As the Third-Party Cookie Crumbles, Marketers Can Rely on Search Intent for Personalized User Experiences
Unless you're hiding under a rock, you know that one of the most talked-about MarTech topics of late is the cookie-less future. As Google says goodbye to third-party cookies and Apple hones in on consumer opt-in strategies, marketers and advertisers must learn to create customized experiences by leveraging first-party data through new and existing methods. These strategic shifts will make it easier for marketers to navigate a digital sphere free of third-party cookie data.
The Power of Search Intent
According to research, 93 percent of online experiences begin with a search engine. Generally, users have a sense of what they want to find, but they need a search engine to help refine their idea and direct them to the right resources. This is why search intent is a powerful way to deliver the information users want at exactly the time they're searching for it and, ultimately, create powerful and personalized experiences.
When users begin a search, they start with their search intent (i.e., what they type into the search bar) and expect the results to be relevant. When using search intent to customize ads, organic search results, and on-page content, keep in mind that search intent goes beyond which keywords are used. It's also about what users intend to find when they conduct their search.
For the most part, search intents generally fall into four categories: informational, commercial, navigational, and transactional. Each of these categories align with a stage of the customer journey. This is key since marketers want to ensure the personalized experience answers the search intent, which is influenced by the user’s mindset, motivation, and goal — all of which differ throughout the journey.
Searching for a Vacation Destination
Let’s review an example. When a user types, “Family vacation to tropical island” (their search intent) into a search bar on Google, Yahoo!, or Bing, the results will show a mix of organic and paid results.
Using Google, the paid results are likely to include the following top results:
- Nassau Paradise Island - Bahamas Family Vacation Deals
- Tropical Family Vacations - All Inclusive Luxury Services
The top organic results include:
- 15 Best Family Vacations in the Caribbean | U.S. News Travel
- Best Islands for Family Vacations
These results are served with the intention to target the user and relate to their needs based on the search intent. The goal is to encourage the user to click and continue onto the next stage of the customer journey, where they will find the best family vacation options. Essentially, the copy in the paid and organic results should answer the user’s question or solve the user’s problem, which will create positive campaign results.
Search Intent for Data and Digital Ad Personalization
For marketers and advertisers seeking an alternative to third-party cookie data, relying on search intent for specific audiences and customer journey targeting can create a personalized and relevant experience and increase the likelihood of a conversion.
If using search intent is one of the strategies within your media mix used to circumvent the need for third-party cookies, consider the following:
- Determine the right keywords and longtail keywords and phrases. To determine search intents, there are free and paid tools such as Google trends, Answerthepublic, SEMRush, etc., that will offer key search terms and longtail keywords being used by your audience and your competitors. This research should guide your personalization strategies and help prioritize specific search intents that have higher search volume or the low-hanging fruit, which is easier to target.
- Use search intent modeling. This is a process that involves assessing a website for content to discover if the content aligns with top search intents. In other words, does your website have content that answers the top search intents identified through keyword analysis and a site audit? If the content isn’t there, then it should be created. In addition, this is how to build a landing page from a paid search ad. More on that in the next point.
- Align intent with ad copy and on-page content. It's not enough to simply deploy an ad that answers a user’s question. Instead, it’s important to ensure that once the user clicks, the experience continues to be as relevant and personalized as possible. In other words, if the ad answers the search intent and boasts a headline about sharing the best tropical island family vacation spots, the clickthrough needs to deliver. This is where sending a user to your homepage falls short; instead, offering personalized landing pages will greatly increase the likelihood of a satisfied visitor.
Implementing Search Intent Into a Digital Marketing Strategy
Remember that the crumbling cookie isn't a doomsday diagnosis. Instead, it’s an opportunity to explore other ways to connect with your audience. In fact, it’s an opportunity to look into new technologies and topics that can create deeper connections and better overall customer experiences. Specifically, using search intent is a way to “show up when you're needed” and to offer real, relevant information that users are seeking which will help generate awareness and create a positive relationship and reputation.
Costanza Ghelfi is a marketing technology leader with more than a decade of experience, spending the past three years devoted to founding and building the growth engine platform Agua3. Costanza spearheaded a wide variety of marketing initiatives across paid, owned, and earned media channels within the travel, education, and investment industries and focused on successful digital transformations. Now, Costanza takes pride in enabling others to do the same through a more efficient natural language generation technology known as ad-machina, which was recently acquired by the international data analytics technology agency, Making Science.