Thanks for joining us for another wonderful episode of Opinionated SEO Opinions™. We're back with snippets on better understanding, analyzing and utilizing your search data. Also known as "Search Market Research," we cover how your brand can use it to make better business decisions.
With sponsorship of Ahrefs, we brainstormed on how to elevate the value of search data. We also touched upon the latest news on GA - Universal Analytics is going away on July 1, 2023.
Begüm Kaya 0:07
Hello everyone! Welcome to another episode of Opinionated SEO Opinions™. I'm Begüm Kaya, here with your host Tory Gray and Sam Torres of The Gray Dot Company. Welcome.
Tory Gray 0:17
Sam Torres 0:17
Hello! And before we get started, we'd like to give a thank you to our sponsor, Ahrefs. It is a fantastic tool, if you're not familiar. Definitely one that we use every day in our world. They have a wealth of tools available, from keyword research, site analysis, tons of good stuff. But they also have a free tool, so check that out at Ahrefs.com/awt. It provides some site-level audit information that you can just access for free and get going. So thank you to Ahrefs!
Begüm Kaya 0:51
Yes, wonderful. And if you're ready, let's get started with extending the value of search data in this episode.
Sam Torres 0:58
Yes, before we get into extending search data (which is something I'm very, very passionate about!)
But... we just got the news today. So we now have a date for when Google Analytics Universal is going away. So as people who are in Analytics all day, every day, ummm. I'm a little alarmed! Basically, just you know, the date is July 23 2023, or 22nd. It's July, just know that we only have like 15 months before, we need to figure out everything.
Correction: the official date is July 1, 2023
And also, they're only going to have your data available for a few months after that. So you're going to have to export all of it. So look out for more information from us on how we recommend tackling all of that. It's just... I'm not happy about it. I don't like Version 4. What about y'all?
Tory Gray 1:55
I feel it is a very bold move on Google's part to force people into GA4 knowing the pushback from the community, knowing that it is not fully functional yet, and given the legislation that's coming out of Europe right now making GA literally illegal for many people. And what - to me - feels like rushing a deadline and pushing people.... are they trying to push people away? What's going on? I don't understand!
Sam Torres 2:25
I'm really confused by it. I'm certainly like, I will say as somebody who does analytic setups, I see the power within version 4. And so the data nerd in me actually really loves version 4. But for my clients, it's just not a usable tool for them. Right?
It's not something that's easy for them. It's not a "pickup and go", like Universal, or what was it, "Classic" is now what we're calling the version before that. Um, so I just think this is a really poor move, I think. But in the spirit of capitalism, I think that also means that other competitors now have an opportunity, right? Google is creating a gap in the market!
Tory Gray 3:10
Is there anyone gunning for that? Are there any other tools that you're exploring, Sam, in terms of analytics that are? What are we "vetting" for clients to see "what is the future if GA has to go away", or becomes "not primary" [or the default Analytics tool] anymore?
Sam Torres 3:27
Yeah, and I would definitely say, we've been doing a lot of vetting, mostly from the privacy concerns. And I honestly thought... I think we knew Universal was going to go away eventually, but this is happening a lot faster than I thought it would. Considering how long they retained support for Classic. So yeah, this is happening much sooner, and like I say, we've been vetting more from a privacy perspective and being compliant, which of course, those issues really just date back to - or they just go back to the fact that Google Analytics is the one who owns the data, and that data is stored on U.S. servers.
So that's usually the crux of the matter for what's going on with GDPR, and new legislation coming out of the EU. As far as everything I've seen, version 4 does not solve ANY of those issues. So this really doesn't make any sense to me - this move on their part.
As far as the tools that we've been vetting, we're looking at a few different ones: Plausible, Matomo and also looking more like on a server side. So something that you actually own yourself, so: Looker, Heap. Trying to figure out how can we get those implemented for our clients in a way that enables our marketing users to still play with the analytics like they do today? I think that's definitely been the biggest, the biggest hurdle to kind of figure out, is what is actually easy to "pick up and go" and get something meaningful out of it. Because it's kind of like - when we inevitably see WordPress actually die... there's just so many people who have LEARNED that tool, and so many people who have learned Google Analytics, that to adjust to a new method is just going to be painful no matter what we do.
