Scoring Points with the Search Query Volume Estimator

It’s early March, which means every digital marketing blog across the galaxy is about to get littered with references to the annual NCAA College Basketball Tournament. So let’s get this party started with a nice metaphor: the fast break.

When you’re on a fast break, a lot of good things are happening. You’re rewarding your defense for their hard work. You’re outrunning your opponent. And you’re scoring points very effectively with a high percentage layup or dunk. But the metaphor doesn’t end there.

A successful fast break requires communication and coordination among teammates. You move the ball with a lead pass. That is, you don’t aim for where your teammate is standing, but rather ahead of them, to a space between them the basket. It’s often hard to get your two points without the lead pass.

NCAA Tournament - Web Liquid

What’s the significance for digital marketers?

In the marketing world, the equivalent of a lead pass is a strategic roadmap that takes future growth into consideration. Knowing that the fast-moving digital world can lead to unforeseen surges in demand for your product, you score fast break points by thinking a few steps ahead and coordinating your assets to best position your brand for success in the future, and not just the present.

For example, consider a trend like gluten-free foods. Millions of Americans suffer from celiac disease, which makes it difficult or impossible to digest a certain protein found in wheat. The food industry has latched onto this trend, bringing a variety of gluten-free products to market. However, a very small share of celiac sufferers are presently aware of their affliction, and thus the search behavior associated with a keyword like “gluten free” is nowhere near what we’ll see in the future.

Yes, there are a great many instruments out there to size up search engine marketing opportunities, but what you’ll usually find is a range of resources built around historical data. These offer a great way to gain perspective on how search activity has built up over time, and can certainly put you on the path of setting realistic objectives (and budgets) today, but what is it doing to prepare you for tomorrow and the next day?

Not much. Backward-looking insights will only provide a limited amount of forward momentum. Think of it this way: If you were President, would you nominate a Civil War buff to the post of Secretary of Defense?

Yet it is possible to take two halves and a make a whole. It starts with the Google AdWords Keyword Tool and Google Insights, two of the richest and deepest troves of data available to digital marketers today. But these two don’t always play nice: one tool quotes numbers in raw query volumes, but only provides a maximum twelve-month trend; the other goes back as far as 2004, but only reports an opaque index metric useful only to judge relativity.

If there were a way to marry the two – measuring a long historical trend on an apples-to-apples basis, and then projecting forward – that would certainly add color to a great many marketing discussions.

With our Search Query Volume Estimator, that’s exactly what we’ve set out to do. Below is an example using the keyword “gluten free”.

How does the Search Query Volume Estimator work?

Actually, it requires just a handful of ingredients:

1) Your search keyword of choice (your brand, your category, a core customer action reflected in search behavior, etc.)
2) Last full month’s search query volume figure for that keyword (as reported in the AdWords Keyword Tool)
3) Pasted CSV output from that same keyword’s Google Insights data

Search Query Volume Estimator: Data Entry

And what do you get in return?

What you get is a visual report with a nice dotted line telling you where projected search query volumes will go in the coming months (our current version projects all the way through the end of 2014). You’ll also get treated to a table showing yearly estimates of raw search query volumes, as well as an aggregated chart indicating the seasonality profile based on available data.

It comes out looking like this:

Search Query Volume Estimator: Final Output

In other words, this is your lead pass – and if you’re taking the steps to capture this growth across digital channels… well I don’t have to tell you what comes next.

Limitations

Like any tool in its first iteration, clearly there are some weaknesses to the Search Query Volume Estimator. The most obvious is that by basing future predictions on past growth trends, we overlook the effect of emerging technologies or other interruptive changes in the marketplace. If anyone out there has premium access to that kind of tool, let’s do lunch.

Another weakness is that version 1.0 currently requires the user to use the entire trend (Jan 2004 to present) as the basis for calculating growth trajectory. But if you’re selling Jeremy Lin jerseys, well… in 2004 he was still in Driver’s Ed. We’ll look to enhance this in a future update.

There are plenty of other things we could do to build on version 1.0. Wouldn’t it be nice to aggregate multiple keywords, or even show competitive keywords side by side? AdWords Keyword Tool also gives us CPC and competitive data, which could one day be rolled in.

If you think of any others, please let us know in the comments.

Conclusion

The Search Query Volume Estimator is directly applicable to search marketers, but is relevant far beyond just the search channel. After all, what causes growth in raw search queries in the first place? It is channels like display advertising and social media, where the brand extends its reach and builds a following. With this tool, you get an empirical basis for making bigger and bolder investments for your brand – based on what’s happening tomorrow, and not just today.

So the next time you’re trying to close a complex sale, just ask yourself where you should be aiming your next pass on the fast break. The answer is forward.

To download the Search Query Volume Estimator, please click below. (If you run into problems using this tool, please leave a note in the comments.)

Download the Search Query Volume Estimator

 

About Paul Burani

Paul Burani - Partner, Web Liquid Group. Connect with me on Google+

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