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Web Analytics Beyond Social Media

Can search engines help track consumer behaviour?

12Feb

If someone had a crystal ball and could look into their future, regret would probably be the main emotion they'd experience. Missed opportunities and badly handled situations would probably dominate, reasserting to the person that the path they had chosen was perhaps not the best for them after all.

The opportunity to look into our own future is something which not even the most sophisticated technologies can undertake, but thankfully for organisations, the ability to predict isn't such a long-shot. Since its inception, social media has been a key component for organisations who want to predict consumer trends and develop effective strategies.

Social media monitoring applications are an effective tool - two-million people document their lives everyday across LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, creating a lot of data in the process. Most of it won't tell you anything, but a small percentage of it will tell you an awful lot.

Although undoubtedly a reliable source of information, social media analytics are not the only way to predict future consumer trends. Research around the link between Google's search engine results and future economic activities has demonstrated that search queries can predict future sales and prices within the housing market, whilst even being able to ascertain when an economy might recover from a recession.

The micro-data which Google collects could prove to be one of the most powerful tools for companies looking to stay ahead of consumer trends. It collects information on millions of people, providing insights on the thought-processes which occur before a transaction is made. This information is rarely strategic, and therefore provides unfiltered data which is free of manipulation - it's also quick to attain, which like social media data, allows strategies to be devised quickly.

The use of search-engine results as a form of web analytics is not something which is likely to replace social media tracking, but it's a welcome advancement that should improve an organisation's capacity to predict what their customers want before they know themselves.

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