Tory Gray 5:09
Yeah, yeah, I mean, going from having a default tool that everyone goes to - I mean, a lot of people add extra tools; they're going to add Crazy Egg, they're going to add other Analytics toolsets to get more insights, but like... not having a "global default", that so many people use - that - I mean, we've had this... how long is Google Analytics [been around]? Like, I don't remember a time in SEO, frankly, without Google Analytics, like I do remember still when other you know, big-paid platforms, for big enterprise corporations were around [they still are, ya'll!] the Omniture's [now Adobe Analytics] and whatnot, but it's... it's gonna be a whole industry shift. It's, it's fascinating.
Sam Torres 5:51
Yeah, I mean, I, I still remember looking at the analytics that was offered and trying to remember the name of this tool earlier, it was like, AW stats, or something like something like that? But that was also back in the days when I was just learning how to code. So I was just looking at: How many people are actually coming to my website, about a video game? That's really all I cared about. I wasn't an SEO yet.
Tory Gray 6:17
Early 2000's data was a lot different.
Sam Torres 6:21
Yeah. If anybody remembers the good old GeoCities days? Yeahhh. That's right. That's the time I'm talking about! So I just dated myself. That's okay.
Tory Gray 6:35
Sam Torres 6:37
Oh, yeah. God. So I actually learned how to do CSS, just so I could make layouts for my friends for their MySpace pages.
Tory Gray 6:45
Mm hmm. You can autoplay your amazing selections of music, right?
Sam Torres 6:50
Oh god, remember all the different like mouse cursors we'd get? Oh, man.
Tory Gray 6:54
Liking your friends... like adjusting it every week. Who's your top friend? And ...
Sam Torres 6:58
(So much drama!)
Tory Gray 6:58
Who are you dating? And who... "Oh, my God, they broke up!"
Sam Torres 7:01
Begüm, you're probably too young to have been part of this, aren't you?
Begüm Kaya 7:06
I'm afraid I am. Yes. I missed all the fun.
Sam Torres 7:09
The top eight of MySpace got REAL dramatic. Yeah. Whoever was in your top eight was like, that was a statement.
Tory Gray 7:18
Sam Torres 7:19
And it was not taken lightly. Um, anyways, we digress, as we often do. Um, yes. Really, the TL;DR: Universal is going away in 15 to 16 months. The historic data will not last forever, so you also need to consider what is a plan for retaining that data yourself. And then also making sure that you have measurement programs to pick up where Universal leaves off. So it's gonna be interesting.
Tory Gray 7:51
So many challenges to look forward to! And costs to plan for! Yeah. Got to start that somewhere, someone's paying for it! Well, back to our regularly scheduled program, ladies. Yes, yes.
Begüm Kaya 8:04
Let's talk about how to provide value with search data to internal teams and grow our companies.
Tory Gray 8:11
So this was an anonymous question we got, I suppose, not anonymous to us, but we're not free to share it. But it is a - just an amazing question, and we wanted to spend time digging in a little bit more, because we've been doing more and more dedicated research projects lately, for our clients. And we think the applications of what is fundamentally market research data is being hugely under leveraged in the community as a whole. And so today, we want to talk through some of the the most interesting use cases that we've been applying recently to help people understand how they might be able to use this data. Anything to add to that Sam? Begüm?
Sam Torres 8:54
I would just say like, just to clarify, we're talking about how we can use keyword data trend analysis, like the things that we do every day for SEO strategy. How can you take that and extend the use - to other parts of your business. Like Tory said, it's basically user research, it's market data!
Tory Gray 9:15
What are people looking for?
Sam Torres 9:16
Tory Gray 9:17
Yeah. What do people know that they want? What do people know that they're having issues for? They are literally volunteering this data.
Sam Torres 9:25
Exactly. And I think that one of the things I love most about these research studies, is really looking at the fact that, um, even when you when you are "one of the big boy", and you have the budget to do one of those huge custom national or international studies, you know, you're forking out 6 to 7 digits.
And you get all the user groups and you're doing focus testing and all that good stuff. Um... people still lie, because they're embarrassed. And yet, we don't lie to Google.
Tory Gray 9:56
To embarrassing levels!
