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Radical User Intelligence: Moving Past Keyword Research

Marketers have been advising strategy and tactics by “search” keyword research for well over a decade. We pretty much all know by now that keyword “inventory” has various tails including search frequency (number of searches), seasonality (when), cost-per-paid-click, CPM (cost per thousand impressions), SEO attainability, geo-location and user-intent (query objective). All these years later search seems only slightly less amazing. No matter what comes next, there will probably always be awesome power in search, targeting users’ questions by tailed keywords.

That said, demographic research has come a long way in the last couple of years. With nary 24 million members in 2007, Facebook rode shotgun down the avalanche, with the little-lauded launch of Facebook DIY contextual ad platform. Those in the know whispered about an impending social PPC revolution. Some guessed right and began segmenting landing pages by social segment as well as search AdGroups.

Search vs. contextual

To keep terms straight, “contextual” means it is not search. Nobody is typing a question in a box for contextual targeting. Contextual is walk-by traffic targeted to interests, behavior and a number of other attributes on the social graph. Google’s storied content network is a great example of a contextual marketplace, as are Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn direct ads. By late 2007 Facebook wasn’t only for kids anymore. Three years ago there were tens of thousands of Facebook users; over 30 years old, “interested” in “Las Vegas” and other B2B segments were beginning to emerge.

Now that Facebook has (allegedly) spit in users’ faces and whored away the store, marketers can really profile demographic segments by mining (arguably) invasive data we used to only dream about. Where I work we’re all for privacy but if Facebook is going to give us the data, then we’re going to respectfully market to users who give away the information. Don’t feel bad. By using Facebook’s software, users explicitly sell their data and submit to Facebook’s terms of service. Imagine the cost of building Facebook. The value Facebook sells advertisers amounts to blood off of users’ backs. Life is grand!

Not just Facebook

Facebook is not the only story for demographic profiling by any means. With some wit and creativity it’s possible to excavate user data from Twitter, YouTube, Google search result pages themselves, question engines, PPC competitive intelligence tools, Google’s DoubleClick demographic targeting layer and organic analytics to build a product-level grid of multi-channel social inventory that goes far beyond classic search keyword research. It’s not your mom’s keyword basket anymore, kids.

Just as with search marketing, contextual segments target users by both organic and paid channel tactics. Here are some examples of radical user intelligence. Look for users, who may well be susceptible to your sales and branding messages, by graphing the following.

Organic contextual

Remember, “organic contextual” is what most us call “social media.” We market by participation and make friends by sharing in community activities. “Sharing” can mean deep research at the users-level, in order to identify crucial users who would consume or otherwise champion what you’re selling. How to do this?

  • Networking in YouTube in support of content
  • Twitter conversations (graph them as conversations-per-day)
  • Making friends in any channel without paying to meet them
  • Facebook SEO: Optimizing Facebook groups, fan pages, events, people and apps’ for discoverability by Facebook’s internal search engine
  • Participating in LinkedIn and Yahoo Answers
  • Finding Twitter friends using Twitter search on hashtags and/or keywords

Paid contextual

Examples of paid contextual channels include:

  • Mainstream search engine content networks, like Google’s and Yahoo’s
  • Banners served to Yahoo personals and focused Gmail advertising
  • Facebook DIY PPC platform
  • Paid tweets
  • Direct banner buys which match up publishers” content with the content of your ad

The real power for the radical demographic research artist is learning to turn available contextual research tools into finely tuned utensils to follow lines of investigation. Just as with paid search inventory tools (the Google keyword tool, Trellian keyword discovery, WordTracker, etc), there are rich insights to be gained from paid contextual inventory tools. This is especially true of Facebook’s PPC targeting engine. Just as we use PPC inventory tools for SEO, we’ve found splendid insight in paid contextual tools that can be applied to organic contextual activities.

Here are some examples of contextual demographic segments we profile and market to in both paid and organic contextual spaces. These segment examples can be targeted by paid and organic tactics in nearly any contextual space. Take clear aim at Twitter hashtags, Facebook PPC, YouTube buzz, Flickr photos or conversations in any social channels. Advise the process by search inventory as a starting place. Simply put, target these users by conversation or banner, organic or paid.

  • Brand + competitors’ brands and current and legacy SKUs
  • Consumers and professionals who consume products
  • Product categories
  • Categorized usage of products by consumers and professionals
  • Trade groups and associations
  • Non-profits and foundations (interest tool)
  • Employees of non-profits and foundations (education and work tools)
  • Employees of companies that consume products
  • Employees of competitors’ companies
  • Application users
  • Places of employment (interest tool)
  • Places of employment (education and work tool)
  • College affiliations (interest tool)
  • College affiliations (education and work tool)
  • College majors (interest tool)
  • College majors (work and education tool)
  • Purchased “friend-leads” @ CPFL (cost per friend lead)
  • Converted friend-leads @ CPUF (cost per unique friend)
  • Authority users/influencer-friends attained by any method
  • Users who frequent specific publications
  • Chatter surrounding well trafficked questions

The ability to map marketing activity to such fundamentally relevant social media user-segments—people who are unthinkingly going about their business in contextual space—seems to fulfill the internet’s promise for marketers in a deep way. With hundreds of millions of engaged users who reveal their affinities and predilections, it’s getting easier and easier to incorporate emerging demographic profiling capabilities as strategic and tactical levers.

As we add contextual to the search mix for online marketing, surely additional paid and organic models will emerge to elevate traditional keyword research to radical user intelligence.

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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