November 02, 2010

The Role of Search

The search community is knee-deep in metrics and details. Some companies are actively optimizing a half-million keywords, and believe-you-me, that level of program management requires attention to detail.

What you don't read about is the role search plays in the customer relationship.

See if you can answer a couple of questions.

Question #1: What percentage of search orders come from existing customers?

If you ask a hundred marketers this question, fewer than a third can answer it. The marketer can tell you that they are paying $0.24 for keyword number 12,493, but it isn't easy for the majority of marketers to tell you "who" is buying.

Question #2: Say you have a customer who purchased three times, and now purchased for the fourth time, and search is responsible for the order. How does future customer behavior change for the customer who now uses search?

If you ask a hundred marketers this question, fewer than ten can answer it. And this is a shame, because the customer who converts to search after multiple purchases is fundamentally different, as evidenced in my Online Marketing Simulation projects. Knowing this fact allows you to understand where your business is headed.

Question #3: What happens to the long-term value of a search customer who visits your site and does not convert?

If you ask a hundred marketers this question, fewer than five can answer it. And this is also a shame, because a generation of Web Analysts have not been trained to "deal with consequences of failure". In other words, the Web Analyst measures "success", but seldom evaluates the consequences yielded by the 97% of customers who do not convert.

If you can answer these three questions (and many Online Marketing Simulation projects do answer these questions), you know far more about The Role of Search than your competition knows.