Sam Torres 9:55
If I had to actually be honest about the really embarrassing things I've Googled - especially when I was a new mom. Man! Thinking about all the things you Google about, like, "is this normal for my baby?" Um, babies are beautiful, but also... really gross. I'm really just thinking about that, like, those are things that we feel comfortable typing into a search engine that we wouldn't feel comfortable talking to a person about. And so it's also just, that's one of my favorite things - is you can really get into the psyche, the actual drive, the need of your users... because it's just all there.
And also to clarify, it is historical data. And like, if people don't know that they want a thing or have an issue for thing, they're not going to Google the thing. So like any dataset, it does have its limitations. But if you know how to use it, and you know how to count the historical data, and you know how to leverage the trend data for how that's in the process of changing today – "is it ramping up?" ... those kinds of things. We think it's a really, really powerful tool that businesses can be using to make better business decisions.
Tory Gray 11:05
So where do we want to start out? Um, I think, Sam, you had a great idea about the implications of how SEO and Product work together.
Sam Torres 11:14
So one of the things I think's really interesting that's been happening in the industry over the last couple of years is the conversations moving from thinking about SEO as a cost center, and just a marketing channel, and more into Product and producing revenue. As we know, SEO has potential for huge ROI. So it really makes sense that once you start treating SEO like a Product, you get more buy-in, you get engineering resources, which is always nice.
Tory Gray 11:42
Yes. SEO embedded in engineering and product teams is a huge win in terms of your ability to actually get things deployed.
Sam Torres 11:51
Yes, exactly. But there's also so many studies, and also, I mean, we've been working with our clients that once they start getting treated like that, once SEO is now given the same kind of priority as Product, the company is producing more money.
So it's just more revenue, so it just makes sense. And if if this is new, or you want to learn more about it, there's a really great book by Eli Schwartz about Product-led SEO.
Highly recommend it, it's really just all about changing that framework of mind and that perspective on what is SEO, and how... and also gives lots of really good insights into "how to get buy-in". Because I'd say like when you're in the marketing team, it's just seen as "these are our expenses", and sometimes it can be really hard to get investment from the higher ups to make the big moves that you need to make.
But then if you're able to really start pitching it like you would a Product, then usually you're much more likely to get buy-in. So from there, really just what were the actual applications, right - within Product. So one of my favorites is really looking at branded search terms.
So whether it's your brand or your product names: are you finding common themes or common - common trends, you know, just really looking for common topics, where that may influence new material or new support to give to your customer service team, right? To help deal with challenges.
Is there more information or a certain question that's coming up constantly that needs to be added to any of your onboarding documentation? Is there is there a common misconception that's tripping your your users up? Also, is there opportunity where users are looking for a feature or some kind of benefit of your products that you don't currently have?
That can absolutely and should, in my mind, influence your roadmap for how you expand. So those are all the things that you can do for your own internal search. You can also expand that into competitor research as well, right? So figuring out is there a common gap in the market that you could fill.
For example, if all of these analytics providers are not hopping on the train, now that they see that Google is creating a big gap, they're not paying attention. Um, but it's just like I say, it's a really good way you can scour - and there's lots of ways to do it, whether you're going to do just straight up Keyword Analysis, are you going to be sourcing from like forums, looking at Reddit? Things like that.
There's a lot of different ways to get these ideas, and then get data behind it to help figure out where you should prioritize, and where essentially, the juice is worth the squeeze.
Tory Gray 14:34
Yep. Yeah, I mean, so here we're talking about what - product roadmaps, we're talking about customer service like assets, you build out questions you're answering in your, you know, your Help Center. We're talking about staffing for customer service teams. You know, the implications are rather vast and it's not just your product branded searches and your competitors branded searches.
It's also like what pain points are people seeing in the industry; you can quantify that largely, assuming people know what issues they're having. And they're going out and seeking solutions already, if they're already in that phase of like, understanding that "this is a problem" and that it is solvable, and that they can do something about it.
You can use that data to help, again, inform your product roadmap about - we know that people are having issues with this or frustrations with this, or there's an opportunity for this because they're seeking it, you know, even if it's "not a problem" quote-unquote, it's, it's still a problem that people might know they have, and therefore your product could help solve that. So that's just a net market opportunity for you to address.
