By Mary Aviles
We rely on secondary research for a number of things in our business. We use it ourselves to develop a high-level understanding of specific topics during new business development. And, more frequently, we use it to inform our clients’ primary research projects. Secondary research results often direct our discussion guides and questionnaire development. After all, the better the upfront research, the more likely the client will be to satisfy their overall objectives, be they tactical—like a successful search campaign—or strategic—like taking a truer position in the market. But, gathering competitive and market intelligence can be a daunting, laborious task. First, you have to prioritize your areas of interest and put together a search plan. After that, we rely heavily on long-tail search for getting the actual legwork done efficiently.
Since so much of what I gather comes from publicly available sources—aka the Internet—it’s imperative to utilize a keyword strategy that makes good use of long-tail search. Referencing Brian Gardner from Copyblogger Media, “Long tail search…refers to search terms that contain 3 or more words. These search terms are very targeted, and are quickly becoming the norm when people are searching for information about whatever they’re looking for.”
In other words, you can fine-tune your search results and get to the good stuff much faster. So, using an industry example (versus a brand-specific one), if you need information about plastic surgery that occurs after a patient undergoes bariatric surgery, you might try the following search strings:
bariatric surgery after plastic surgery
plastic surgery that occurs after a patient undergoes bariatric surgery
Depending on the industry, I frequently rely on words like ‘trends in…,’ ‘percentage of…,’ ‘…case studies,’ ‘…best practices:’
trends in bariatric surgery post plastic surgery
percentage of bariatric surgery patients who have plastic surgery
plastic surgery training for post-bariatric patients
Those results might lead me to modifiers like: ‘experts in…’ or ‘costs for…’
And, oftentimes I’m asked to analyze industry or product terminology outside my immediate expertise. Long-tail search exposes me to verbiage I would not necessarily have come up with on my own. Using the example above, the results might lead to other keyword options/possible combinations like:
In addition to the Internet, I commonly source databases available via my local library. I also search several ‘Old Faithful’ industry-specific sites by hand because Google doesn’t capture everything. More and more I am performing social media listening (and praying for increased analytical platform aggregation). For all those reasons, it’s important to document your search trail. Don’t forget to leave yourself breadcrumbs so you can recreate the search paths that yield the best results from one source to the next (and will save you time should the client decide to engage in ongoing monitoring).
For additional interesting reading on this topic, please check out McKinsey Quarterly’s Measuring the Value of Search, August 2011. According to them, “Based strictly on the value of time saved…individual information seekers and content creators, consumers, and entrepreneurs—earn an ROI of 10:1 [from search] on average.” How reliant are you on search?