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Search Queries and User Intent

January 2, 2013 Leave a comment

Search engines have evolved and are getting smarter at providing search results based on user intent. Understanding your brand and how the different keywords and queries that searches use to find your site and products can help you with everything from developing keyword silo’s for organic search, creating paid search bid optimization strategies, creating a paid search campaign hierarchy, developing site content strategy.

There have been a lot of studies dissecting search query information to gain further insight into user intent. The fundamentals from each research study identified between three to five main ways to categorize user intent.

Types of search queries based on User Intent

  • Informational
  • Navigational
  • Transactional
  • Multimedia

Below are links to a handful of the core studies. Feel free to read up and learn more about the research done to come up with the various classifications of search queries and how they can be tied to each category.

Breakdown of Query Intent

  • Informational queries: The user wants to obtain information, such as the weather forecast, phone number for a company, to an actors filmography.

This type of query can be satisfied through articles, images, videos, infographics and other media that offers a good balance between information, entertainment, education, and inspiration.

  • Navigational queries: The user wants to find a specific website. These are typically brand focused queries.
  • Transactional queries: The user wants to perform an action, like sign up for a newsletter, compare products during purchase research, or purchase an item.

Transactional queries can also be segmented into two types of intent: intent to research (pre-transaction) and intent to purchase.

Segmenting by intent to research can be valuable if you can gain interest and engagement. Any opportunity to add multiple touch points to the relationship can provide future conversion opportunities. A good way to do this is by offering free information through email subscription, polls, surveys, feed subscriptions, product comparisons, or a series of specialized articles.

For most companies the queries for purchase intent are the most valuable, competitive, and the easiest to lose if you don’t provide a simple and easy way to convert. On-site engagement, uncomplicated conversion funnels, and obvious next steps all contribute to intent satisfaction.

Look at the keywords and the search queries that drive traffic to your site. All websites have a mix of each type of search queries. In my SEO campaigns I consider it a success when my site optimizations move the needle of search query mix from Brand related search queries (Navigational) driving the majority of traffic to my site to have a blend of traffic and search volume from Informational and Transactional queries. Increasing the mix of informational and transactional queries means that I am building up my sales funnel and reaching users across each stage of purchase intent.

Evaluating your Search Query Mix to build your Sales Funnel

When I came to Harry & David in the summer I used our web analytics data to look at the mix of search queries, both paid and organic, to determine our strengths and weaknesses of our search query mix. I found that a significant portion of our organic traffic came from branded queries whereas paid search focused across informational and transactional queries. Our largest opportunity for growth could be gained by diversifying  our search portfolio by expanding into more informational and transactional queries to build up our sales funnel.  Once you know the differences between your paid search and organic search campaigns, you can start optimizing your campaigns accordingly.

The four stage buying funnel (Awareness, Research, Decision, and Purc hase) with explanations of each stage of the funnel. Taken from the research paper: 'BIDDING ON THE BUYING FUNNEL FOR SPONSORED SEARCH AND KEYWORD ADVERTISING' by Jansen & Schuster

As you start to evaluate your website and your SEO / SEM strategies here are a few questions for you to think about:

What is the mix between informational, navigational, and transactional queries for your website?

Does more than 50% of your search traffic come from branded search queries?

Do consumers find you online for queries and keywords related to your lines of business? Are there specific elements of your business that are under represented in the search query mix?

Are you building up your sales funnel by targeting users across multiple stages of purchase intent?

Which segments of search queries does your business need to develop and expand?

What queries are you ranking for within on the top page of the search engine results?

How does your search query mix across each of the categories of user intent compare to your core competitors?

What are the differences between the mix of search queries from organic and paid search traffic?

Is your paid search campaign cannibalizing your organic search traffic for branded queries?

Categories: Best Practices, Keywords, SEM, SEO

Launching an App: Getting the App Live

December 16, 2011 2 comments

A little over a month ago I was part of the team that helped launch the Decide.com Shopping app for iPhone and iPod touch. It was a really cool experience to see the app go from a concept to a live product in a just a few short months- but what that also meant from a marketing perspective is that we had a few months to figure out everything we needed to do to launch an app.  Even before launching our app we had a pretty aggressive goal for app downloads and installations. In order for us to meet that goal we did research to make sure we understood what the process is for getting an app live in the app store and timeline involved so we could create a work back schedule and make sure all of the pieces were in place and ready to go.

