Beyond Google: Tap Into the Alternative Search Engine Data Opportunity


It may surprise many marketers to learn that while 62 million U.S. searches are performed on core search engines like Google and Bing on the average day, an additional 33 million are happening on alternative search sites. In January this year, search engines accounted for 18.7 billion U.S. searches; alternative search sites produced another 9.9 billion (report cites comScore data).

Marketers focused solely on traditional search may be missing out on a huge opportunity not only to tap into additional search data, but to connect in a meaningful way with searchers further into the purchase funnel. A new study by New York search retargeting firm Magnetic shows that while search activity overall is up, those using alternative search sites are also searching longer, indicating a greater quality experience for users.

Alternative Search Data Allows Brands to Reach Consumers with Higher Intent

“Non-search engine data adds up to greater specificity while searching,” said Magnetic CEO James Green. “It’s important because of the distance through which you can reach consumers down the sales funnel. Brands can reach into deeper funnel stages with alternative search. The more specific consumers are with their search, the easier it is to determine intent.”


“The most optimal time to reach consumers is AFTER they’ve searched or signaled intent, which is also known as the consideration phase,” he added.

It is in this phase that consumers will continue searching for information on non-search engine properties, such as eBay, Walmart, or Amazon. This is the time to influence brand preference and their buying decision.

Non-Search Engine Data a Threat to Google, Opportunity for Marketers

Walmart and eBay, in particular, have been beefing up their internal search. The report author explains how this perceived threat for Google is a huge opportunity for marketers:

Not only do they (Walmart, Amazon and eBay) own data surrounding what consumers have searched for, they also know what consumers have purchased in the past. The search technology within e-commerce sites is a powerful tool for marketers, and can be looked at as a potential threat for core search engines.

Magnetic CEO James Green notes that “The search industry is moving beyond Google domination, and there’s a real value in that for publishers and retailers that recognize the data opportunity.”

ComScore’s Search Evangelist Eli Goodman said in the report that the shifts in consumer search behavior have opened up opportunities for publishers to add value to their inventory, and for marketers (retailers, e-commerce sites, large brand advertisers) to capitalize on search data.

In order to make the most of these opportunities, publishers and retailers need to own their own data, rather than relying on that shared through the major search engines. “The leading publishing companies are definitely stepping up to capture and make better use of data,” said Jeanniey Mullen, CMO of digital publishing platform Zinio. “We believe publishers should own as much data as possible, from all channels and types of interactions.”

Data from Multiple Channels = Better Budget Allocation Decisions

In the report, Mullen cites the reformatting and restructuring of the VIV digital magazine as one example of a publisher making the decision to capitalize on data optimization opportunities. The purpose of consumer interactions varies depending on the format, she said. Opening up their digital magazine to different channels allows them to collect, segment, and analyze data and better gauge intent through PC, tablet, smartphone, and social interactions.

What if you aren’t a media publisher, but a retailer? We asked Dax Hamman, CRO at search retargeting media buying platform Chango, for a simple real-world example of how a business could better collect and utilize cross-channel data, without undergoing a major structural overhaul or venturing into the realm of publishing to create a new data collection point.

“There is already a tremendous amount of data that you can get your hands on,” Hamman told us. “Let’s say you’re DishTV network, you have a Facebook Page and a sweepstakes that fans can only enter by Liking. If you click the link on that Page and you land on the site, DishTV knows you must have been a fan on their Page or you couldn’t have seen that link. This type of data has a tremendous amount of value. The company can then make proper, logical business decisions with that information. If you’re running site retargeting and you see that you have people who have been to your Facebook Page and not yet bought the TV subscription, you might decide, ‘I’m not going to run site retargeting to anyone who is already a fan; I’m not going to waste my media on that because I’m reaching them in another area.’”

Hamman said few companies are doing this because:

  • Many don’t know this data exists or they don’t understand its value.
  • They may be aware of its value but lack access to the technology to take advantage of it.

“I would argue that unique, first-party data has significantly more value to the marketer than say, has someone browsed a particular article on your digital magazine,” he said. “These are not the types of insights Google can tell you.”

Retargeting Tips to Maximize Value of Data Available in Alternative Channels

Magnetic offers five tips to help marketers better capitalize on the alternative search opportunity through retargeting:

  1. Use search data across a variety of search entities. Search retargeting can be effective in helping marketers to acquire, retain, and increase interaction with customers.
  2. Set 90-day and 180-day data strategies. Take the time to align staff, marketing efforts and product interfaces with the outcome of generating more valuable interactions and track short term/long term goals throughout.
  3. Determine partners based on the value brought to data. Real value may lie in interactions, rather than transactions.
  4. Reevaluate your priorities and strategy. “Site search on a retailer is a better indication of consumer intent than any Google data,” said John Haake, VP of Marketing at e-commerce media platform Hook Logic.
  5. Accelerate beyond traditional search. Brands are moving budget online faster than ever before; publishers and brands need to look beyond the core search engines to maximize this opportunity.

“Research today says that desktops are mostly used between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” Green told Search Engine Watch. “Tablets are used outside these hours and mobile is used outside the home and the office. Retailers, publishers and e-commerce companies are just now beginning to look across these different devices for different insights.”

In essence, he said, with the advent of new devices, growth or retargeting and audience buying, new sources of data have evolved.

“Data is going to drive marketing strategies across platforms –are consumers searching, interacting and navigating through sites on mobile differently than on their iPad or desktop, at what time of day and for how long?” he asked. Green believes these are the types of questions that publishers, retailers and e-commerce sites will ask themselves as they restructure their own web entities to capture more data.

“Companies should start thinking of their site or e-commerce online store as three different stores: one in your home, another in your office, and a third that moves around with you,” Green recommended. “Each of these circumstances will have different items for sale, be sold in different ways, and only the very sophisticated well financed and imaginative sellers are going to be able to capitalize on the availability of data and innovation of devices early on. In a more mature market, tools will be made available to the masses, but that’s not where we are today.”

Download the full Searching Beyond Search report from Magnetic for more insights.

How does your company handle big data and what successes/challenges have you had retargeting based on cross-channel data available to you? Let us know in the comments.

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