So I think, yeah, it's a huge source of knowledge and actually, I'd make another point about the the CS teams, which is, if you think about internationalization, or localization, like, where do you staff those teams? What languages do those team members have to speak? What things are bigger frustrations in different areas? Like if you have a particular thing that people in India need that you need to build out versus someone in Spain, like you can tell where those searches are coming from, to help, you know, staff, create the resources, update the product, or even like determine what sort of messaging you're sending in your email marketing to a particular market, based on their location, because you know, they have a greater need for that.
For instance, we have a client that isn't going to be advertising in India until they build out PayPal functionality, because they want to make sure - because PayPal has a higher usage in India. So that helps them determine when they're going to go literally into a particular market. And you can use that same sort of information about what their pain points are, what they need, with this search data in a similar way.
Sam Torres 16:55
It's all about really getting that context. And I would argue like, are there other ways to get that information? Absolutely. But honestly, in my experience, those ways are typically far more expensive, and take a lot longer to gather that data. Um, but I'd also say if you have the budget, do it, because there may be other things that maybe the search doesn't tell you. Because to Tory's earlier point, if people don't know that, it's.... That that solution has a name, right? They may not be searching for it. Um, so you know, there's still other ways to do that research and I'm not saying not to do it.
They're great to augment one another, but certainly, you know - especially if you're a startup, and you're just trying to figure out where it's kind of this niche that you're gonna sit in. That's, or at least get your foothold to then grow, this is a great place to start.
Tory Gray 17:52
Yep. I mean, exactly to that point, if you are researching whether you're going to move into a particular market, you can understand things like how saturated is that market? How much is the search potential for a particular market as it exists today? And how much it's trending.
So should you invest your time and resources? Should you quit your job to go start this startup? You know, it's also a very different marketing play, or even an SEO strategic play, if you're introducing a product that's like, are you introducing a new industry and a fundamentally new way of doing business? Are you creating a competitive product that has, you know, advantages, versus there's already an industry leader? Right?
So your organic data here can help you understand "what is your total addressable market in terms of organic search today"? And how crowded is that marketplace? How competitive is it? How many people are gunning for these key terms already? How great of a job are they doing at it? So yes, this has more SEO- and paid search-specific implications, but it also has broader business implications, just in terms of, "should I do this thing?", "How hard is it going to be?", "Do I need to do more work to build up the industry and brand awareness of the problem in the first place before I can spend time?" You know, do I spend more advertising dollars, right to help people understand that there is that - they do have a pain, and that you can resolve it? Because they don't always know it yet, and therefore, maybe organic is not the play to start with? Right? It's a good way to address it [and understand where your potential buyers are at today.]
Sam Torres 19:31
Yeah. And I would say if you are doing that kind of research, where you're trying to figure out a new product feature, a new product, a new business. If it is something that is going to be what I would call "truly disruptive", so you really are introducing something new to the market.
Chances are extremely high that there's no name for your products yet, right? There's there's no name for the solution, and you're going to have to start at the awareness level. So really start thinking about, what would be the things that someone is identifying as an issue for themselves that they would type in? And then unfortunately, not find the solution, or not find a solution as good as yours, which I will say at that point, I'd argue that maybe it's not disruptive anymore, maybe you're just being innovative?
But that's something all to think about, really just "how do you place it?" And if you're not finding search volume around things, just remember, that doesn't always mean it's not there, it just means that maybe it takes on a little bit of a different face, just because people don't know what to define it yet as.
Tory Gray 20:40
So to me, there's three kind of phases there. Like, there's the "Do I know I have a problem? And am I seeking solutions?" The "Do I have a name for the solution to my problem? And like, How much am I willing to pay to take action on that?" So you know, SEO data, or search market data, rather, can't necessarily answer the last question, you'll have to do other normal market research means to answer those, but those first two pieces we can understand.
Do people have a problem and are they looking for it? And do they already know the names of those things? Which actually will lead me to my next point, which is really around product positioning, or positioning of your, your brand and your company as a whole. Like, what do people want to call these things and what do they think about what these solutions offer?
