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Episode Overview: Examining historical trends tell the overarching story of your brand and how your company is performing over time. Learning how to correctly frame, segment and analyze historical trends are critical to setting your business up for future success.  Join host Ben as he continues Market Insights Week with Searchmetrics’ Director of Services Tyson Stockton discussing how to successfully analyze historical trends and how to use them to position your company for success.

Summary

  • Obtaining historical data can pose a challenge, although partnering with an agency that can create a historical data record your company can utilize over time.
  • Before mining historical trends, frame your goals around the following questions: How big is the scope? How granular do we want to get with our data? How many categories are we examining?
  • If you’re examining historical trends through a 12 month lens, examine data month-to-month or by quarters to obtain accurate information.
  • If you’re examining historical trends that spans several years, examine data by each year to obtain broad, accurate information.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                  Welcome to Market Insights Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro. And this week we’re going to publish an episode every day, covering how you can use search data to impact your business outside of SEO. Joining us for Market Insights Week is Tyson Stockton, who is the vice president of client services at Searchmetrics. Tyson manages Searchmetrics’ SEO content and client success organizations, and outside of shepherding their largest and most strategic clients to SEO success, he’s joining us today to talk about what search data is relevant for mining market insights.

Ben:                 So far this week, Tyson and I have talked about how to understand ways that you can leverage search data. And yesterday we dove into how to understand the demand for your products and services using your search volume. And today we’re going to talk about how to mine for historical trends using keyword data. Okay. Here’s the third installment of Market Insights Week with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ vice president of client services. Tyson, happy hump day. Welcome back to Market Insights Week on the Voices of Search podcast.

Tyson:            Thank you, Ben. Topic at hand is trends.

Ben:                Yeah, absolutely. Yesterday we talked about how to understand how big the pie is, how much demand there is for your products and services. And we talked about cutting into that using search volume. And today we’re going to talk about a bigger picture. How do you understand, not only what’s happening now, how much need is there for your product or services, but how did we get here? How do you think about mining for historical trends? And why is that relevant and important?

Tyson:            Yeah. And I think a lot of times, as SEOs, we get into like what’s the opportunity today. But, by getting that historical context, you get to see the full picture of where the market and industry is headed. And, without that historical lens, it’s just a snapshot. You don’t know if one category is growing faster than another category. And, on one of the previous episodes, we talked about skiing and snowboarding. Great. Okay. They’re close to at the same rate. But then, if you see that scheme has been growing at a fast rate for the last couple of years, okay, it’s going to probably change how you’re going to be placing bets between those two categories and maybe how much you want to invest in one versus another. So, I think the historical lens really gives you the context that you need to take the search demand and make it more into a large or strategy type conversation.

Ben:                Give me an example of a brand that found a historical trend that was actionable into what was happening in their business in real time.

Tyson:            Yeah. So, I mean, going back to like the one we just mentioned, skiing, snowboarding, I think that’s a great one because at least like the notion and the mindset of a lot of people in the U.S. market is snowboarding was this big increase in the ’90s, early 2000’s, and stuff. And snowboarding is now more popular than skiing. But, when you really dig into the trend aspect of it, again, you see that scheme has a faster growth rate, a faster trendline and it’s going to. And so, yeah. Okay. We can say, okay, skiing has surpassed snowboarding. But it’s not just, hey, it’s higher than snowboarding is today, but it’s also the trajectory that they’re going. So, then it’s more of, hey, maybe we should focus more on the skiing aspect and prioritizing that category on our site or in our stores, versus maybe snowboarding or something that’s going to be decreasing, which is personally unfortunate because I’m definitely siding on the snowboard side. So, hopefully we can change that. But, as far as the business decisions, that’s where I would be placing my bets within that specific example.

Ben:                 So, talk to me about the data used to understand historical trends. It seems like there’s a lot of different ways that you could cut search data.

