Business

What the “Year In Search” Tells us about Consumer Behavior

Claude Harrington 12.16.2015

For many of us, search engines play a vital role in how we try to attract customers. As businesses, we want to be found. So what, we might wonder, is it that search engine users are looking to find? Typically, our best answer to this question is some combination of sporadic analytics, educated guesses and insights revealed from reverse-engineering search results. But today, instead of having to rely on inference, Google Trends has given us the gift of transparency. Today, Google Trends published a variety of lists that detail the most searched for items of the year.

To accompany the release of this information, Google also created a short video that opens with the following statement:

“In 2015 the questions we asked revealed who are we”

For those of us hoping to be found via search, we can’t help but hope that this is indeed true to some degree. And although a lot of what was released today appears distinctly topical and may not seem relevant to the course of your business, there were a few gems of information scattered throughout that are indicative of something greater.

So let’s take a look at some of the relevant highlights from Google’s Year in Search and see what they can teach us about consumer behavior…

The Cycle of Virality: We all know that there is an ebb and flow to search behavior. But still, there was something both sobering and inspiring in seeing the popularity of the year’s biggest topics depicted graphically:

Header- Year in Search

Here we can see that this cycle rings true for just about anything. Some cycles are bigger than others, of course, but the pattern inevitably holds true. Even from something as globally beloved as Star Wars to something more niche like the Cricket World Cup…

YIS- Star WarsCricket World Cup

Seeing information presented in this manner helps distill the trendy nature of even the most popular of topics. It also reminds us of a couple key things:

  • There is value in aligning your marketing strategy with pop cultural trends…but there are parameters (and inherent risks) to that value.
  • No matter how successful your marketing strategy is, there will be ups and downs to your approach. Anticipate this, and factor it in to whatever degree you can.

How to be Helpful: Although several of the topics that make up these lists (i.e. beauty, dogs) may not initially appear relevant, there is insight to be gained by looking at the most frequently asked questions in each of these categories.

Beauty QuestionsDog Questions

For example: With both “Beauty Questions” and “Dog Questions,” four of the the top five inquiries in each category begins with “How to?” This is a limited sample size to be sure, but it’s illustrative of how Google is so frequently utilized. Not to answer questions of what, where, or why, but rather to provide clarity and context for the process of how things work; how things function and how they can be incorporated into our every day lives. So, from a business perspective, keep this in mind and aim to provide those answers: here’s how our product works, here’s how to set it up and here’s how you can easily integrate it into your own lives.

Snapchat: Speaking of How To’s, the number one search request atop Google’s dedicated “How To…?” list was this: How to use the new Snapchat update? That’s number one. Out of every How To query made this entire year, how to use the new Snapchat update was at the top of the list. So to anyone who thinks that Snapchat might simply be a flash in the social media pan, consider this additional evidence to the contrary.

It’s Not TV, Nor is it HBO…It’s the Internet: Perhaps because videos have now become so prevalent on the Internet, or perhaps because a lot of online content is created by media outlets with a television legacy, there is a temptation–particularly from the perspective of advertisers–to think of the Internet as simply a digital version of television. But it’s really not and that difference grows greater by the day. As such, your online marketing strategy should reflect that distinction.

While there are numerous factors that distinguish the online realm from televised media (as well as print and broadcast), one of the most glaring differences is the communal aspect of the Internet. It’s a place where, by design, voices connect and opinions collide.

That’s why the debate and anticipation inspired by Oscar nominations can generate over 400 million searches…

Engagement Interaction POV

…And why as something as seemingly simple as the color of a dress can garner 73 million searches. So what does this say about consumer behavior? Well, it points to the fact that the modern consumer doesn’t just stop at “how to,” but also likes to share his or her opinions as part of a larger, communal conversation. And regardless of what line of business you are in, it usually helps to make sure that the modern consumer feels heard.

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