I would recommend creating two distinct plans around your app launch. First, is what is needed to get the app live in the app store from a marketing perspective. There are series of touch points that marketers can assist with that might be overlooked. Second, is what is needed from a marketing perspective to announce the launch of your app and start driving app downloads. This also includes what are some of the best practices for launching an app. Make sure that if you have multiple individuals working on the app launch that they work together during this process so they understand when each deliverable is due and if there are any changes that will cause you to push back your launch.

Launching an app in the iTunes App Store: Marketers Guide

Meet with an Apple Developer Relations or Partnership Management team member to view your app. Get and incorporate their direct feedback.

It’s not required that you meet with Apple prior to submitting your app into the App Store however if you have dreams of becoming an editors pick app or a featured app, it is highly recommended. If you cannot get a meeting to review your app, don’t dispare, it’s tough because they’revery busy individuals; instead, review all of the Apple Developer Guides and make sure you follow their requirements to a T. Not following the requirements can cause your app be rejected during the review process and/or delay your app going live.

We were lucky enough to get a 1:1 meeting with the individual responsible for Apple Developer Relations within the Lifestyles segment. Knowing that Apple might make recommendations for our app we met with them 6 weeks before we wanted to launch our app. This allowed us to reviewed the app with them and get specific feedback around what they liked and features that they would like to see up develop more. You can take their recommendations with a grain of salt, or you can try to incorporate their feedback as possible into your product.

In addition, we worked closely with the relation manager to make sure that we were not in violation  of any of their policies or marketing guidelines. We had her review our Press Release and marketing materials to make sure we were not in violation of any policies and would not ruin our chances of potentially getting selected as an editors pick or app of the week.

Plan for the Worse Case Scenario but hope for the best based on submission to live timeline!

It can take anywhere from 3 – 17 days to get your app live once it is submitted. If you are doing a major launch or marketing push around your app, go through the app review process. If you have tested and know that your app is bug free you can sometimes help expedite the process by contacting Apple directly via the Contact Us form in iTunes Connect. This isn’t a guarantee, but I’ve been told it can help.

The best practice is to submit the app early and if you have a specific launch date/deadline request that your app is removed from the store until the day of launch.  This is what we did at Decide, and it was helpful because even going through the review process directly with the Apple Development manager it still took 5 days from the point of submission for our app to appear within iTunes. The problem we faced, was that our app was live 2 days prior to our PR embargo date, so we had to go into our iTunes account and make the app unavailable as to not break our own embargo. Then about an hour before our embargo released on day of launch we went back into iTunes and make the app available.  There are some risks involved with this because it does mean that once you reactive your app in iTunes it can take anywhere from an hour to several days for the app to appear. We were very fortunate that it took about an hour for the page with our app to go live, and then it took an additional 4-5 hours for our app to appear in iTunes searches. It’s good to understand the risks and each company should individually weigh the risks involved of potentially not having the app available if you are doing an embargoed launch.

Some companies will submit a not so perfect version of the their app and then a few days later submit an app update. You can do this, however take into consideration that everytime you update your app (in any way, whether it be code, the description, etc) that any ratings you’ve received will be reset to 0. Higher app ratings are an important factor about where you rank within iTunes search algorithm and in the store. I would be cautious about pushing too many updates because it will make it very difficult to maintain great rankings unless you have an amazing following.

Use SEO Best Practices for Choosing Keywords and Writing your App Title & Description

Do your research in advance of what keywords you want your app to rank for and prioritize them accordingly. You get ~50 characters for keyword selection.

You can change your keywords, title, description in the future, but note that if you do it will reset any ratings that your app has received. A key thing to note is that once have selected your App name it cannot be changed! Select carefully and wisely.

iTunes is a strange and odd beast and its search functionality doesn’t work like regular search engines. If you optimize for the singular form of a word, e.g. Shop, you will also appear for canonical versions, e.g. Shopper, Shopping, Shops. However this does *not* work in the reverse. If you choose the keyword “shopping” your app will not rank or appear for the term Shop.

iTunes does appear to weight your app name more strongly than other factors, so make sure that your brand is first and foremost within your app name.

Put your selected keywords in order of importance, and make sure that they are in the Title and the first 170 characters of your Description.

Okay. So there it is the basics of pre-launch from the perspective of working with an Engineering Team/Developer/PM. The next article will cover marketing best practices launching an iPhone app. Stay Tuned!