So I would use our business as an example there, there's a very different search volume involved in whether or not you call us an SEO agency, or an SEO consultancy, or an SEO business. Um, so certainly, there's different ways that people think about service providers, or or, you know, also SEO freelancers.
And, so connecting the dots between deciding what the market potential is, what you want to go after, how you want to frame yourself, you know, it's more data to help you potentially make that decision for yourself. But that also works for other services companies, that also works for other providers. You know, are you a technical solution? Are you a platform? Like how do you frame the conversation and how much are people already looking for that known solution today? More data to help inform your brand team as they're making those big strategic decisions on your behalf.
Sam Torres 22:26
Begüm Kaya 22:28
I feel like SEO and other like search teams can also be very valuable when it comes to finding competitive gaps and like informing the teams about where to go and how to do and also creating, like, giving a landscape of the industry that you're whether in or planning to get in. So that's also a strategic resource when it comes to the competitiveness.
Tory Gray 22:54
Sam Torres 22:55
I'd also argue that just following a solid SEO strategy, just in general, helps communications overall, because we're really just all about laying it all out there and answering people's questions. And the more you do that, generally, I'm going to say generally, because there's certainly times as it's not true, but generally, having, you know, having those answers ready just just makes your users and your customers feel more heard and more cared for. So even just from like a PR image perspective, just being really clear about who you are, what you offer, who it's for, that just really always engenders more opportunity overall.
Tory Gray 23:44
Yeah, agree. We haven't even talked about sales teams!
Sam Torres 23:48
Oh that's true!
Tory Gray 23:48
I mean, sales teams can benefit from this data in pretty much all the ways customer service teams can benefit from this data, like: where are people having pain points? So before you've built out your sales force, before they've actually had the opportunity to speak to all these customers, you know, search data can help you understand where those pain points might be.
It gives you a starting point for where those those things are. It can also prompt new ideas and new ways, new conversations to bring up, new unique value propositions that you want to emphasize as a part of your sales process. Or you know, your marketing product process and the way you communicate that on your website. So that's, yeah, yet another implication of how you can do a better job supporting your sales team, giving them data, helping them explore new means of effective ways to speak to your customer.
Sam Torres 24:37
Yeah. I've definitely been in projects where we use that data to basically put together like the top objections so that salespeople would have that ready to go - as the sales team employee onboarding, right. So we mentioned onboarding before, it can be both internal and external, right? Just kind of understanding the landscape a little bit better, what's going on, and really also getting outside of yourself.
And what I mean by that is, you know, especially when you're looking at internationalization or trying to be localized to where your audiences are, there may be ways that they're talking about products or solutions that you don't. So just think about all the ways that we talk about our business as SEOs is not how business owners talk about it, because they're not in it, it's not their world.
Well, that happens to your customers, too. Like, I remember, I had one client, this was way early in my career, but he was a mold remediation specialist. And he was so diehard on I need to be number one for mold remediation. And finally, we were able to pull the data together be like, you know, who, who uses the word "remediation"? You and your competitors. Everyone who, like the customers you're trying to reach, say, "mold removal", like, they don't know the word remediation. Um, so - or they certainly don't use it in that context. So just really thinking about, like, how can you get outside of the own box that you built? Yeah. Because your clients live outside of it.
Tory Gray 26:14
Because you've been on a journey, you've learned these things, you have been educated in a way that makes you the expert, but sometimes that means you're less in touch with where you were at the beginning of your journey, which is where your customers often are. So how do you find them where they are, and invite them in and help educate them and hopefully be their service provider to solve that problem for them?
Sam Torres 26:34
Exactly. On the flip side, starting at that elevated [place] can also be really good if you are looking for a really small audience and people who already know the product, that's generally going to be more like your enterprise buyers. So there's definitely merit to it. Um, but certainly, if you're disruptive or innovative products, I I'd wager, there's less times that you want to do that, because you just need to raise awareness overall. Um, but as all things in SEO, it just depends on what you're trying to do.
Tory Gray 27:07
It does. But that's actually where I'd argue that paid search can be an awesome tool for coming in and helping you really distinguish, especially the "willingness to buy" and at what price point. That can help you understand, Okay, well, when they were look for mold remediation, versus when they look for mold removal, they might have a different willingness to spend, or, you know, there's Enterprise Business Buyer versions of this. And certain languages used by certain people, like an economist is going to use very different language to describe the work that they do, and if you're trying to talk to other economists, like you should reflect their language.
