5 Ways to Better Target &…

5 Ways to Better Target & Profile Audiences Using Online Search Behaviour

Explore five ways marketers can generate more accurate, insightful and actionable consumer insights drawn form audience profiles and targets driven by search. 

Think about those who know you best. Chances are, someone like your spouse/partner, sibling or best friend comes to mind. Someone, or rather something, you are probably not considering is your Web browser. It used to be that when we wanted to know something, we asked another person, but today we go straight to the Internet. In fact, a recent study by Experian Marketing Services found that an astonishing 99.8 percent of online Americans say that Internet is the first place they look for information on one or more topics, ranging from weather to news to sports and more.

One reason we increasingly turn to the Internet is that, unlike individual human beings, the Internet is a virtually endless source of information, no matter the topic. And search engines connect us to the information we want almost instantly and without question or judgment. Embarrassed to admit you don’t know how to boil an egg? Ask the Internet. Late night anxiety about a possible medical condition? Ask the Internet. Need to know the score of the game, but can’t get to a TV? Ask the Internet. These days, our web browsers and search engines know us better than just about anyone. They know our aspirations, our desires, our fears, our wants and our needs. They know us so well, actually, that most browsers now include an option to search and browse privately or “incognito.”

Search has become one of the most powerful, and yet untapped, sources of consumer insights. Hitwise, as the operator of the largest online panel measuring consumer behaviour and search in five markets, is particularly well-positioned to provide marketers with insights derived from search.

Given this fundamental shift in information seeking, search has become one of the most powerful, and yet untapped, sources of consumer insights. Hitwise, as the operator of the largest online panel measuring consumer behaviour and search in five markets, is particularly well positioned to provide marketers with insights derived from search. Furthermore, Hitwise’s new AudienceView platform was expressly designed to deliver insights derived from that panel of 25 million online adults, including over 700 million monthly search variations. It does so by allowing marketers to define and/or profile audience segments based on their offline and online behaviours.

This report will explore five ways that marketers today can generate more accurate, more insightful, more actionable consumer insights drawn from audience profiles and targets driven by search.

1. Understand your audience’s interests and lifestyles


To understand a consumer’s interests and lifestyle, marketers often turn to survey research in which hundreds or thousands of respondents answer a battery of questions covering various aspects of their lives. Surveys like these—which include Experian’s own trusted Simmons® National Consumer Study in the United States—provide insights into a broad range of topics which help marketers get a more complete or 360 degree view of the consumer. However, if we say that these types of surveys can provide marketers with “high-definition” consumer profiles, the incorporation of search behaviours into the mix has the potential to boost the resolution of such profiles up into the “ultra HD” range and beyond.

That’s because search captures the interests and intents of consumers over time across virtually every topic. Search can tell marketers the sports we play and those we follow down to a specific team, player or even match. It reveals the foods we like to cook at home on a Tuesday and those we plan on making for a special occasion. When it comes to apparel, search can tell marketers what styles we wear to work and what we change into at the end of the day. Search holds the keys to understanding our political leanings, travel plans, interest in current events and pop-culture, our physical health, financial well-being and much, much more.

AU 5 Ways to Target: Based on Interests

Engage your audience with content that matters

A major digital news and entertainment publisher in the UK found itself facing increasing competition from a new rival. To better tailor content to their existing audience and to generate content that will attract interest from the audience of the rival publisher, it was critical to understand the interests and lifestyles of both audiences. To do so, the publisher ran several digital behaviour reports using AudienceView that revealed the online searches conducted by their audience and that of the rival.

The analysis revealed that when it comes to entertainment news, their audience is more likely than that of the competition to be searching for the celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. They’re more likely to be searching for animated content such as Rick + Morty and South Park and are interested in getting tickets to street artist Banky’s Dismaland theme park.

On the flip side, the publisher learned that visitors of the rival site are more likely than their visitors to search for information on Big Brother, The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing. They are also disproportionately interested in celebrities like Kate Middleton, Sam Smith and Rita Ora. The lottery is another topic in which the rival audience has an elevated interest.

With these insights in hand, the publisher can generate content that will ensure the continued engagement of their current audience and keep them coming back for more. They now also have a guide for curating content that will interest their rival’s audience which they’ll use to attract new visitors.

2. Identify keywords to target for branding campaigns


Paid search is one of a marketers’ most important digital tactics and is a science in and of itself. Understandably, brands focus primarily on search terms that are directly related to their brand or category, which are the most competitive and expensive. While that’s not going to change, understanding a consumer’s full range of search behaviour can present marketers with a highly expanded set of less competitive—and affordable terms—on which they can bid for branding campaigns to keep the brand top of mind as opposed to campaigns seeking to drive conversions.

Align brand relevance to your audience’s lifestyle

An appliance manufacturer in the UK aggressively bids—and pays top dollar—for searches such as “front loading washer” and “washing machine sales.” That’s because consumers conducting these queries are likely to buy an appliance in a matter of days—or hours. The marketer knows, however, that it is easier to convert on a sale if the consumer is already familiar with their brand. As such, they need to better understand the full range of search behaviours conducted by consumers who are researching and buying washers.

Using AudienceView, the marketer created a consumer target defined as those who searched for “washing machine” in the past month. An analysis of lifestyle searches conducted by this audience revealed that consumers who have recently searched for “washing machine” are eight times more likely to search for “rescue dogs,” five times more likely to search for “pregnancy calculator” and twice as likely to search for “London zoo.”

AU 5 Ways to Target: Search Variations

The marketer also gained similar insights into this audience’s searches related to sports and travel—topics which lend themselves well to branding campaigns. 

