Loss of Data Needn’t Mean Loss of Direction

[not provided] got ya down? Feeling blue because your analytics won’t share data with you? Worried about decisions because of data prohibitions?

Well, I’d love to tell you to not worry about it, but it’s the reality today. It’s the new norm and we have to roll with it. And it can pose challenges, no doubt.

But is it the “end”? Hardly. Like so many times in the past, it simply means that SEOs need to get creative and find new ways forward. Like looking towards offline data to help online decisions.

During a conversation with Michelle Robbins (@MichelleRobbins) last week, she shared an excellent idea. Now, while there is no direct replacement for the data not being shared by a leading search engine today, maybe replacing that exact data isn’t the right path?

Maybe now is the time for SEOs to expand their view and find new ways to uncover directional data.

Since the beginning of time, we’ve know it’s dangerous to put all your eggs in one basket. Having a balanced program to drive inbound traffic across a variety of sources is a proven way to protect yourself from sudden changes in one area.

Will this be the moment in history when SEOs start expanding their focus? I sure hope so. Many simply complain about the past (lost data) instead of looking forward (new data sources). To put to rest the obvious complaints, I do realize that not having keyword referral data makes SEO more difficult. But as I see it, you have two choices: complain, sink into depression and reach for the bottle, or…get on with running your business and find new ways forward.

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This takes us back to that chat with Michelle last week. Her idea isn’t a new one, but its timing is important. It’s no secret there is a lot of data around about people and what they do. Nielsen, as Michelle suggested, is a much underused source of information by SEOs. In fact, the entire idea of using offline data sources to make online business decisions is largely lost on most SEOs, who stay buried in data so deep they think all the rest is someone else’s problem to solve.

Nielsen, for example, is an easy source to look past. It doesn’t meet the usual test of SEOs – easy and free. But as with everything, our industry is maturing and anyone working in search now finds themselves at a fork in the road.

On one hand you have the tried and true method, starting with keyword research, tracking visitors through your site, watching conversions, tweaking and trying to make the right decisions. This is very much the view looking “inward”.

On the other hand, with so much broad data available to help you understand consumers today, it’s easier than ever to start looking at behavior patterns, building sites to illicit desired responses and aligning your business in ways that impress customers and keep them coming back. This is the view when looking “outward”.

Ideally, you’ll be in a position to employ a mixed approach, where smart data choices and analysis enables the outward view and positions you to anticipate consumer reactions and guide them to your benefit, while close focus on conversion, navigation structure and content engagement will allow rapid updates to fit the changing desires of consumers.

In the past we followed the trail consumers left behind by examining keyword research data, analytics data, server log files, pages consumed, etc. Moving forward we need to be smarter about understanding the consumer by also looking at purchase histories, credit usage, family status, change-of-life-moments, social sharing signals, etc.

One path sees you following people, the other sees you anticipating where they will be and what they will want. Smart advertisers, such as Target, use this approach today to excellent effect.

A whole world of data awaits to help you predict, so why not move from following to leading?

Duane Forrester
Sr. Product Manager
Bing

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