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Using your team’s knowledge to optimise search targeting3 min read

Sometimes in digital it’s easy to get carried away with the data we have at our disposal and assume that you know all the answers, or at least that they are contained within the many tools we use on a day-to-day basis.

As much as we, as agencies, try to absorb all of the information we can about our clients, through onboarding, immersion, regular meetings, reading industry press, digging through past performance, evaluating competitors etc, it is often (usually) the case that our clients have lived and breathed the brand and industry for a number of years.

This means that one of the best, and sometimes most overlooked, sources of data is the people within a business.

Learning from retail

One of my favourite examples of this is when we are working with retail clients deciding what to target in search; in particular retailers with lots of Stock Keeping Units (SKUs), in a very trend-led industry, or both.

Businesses that fall into these categories will often have challenges, at least about where best to target search activity (both paid and organic).

The traditional approach to keyword research would be to:

  1. Pull lists of keywords, based on the product offering, from various tools which can help discover relevant additions.
  2. Check against search volumes from Google Keyword Planner, historical performance data from Google Analytics, current performance data from AdWords or a ranking tool, and maybe a few additional sources of information, to get a comprehensive list of what might be targeted in campaigns

What this doesn’t do is allow us to see into the future for any products that might suddenly start being heavily searched for, as all our data is retrospective.

The wisdom of buyers

In order to have a go at predicting the future, my favourite place to go is usually the buying team within a business. The buyer’s job is to absorb as much industry information as possible in order to make decisions and do deals on what stores should stock and in what quantity.

Buyers will often be split across departments (like menswear, or home), meaning they have a real gauge of what the trends are and what big bets the company will be making in their field. When you combine several of these opinions you can often have a very powerful tool for targeting your search campaigns.

Robe trading

A great example of this was a few years ago when I was working with a large high street fashion brand targeted predominantly at young females. When conducting our keyword research for our summer SEO campaign, we got a few of the buying team involved, pouring over our list of keywords to look for any potential opportunities.

One of the big bets they had made that year, and something they said was going to both be on trend and in plentiful stock, were kimonos. If we looked at Google search volumes at the time (around January) we could see some search demand but nothing really to shout about.

Still, we trusted the buying teams and we made sure the kimonos would have a dedicated page that was linked to in the main navigation and nicely optimised. We also planned a supporting influencer campaign in the run-up to summer, all of which allowed us to rank position 1 for this group of keywords. Our paid team was also able to budget in a way that meant they could push hard on these terms.

Ahead of the curve

The Google trends graph below shows the search trends from January 2012 until now for the term “kimono”:

Google Trends - kimono
Google Keyword planner only gives data back to the start of 2014 but you can see the gains that summer:

Keyword Planner - kimono
By being ahead of the curve based on the input of buyers, we managed to steal a march on the client’s competitors and drive huge amounts of revenue for them. Involving people within the business helps us to look into the future in ways our available data might not be able to.