10 Jan For Every Search There is a Season: Using Trends to Understand SEO Traffic
“What the hell are you doing?”
I’ll admit now I was a little aggressive, but my wife had really just turned my world upside down.
“Christmas shopping,” she replied casually, turning around like I was the nut.
“Christmas shopping? In March? What the hell?”
“Yeah, I see something my mom will like.”
“In March? We just had Christmas! How do you know she’ll even like this in, like, 14 months? How do you even know if she’ll still be around?”
[Insert murderous glance here]
“Ok, ok, I just mean, it’s not really Christmas shopping season. Seems kind of weird. Smart, I guess, but really abnormal. You couldn’t wait until November like a normal person?”
[Insert invitation to sleeping on the couch here]
Let’s face it, even though every buying cycle is going to have outliers like my wife, there are established seasonal trends we all (well most of us) know to expect. In SEO, we call this “search seasonality,” and we pay close attention to how it can affect your online marketing expectations.
What Does Search Seasonality Mean for your SEO?
As a business owner, or even as a consumer, you intuitively understand there are peak seasons for every product. This becomes a major factor with search engine marketing, as the total amount of people running searches related to your product will ebb and flow in accordance with these trends.
As you can see in the graph above, automotive searches fluctuate significantly depending on the month, and even from year to year. Check out that huge spike in 2009. That’s Cash For Clunkers at its peak. If you’re looking to compare data from 2010 to that period of 2009, you’re not exactly comparing apples to apples. It’s more like apples to Cash For Clunkers.
Top 3 Examples of Seasonality Impacting SEO in the Automotive Industry
At L2TMedia we like to focus our SEO on the total number of organic visits your site receives. We measure ourselves every month by showing our clients just how many visits they had, what those visitors were doing, and what they searched for to find the site. And just to provide even more transparency, we offer comparison data to previous months.
Although we prefer it when we’re able to increase total organic visitors every single month, we’re very aware that search seasonality can play a significant role in traffic totals. Ideally, we want to compare year over year data, with the assumption that seasonal trends from year to year are more closely aligned. This would be preferable to, say, comparing September to August data, where traditionally August is the strongest organic traffic month year in and year out. Again, apples to apples.
At the end of the day, total search volume is a variable we’re not doing much to control as a digital agency. In other words, we’re not directly asking consumers to please search for our targeted terms. What we are doing is working to put clients in the best possible position to grab the highest percentage of the available search traffic.
Here are a few examples of how search trends can impact an SEO campaign:
1) Product Interest – Seasonal search fluctuations for particular vehicle offerings are kind of a secret weapon for any SEO campaign. Take a look at search volume trends this year for the phrase “2013 Ford Escape.”
One of the things we like to do with keyword research at L2T is catch rising search terms before they peak. With the long-term nature of SEO, it’s important to target future prospects ahead of the competition. If you caught the upward trending with the Ford Escape in March, you were in for some pretty exciting search opportunities in April and July.
2) Location, Location, Location – While search trends for the United States are perfectly interesting, when we’re dealing with a local business, it’s nice to be able to narrow down search volume by region.
For example, summer search trends for a store in Florida are not the same as trends for a store in the Midwest. Why? Florida sees a lot of… more experienced residents migrate north during the warmer summer months. Local searches for cars during those months reflect exactly that.
3) Big Current Events – As mentioned with the Cash For Clunkers example, general brand news and new waves of OEM media can impact the total search volume trends. At L2T, we’re constantly using tools like Google Insights to gauge search trends and capture new opportunities. If Chrysler just released a new Eminem commercial everybody’s talking about, we certainly want to capture that hype.
At the end of the day, it’s useful to keep search seasonality in mind as you interpret traffic each month. While, yes, there will always be some people doing their Christmas shopping in March, most searchers will fall in line with predictable patterns.