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How Potential Clients Search For An Interactive Agency

The search behavior associated with businesses trying to find an interactive agency is very different from other models that I’ve looked at in the past. Generally, informational searches dominate search behavior.

In this case, informational searches are very small compared to the number of types that businesses specify when looking for an interactive agency. The type category is fairly complex with 13 sub-categories, which is the most I’ve ever seen in single high-level category. It’s interesting that businesses describe the type of agency they are looking for in about a dozen different ways that describe a single need.

There are 19 high-level categories of behavior across 7.2 million monthly searches in this search behavior model. The type category is 10 times larger than the next category (social) and I have broken it out into sub-categories later in this article to show in better detail what is going on there.

Besides type, there are three categories that suggest opportunities for information architectural focus. These are the social category, the quality category and the searches by location category.

High-Level Categories

Interactive Agency Sub-Categories

When you factor in the sub-categories, and sort them by volume, you end up with 34 distinct categories of search behavior. You will notice that the type sub-categories are the most varied, and that business people are using a dozen terms or phrases to specify the type of agency they’re looking for.

You also notice that these business people are much more interested in quality than they are in value. This list also suggests three conceptual constructs for developing a website message for an interactive agency. These are Social Media, Location and Type – they provide topical focus for a custom landing page and ad copy.

Search Behavior Model Hierarchy

The following graph orders the search behavior categories from top to bottom by search volume. You will notice in the first box that the most complexity and search volume appears in the Type category.

The Type Category

This is the motherload with 5.2 million searches. Business people are searching for an agency in 13 distinct ways.

Business people are also using a variety of interchangeable terms when naming a company. For example:

  • Agency: 736,672
  • Agencies: 645,673
  • Firms: 209,283
  • Companies: 137,211
  • Business: 139,300
  • Service: 97,529
  • Company: 60,272
  • Group: 36,700
  • Studio: 1,558

They also modify many of these queries by specifying the kind of service they’re looking for at a fairly high-level. The four most common examples include:

  • Strategy
  • Solutions
  • Promotions
  • Planning

Now let’s look into each of the 13 type sub-categories shown above in more detail.


When business people look for a company (1.8 million searches) they will most often use the term marketing coupled with the terms mentioned above, such as agency, promotions and strategy.


When businesses search for an advertising agency, they are very specific in the terms that they use. They specify that they are looking for either a company or an agency, but numerous searchers also exclude any reference to a company. For example:

  • Digital advertising
  • Website advertising
  • Interactive advertising
  • Full service advertising
  • Internet advertising


With 802K monthly searches, this is a significant category, but the terms that people are using to construct the type queries are all over the map. You see phrases such as Web agency, media agency, online agency, email agency, print agency and corporate web design.


There are close to 400K queries a month where business people are looking for a design agency. There is almost no traffic associated with the term company. You do see a higher incidence of the term interactive being used in this group.


When the term graphic is used to specify the type of company, the most common term used is firm, as in graphic design firm. You also see the terms company and agencies used in fairly significant numbers. There are 97K searches in this category.


There are just five queries for mobile marketing services, but these five queries account for 124K searches a month.


Approximately 104K people a month specify the agency they’re looking for by using the word digital. Digital is exclusively used with the term agency/agencies. There is no search traffic in this category with the words company, firm or studio in the keyword phrases.


There are 57K searches a month that have the term brand or branding in the search string. People use the term branding by a margin of four to one over the term brand. These terms are exclusively associated with agency or company.


About 126K people search for a creative agency each month. Agency/agencies are the preferred terms in this category. You do not see any search traffic associated with the term company, and almost no traffic associated with the term firm.


The 10.5K searches in this category are fairly focused. They’re looking for marketing and advertising services, and the only company type specified is agency.


There are just 8.3K searches a month for an interactive agency. In the marketplace, you see marketing and advertising firms describing themselves as an interactive agency, but business people are not searching on those terms in any meaningful numbers.

Full service

The 4.3K searches a month make this category similar to the Interactive category. You see a lot of companies describing themselves as a Full Service agency, thought not a lot of business people actually use the term Full Service when looking for an agency.

The Remaining Categories In More Detail


I was surprised at how few branded searches there were in the interactive agency AdWords data set. 81K searches strikes me as being a very small number for an industry that has been around for along time. The bottom line is that business people are searching in large numbers for a type of agency rather than by brand.


This category is all about by buying media. They are mostly looking for a media buying agency, but they are also specifying the type of media (digital) or a source for buying media. There are 53K searches in this category,


There are just 7K searches in this category. They are specifying an agency or company by a media outlet or “channel” such as TV, radio or magazine.


There are 138K search queries where businesses are looking for a marketing consultant. Interestingly, there are only 320 searches for an interactive marketing consultant. The two most common words in these searches are Internet and online, as in Internet marketing consultant and online marketing consultant.


