to push through social results, so that they can actually own the first half of the results page." 

Walgreens employs software company Endeca to "record all the searches people do on the Walgreens website," says Cifci. This allows Walgreens to derive what changes need to be made to the site's taxonomy to improve consumer experience but also "to build advanced search results pages, which then cycles back to the search engines and bolsters the retailer's ranking, says Cifci. 

However, Elliott says marketers and agencies must look outside the scope of search in order to really maximize return. "We learn from our analytics and adjust our paid search marketing," says Elliott. "Oftentimes, it stops there as opposed to saying, if these words are making people take action, might I want to consider using that in my catalog, in scripts that I write for my call center or in in-store signage.


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