With these insights in mind, the marketer can develop campaigns that align with the other interests of washing machine shoppers and start bidding on those related terms at a much lower cost than they spend on more competitive terms. While the resulting views and clicks are less likely to lead to a direct conversion, they might just give exposed consumers the nudge they need to start considering an appliance upgrade or at least make sure that the marketer’s brand is top of mind when the time comes.

3. Learn more about early adopters of new trends


In these digital times in which we live, the Internet not only helps spread news and information, but also consumer trends at fiber optic speeds. Marketers using traditional survey techniques to better understand an emerging behaviour or interest must develop a set of questions to accurately measure the topic of interest, field a survey, process the responses and analyse the results. Depending on the trend, this can take as little as a month or up to a year—by which time the targeted trend may no longer be of interest or may have since morphed into something completely different from what was originally measured.

To stay ahead of emerging trends and develop products and services that meet consumers’ constantly changing demands, marketers need more timely insights into fast moving trends and the consumers adopting them. Online search is an ideal source for this insight.

Listen to consumers to uncover opportunities

An apparel and accessories retailer had noticed a gradual rise in men sporting anywhere from a little scruff to full-on beards. As they were investigating the trend, there was a sudden explosion in interest in beard oil, a grooming product for facial hair. In fact, between October 4 and November 22, 2014, Hitwise reported that online searches for “beard oil” in the United States rose by an astounding 647 percent.

Seeing an opportunity for a product extension, the marketer decided to seek approval to develop a branded bear oil, but they first needed to prove—with hard numbers—that their customers were a prime target for such a product. In order to demonstrate the market opportunity and be among the first with a branded offering, the marketer turned to AudienceView to define an audience segment as anyone who conducted a search for “beard oil.” They were then able to run a quick snapshot report to find out where those consumers shop, who they are, how they live and how to reach them.

The analysis confirmed that their customers were among those actively searching for beard oil. It also suggested that they not focus exclusively on male shoppers as a third of the market is female. Having the ability to generate the necessary insights in minutes rather than months, the retailer was able to green-light the product extension and capitalise on the trend before the competition.

AU 5 Ways to Target: Beard Oil

4. Laser focus your audience targeting with detail


As we’ve established, when consumers need information, they turn to the Internet. And while broad searches are effective in casting a wide net, most of us know that the key to getting the information we need is being specific. This level of detail is, of course, a powerful tool for marketers.

Not only can they tap into the data to understand consumers’ general interests, but they also have access to long tail searches that can be used to define and profile key, hard-to reach audiences segments. In fact, longer more detailed search strings are commonly believed to signify a greater degree of consumer intent, so being able to isolate those searches gets a marketer closer to singling out those consumers who are most ready to transact.

Improve ad performance with audience targeting

An Australian athletic footwear manufacturer has always had a solid understanding of the consumers who buy their different types of shoes (running shoes, tennis shoes, golf shoes, etc.), but they lacked reliable insights on consumers of more specialised products, such as orthopedic shoes, which they felt could be a growth market for the brand. Unfortunately, due to the elusive nature of the market and tight marketing budget, the cost and limited scope of conducting primary research was prohibitive.

Fortunately, the marketer found a solution to their insight needs using AudienceView—without collecting any additional data—by building a custom audience segment defined as anyone who searched for specialty footwear, like “orthopedic shoes,” “shoes for high arches” and “shoes for flat feet.” A snapshot report revealed that this audience skews female, ages 45 to 54 and upper middle class. They have a taste for high-end designer fashion, but most importantly, many of these consumers are runners, making them a prime target for athletic shoes.

AU 5 Ways to Target: Specialty Shoes

Longer more detailed search strings are commonly believed to signify a greater degree of consumer intent, so being able to isolate those searches gets a marketer closer to singling out those consumers who are most ready to transact.

Not only was the manufacturer able to confidently confirm that the specialty footwear consumer was a good fit for their brand, they were also able to leverage AudienceView to identify prime channels for reaching them. For instance, they found that this audience often plays online and mobile games and watches video, both online and on television. When they’re not looking at a
screen, it’s likely that they’re still within earshot as they are more likely to listen
to Internet radio, like Pandora.

5. Understand consumers along their purchase journey

Search data is one of the best indicators of where a consumer is in their purchase journey. The fact that they’re conducting an online search within a category in the first place means that they’ve officially moved to active interest, even if it may still be the very beginning stages of the journey.

Successful marketers can associate various activities and searches with each stage of the purchase journey. By creating customised portfolios of search terms that align with each stage of their customers’ journey and then using those portfolios to define a target audience, marketers can better understand the full range of online behaviours, sites visited and apps used by consumers at each stage in order to develop more effective, targeted and engaging campaigns.

Use context of shopper intent to align engagement

An American auto manufacturer was looking to better connect with consumers early in the consideration stage and provide them with a consistent message throughout their journey. To do so, they created custom audiences with AudienceView based on search behaviour. For instance, would-be buyers in the Consideration stage were defined by having conducted searches related to vehicle type (e.g., “sedan,” “minivan”), “ratings,” “reviews” or “safety.” Those in the Intent stage were defined by having searched for “side-by-side comparisons” of specific vehicles, “MPG” or “test drive.” While those in the Decision stage searched for “inventory,” “dealer hours” or other specific features like “magnetic gray.”

AU 5 Ways to Target: Consideration Intent Decision

With those audiences now defined by their search behaviour, the manufacturer knows how many consumers are in each stage at any given time. Furthermore, they maintain updated profiles of each audience to know the industry sites they’re visiting, the online and offline media they’re consuming and their other interests and lifestyles. With this insight, the manufacture has an in-depth understanding of the triggers driving each segment through the purchase journey as well as ways to sub-segment each audience (e.g.: safety-oriented, status seekers, bargain hunters, etc.) within their target market in order to develop more personalised and engaging content and messaging at every stage.