There are 20K searches where business people are looking for a company by stating the type of content they’re interested in. Video is the most common followed by rich media.


There are 381K search queries in this category. The majority of this traffic is fairly high level and vague in nature. It’s not easy to guess what problem these people were trying to solve when they typed in the following three phrases:

  • Advertising web
  • Interactive media
  • Advertising online

Are they interested in PPC campaigns? Flash development services? Developing new ads? It’s hard to tell, even though these three phrases account for over 300K of the searches in the information category.


This is a very small category with just 2.2K searches. They are either looking for a global agency or an international advertising agency.


This is probably of no interest to you from a business standpoint unless you are hiring. With 68.4K searches a month, you don’t want to inadvertently target any of this traffic in your PPC campaigns.


This is an ambiguous category with 14K searches. It’s hard to tell if the searchers are interested in finding a local agency, or if they are interested in local marketing and advertising.


There are 297K monthly searches spread across 271 keyword phrases in this group. 249 of these keyword phrases specify a city name, while the remaining 22 include the name of the state. The most common two-word phrases used in this group are:

  • Advertising agencies [city name]
  • Marketing agency [city name]
  • Interactive agency [city name]


This is a small category with just 1.3K queries, but it’s likely to grow over time. Here you have people searching for an agency that caters to a nationality. Hispanic advertising agencies is a very good example.


There are 16.6K searches a month where a specific industry is used in the keyword phrase. In order of importance; healthcare, sports, automotive and financial are the four most common terms found in this category.


With 230K monthly searches, business people are specifying some sort of quality that is important to them in an agency. When it comes to excellence they are using just two terms and these are best and top.

  • Top – 139K searches
  • Best – 13K searches

There are other terms that are used to specify some desirable quality. You see searchers using the terms experimental, viral, boutique, leading, and small in significant numbers (75K searches).

Search Engine

With 43K searches, these queries are roughly split between the search for SEO services and search engine marketing services.


There are 489K searches in this category. To no one’s surprise, the phrase social media is the most commonly used two-word phrase. There are several other combinations being used that should be noted.

  • Social marketing
  • Social advertising
  • New media
  • Social networks
  • Social media

With just five two-word combinations in these keyword phrases across 489K searches, this category provides a set of interesting landing page opportunities to experiment with.


In this group business people are looking for an unspecified software application. You see phrases like Internet marketing software and online marketing system. It’s difficult to know what problem these folks are trying to solve. There are 10K queries a month in this category.


Here people are searching for a source of services. They use terms like directory, list, online and websites when looking for an advertising or marketing agency. With 117K monthly searches this category is worth thinking about when doing PPC ads. However, because of the vague nature of most of these search phrases, it would be difficult to optimize a targeted landing page.


There are 33K searches a month for the query affordable web design which is not many. Generally, value is a fairly significant category when it comes to searches for products and services. I was very surprised to see that value is of little concern when searching for an agency.

Term Density

The top 25 terms appear 9.6 million times in queries each month. I’ve excluded the company-related terms I mentioned at the beginning of this article in the type discussion. Here is the list of secondary terms.

Though interactive is in the top ten terms, there are many more businesses searching for an agency using the term design followed by digital. With all the recent focus on mobile development platforms and mobile marketing, I was surprised that there was not more traffic associated with the term mobile.

An interesting thing you can do when compiling a list of top terms is to construct probabilistic phrases for website and ad copy, based on the most common terms. For example:

  • Social media marketing design agency.
  • Marketing and advertising digital design firm.

Collectively the terms in Social media marketing design agency appear 5.6M times each month in keyword searches.

Key Insights For Interactive Agencies

  • Most businesses search for an agency by the type of service they are looking for, not by brand.
  • Searching by type is where all the action is. Type should be one of the cornerstones for your website architecture when it comes to developing content and describing your services.
  • Businesses search for an agency using over a dozen, often interchangeable, terms. Do you position your company as a B2B or Full Service agency? If so, you should reconsider because there is not a lot of traffic associated with those labels.
  • Businesses are using nine different terms to search for a company. Agency is the most common, while Studio and Group have minimal traffic. If you position your company as an Interactive Marketing Studio you are limiting your organic search footprint.
  • Are you a marketing consultant? Steer away from the term Interactive. There are only 320 searches a month for Interactive Marketing Consulting.
  • How do you describe your agency when it comes to quality? Do you describe the company as the “best digital agency” in town? It turns out that businesses search for the Top agency by a ten to one margin over Best.
  • How do you position your company geographically? 90 percent of location-based searches contain a city name, while 10 percent use a state name.

Need To Know More?

A search behavior model is a data-driven process for classifying user intent for each search query to a specific source, type or subject. It’s a reflection of the total business search experience for products and services in any single market segment.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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