Tyson:             Yeah. And I think the biggest challenge on the historical is actually getting to the data. And I think we mentioned on the previous episode that it’s like, yeah, there’s a couple of different sources that you can grab existing data. And Google Keyword Planner is a great example. But getting to the historical is often a bit challenging. And I think selfishly that’s where we have a leg up at Searchmetrics with having like the years and years of ranking data is, with that ranking data, we also obtained what the search volume was at each of those points. So, I’d say partnering with someone that has access and has been storing the historical, because most of more of the free options or common point solutions are just going to give you what the current demand is. And you’re going to lose that historical lens.

Ben:                So, as you start thinking about data collection being a problem, what advice do you have for brands that want to look back at historical trends but haven’t been thinking about capturing that data over a long period of time?

Tyson:          I’d have it specifically as a question for your search and data partners. How far back does your data go? Are you able to surface any of that data? Can I tap into any of that data? Because really it is an area that like you have quite a few players that are able to provide demand, but then being able to dive into the actual historical of that pool shrinks down tremendously. So, I’d say most companies out there are going to have some sort of partner. And giving them those questions, very pointed and very specifically of, how far back in your data can you provide to me? Am I to get the last five years of search demand for these categories or these sections? And making sure that you have the right partners that are sitting on that or have access to that data, that then they can serve it up to you.

Ben:              So, for the brands that are sitting around thinking, hey, I’d like to be able to dig into my historical data and figure out what trends and essentially this turns into the crystal ball of what could happen later, what’s the advice you have for them in terms of finding the right questions to ask using historical data.

Tyson:          I think the biggest one is, what’s the scope that we’re talking about? Like how granular do we want to be going? And how many categories or how broad of a set are we looking at? And making sure you have the right structure of what the report and what the findings are going to look at is going to be the biggest, most kind of important piece. So, it’s one thing to say, hey, I need historical data. But that’s not really going to get you to the actual position yet. It’s more of coming with, okay, this is the structure. These are the categories of interest. I’m looking to go this many levels down. And having that foresight of knowing how granular of a dataset that you need is going to be the most important piece, because that’s ultimately going to limit what you get in return.

Ben:            We touched on this a little bit in the last episode. But, when you’re thinking about historical data and you’re looking over a long period of time, there are still fluctuations that can happen. There is seasonality. We’re going through the Coronavirus right now. That’s obviously going to be a quarter’s worth of impacted search volumes for a lot of different businesses. When you’re looking back at historical data, how do you keep in mind the context of what happened in a given period to make sure that you’re not seeing results that are not telling you the real truth?

Tyson:         Yeah. So, I’d say like, the farther you go back, the more macro lens you use. So, if you’re looking on a monthly value using like a 12 month lens or like quarterly lens is going to be the most useful, if you go farther years back using more of like an annual and kind of like overarching as far as what was the demand throughout it. And I think, I mean, you brought up COVID. That’s one that’s like, yeah. Search demands are all over the place. We saw some crazy spikes in the last couple of months that are not historical or don’t fit the same trends. So, you want to keep the more granular, monthly data, so the shorter scope. And then, the farther back you go, keep a more broad lens. So, you’re looking more macro the farther back you go. And then, when you’re looking at maybe the last 12 months, that’s where you’re really diving into monthly, quarterly, and those seasonal elements.

Ben:              I think the reason why this is important, where we have already talked about understanding the demand for your product, right? There is a snapshot of how many people are in market that you can gain from your search data. And you can also have the history of what the trajectory of your industry and of your business looks like. And that’s really where historical data comes into view. There’s also the idea that you’re not the only brand or you’re not the only product or service vying for your customer’s attention. So, we’re going to talk specifically about that tomorrow, about understanding your competitor sets and where you stand in the greater marketplace.

Ben:            So, that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, vice president of client services at Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So, if you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is Tyson_Stockton. Or you can visit his company’s website, which is Searchmetrics.com.

Ben:              Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to VoicesofSearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search Podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is VoicesofSearch on Twitter. And my personal handle is BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P.

Ben:             And, if you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week. So, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning when we talk about how you can outperform your competitors using ranking data. Okay, that’s it for today. But, until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.

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