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GETTING TO KNOW THE ME CENTERED SEARCHER

I've recently been working heavily with a local client in a major metropolitan area and part of the strategy to help grow their business visitors includes focusing on local SEO and utilizing hyper-targeted Adwords campaigns. While digging through some search terms I stumbled upon something I hadn't come across yet - a variety of phrases with "me" in them that actually had significant searh volume.

Example:  [food near me] 

Out of curiosity, I started exploring various queries that included "me" in order to determine how widespread this new approach to searching has become, as well as whether or not this is a growing trend or something I've just missed in the past. Here's a quick display of some words and their associated average monthly search volumes. Some of these might surprise you...

Needles to say, the results peaked my curiosity and lead to further research. Take a look at this trend graph showing growing levels of search around a few of the phrases on this list.

WOAH - trending action. We're clearly starting to see shifting searcher behavior away from informational and in some cases even traditional navigational searches. So what's causing the shift?

Mobile + Google = "ME"

Take a look at this graph showing smartphone penetration in the U.S. No surprises here, we all know mobile is taking over:

Take a look at how the smartphone penetration matches the general trend in "me' focused searches"...

And how many are using phones to access the Internet, further strengthen the connection between "me" searchers and the new wave of Internet access devices:

For most of you, this is nothing new. We know more people have smart phones, we know more people are using these phones to access the Internet, and it's only logical that context should be an important factor in determining results to queries.

But...

When you add in growing "me" oriented searches, something else stands out. 

It's not just how (from a device standpoint), why, and where people are accessing the Internet and performing searches that's changing, it's very much how or what from a query standpoint. Anytime a shift in behavior takes place, no matter why it occurs, we need to take note.

Insights - The Rubber Meets the Road

Here are a few thinks to think about and a few actionable things to consider in your marketing now:

1) Google knows what's going on, and in fact, they are likely a driving force in why this change is taking place
Organic search is an important channel for many businesses. It's a mistake to make it your life blood, but it can certainly be a strong assesst. Understanding where Google is headed will allow you to continue to capitalize efficiently on the channel as long as you can. This research has only further reinforced my belief that now more than ever, three things are crucial for success in search:

Context (where, why, etc.) + Relevance (are you relevant to the audience and their situation/query?) + Authority (are you viewed as an authority in your industry and field?) = Results

Oh, and throw in a splash of personalization while you're at it for taste :)

It's important to pay attention to where Google is steering the ship and how their abilities and results (see below) are changing user behavior.

2) Optimization Gets...Interesting
Most SEO's will still tell you to place keywords in title tags, have them somewhere on the page, etc. This is because we have been optimizing for a string-driven engine for a long time. And even now, words are how we communicate to Google what something is about. However, recent updates and continued growth in their (Google's) ability to understand things, and bypass strings has put us in a very interesting situation - optimizing for "me".

Take a look at this SERP from the search "food near me"

Google knows what that means. It needed no further instruction to understand what food is, where I am, and that I want some. I didn't need to directly navigate to a restaurant, or search for "restaurants", I got to tell Google to solve a problem for me, and it did. And now, I know that they can do that. 

As a business, I now need to focus on making sure Google understands who I am, what I'm about, and why I am important, because if they don't, I'm going to be left behind.

This also means that search volumes tied to previously valuable keywords have quite possibly shrunk and will continue to shrink in the near future. Be aware of how these changes might be affecting your traffic. 

3) Adjust Your PPC Campaigns
This phrasing may not be obvious to everyone yet. Take advantage. The following chart compares of a few typical local keywords for a new york restaurant vs. using location targeting and broader phrases:

Last Call
The digital marketing landscape, as with so many other things in life changes very quickly. Learning to be an observer is very important (in some ways more than reading/learning) for maintaining success whether you are a digital marketer at a mid or large organization, or you're a one man shop. 

Think about what "me" searches might mean for you and how your site is currently optimized. Think about what other implications this might have as searcher behavior continues to shift, and Google continues to adapt, and when possible, drive that change.

Remember, if you can, always be the driver.

What other implications do you see from this change in behavior?


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