But paid search can help you more quickly learn where you're getting money from those things, and vetting that there is interest that there is willingness to buy, you can understand those things quickly. And if you have budget, if you have that lovely VC money, then you can keep doing that. But hopefully then you also are starting to layer in organic search to help reduce your costs overall, and certainly learn things faster, so you're not investing six months going after a keyword that it turns out, oh, that buyer is not going to buy. Right? Now we have to rethink things. And reposition and rework. Yeah, get better results.
Sam Torres 28:23
Any other fun use cases we want to add? Or like, any practical applications? I know, we've been talking, we've had a few like, real life examples, but any others who want to add or or if there are any hypotheticals that we want to continue touching on?
Tory Gray 28:41
I mean, I have one concrete example. So I worked for many years at Craftsy, a startup based in Denver, it was eventually acquired. They created online educational premium content that people could buy as standalone videos and then eventually subscribe to as a service. So it was largely in the crafting space. We had cake decorating, we had knitting.
Sam Torres 29:06
Oh I was a customer.
Tory Gray 29:09
Yes, it was a lovely, wonderful brand. And as their head of SEO and running their program and collecting this data, we used search data to help make content programming decisions. And by that I mean, do we greenlight this class about "how to do this particular knot" or this class about "this particular technique"? What are people looking for? And how can we meet that need? The data is out there. And you can use that when it makes sense. So your brand, your strategy teams, this can really help you make very pinpointed, fine decisions about how to meet your user's needs in the marketplace.
I think probably the most fun one I ever got to do, was we did research for a national pizza brand to figure out – it wasn't one of the big ones, but they're still national– they're fun! But we were able to use keyword research to figure out what toppings they didn't have in store that people were searching for. And what's really interesting is, they actually told us like, they had gone to one of the big research firms and gotten a quote for the same kind of project. And we were able to give them a pretty good like prioritized list of where we'd recommend they start. And, like, not even 10% of the cost.
Tory Gray 30:41
And that's literally pizza toppings. Like, what what are people looking for? What can you provide? How do we get creative?
Sam Torres 30:48
I also did gain, I'm pretty sure I put on like three pounds during that project, too. Because as I was researching, of course, I started thinking about food, and then just kept eating. Um, yeah, but I think that was probably one of the most fun ones I've been on because it was just, cuz then we also got to see it actually be implemented, and we saw that actually bring those into the, into the locations, so. And into their kitchens. So it was just really fun.
Begüm Kaya 31:13
We also recently had this client, they are in a FinTech space with a very niche enterprise solutions, such a tailored solution. And when we were looking for the terms that people are, like searching for, like, basically, they had to select in between two groups, and they went with the one with the less competition. And since none of the competitors that they have at hand were focusing on that solution, they wanted to basically grow that market and own that terminology for their solution. So that's always another option, like you don't have to go with the thickest keyword. Or....
Sam Torres 32:03
Often you just don't want to be unless you have $10 million in branding to spend plus, right! Um, if you're, if you're a bank, it better be 100 million, right? So just all kinds of stuff. Um, so hopefully, that gives a lot of food for thought. And like I say, well, we'll be putting out more info on this, just because it's a passion of ours; we love it. Seeing where we can really add value outside of just bringing traffic and revenue to the website is super fun. And then also be on the lookout for everything about Google Analytics.
Tory Gray 32:39
Also I want to hear if anyone else has any use cases and ways they've used it. You know, the more use cases we have, I think the more we can think about all the other applications. So hopefully this makes you think, and we can all think and brainstorm together and start to do a better job using this data to do better work.
Begüm Kaya 33:01
Sam Torres 33:01
Well, that was fun. Let's do that.
Begüm Kaya 33:05
We certainly will.
Tory Gray 33:07
Thanks again to our sponsor Ahrefs. Please check them out and go to Ahrefs.com/awt. And thanks for coming to Opinionated SEO Opinions™. Oh, and don't forget to submit your questions to: thegray.company/ask-seo-questions.
Begüm Kaya 33:20
See you next time!