What’s behind the recent resurgence of interest in search engine optimization, SEO?
Is it because companies feel like the only channels they have control over any more are search and email? Perhaps. Certainly, moves by social networks to undercut companies’ non-paid reach have reduced confidence of marketers in social channels.
Is it because Google’s changing the rules behind search results at an ever-increasing pace? Perhaps. The menagerie of pandas, penguins, and hummingbirds certainly keep webmasters and content marketers on their toes.
There might be a third, harder to see reason: assisted search.
What is assisted search? In Google Analytics, there’s a concept called assisted conversions, things that impacted the final conversion but were not the last touch. A Tweet might not be the last thing that someone saw prior to converting into a lead, but it certainly might have helped.
Assisted search is a similar idea. Something else could have contributed to search without being the search query itself:
- You might have driven by a billboard.
- You might have heard about it on a podcast.
- You might have seen a mention of a brand on a TV show.
- You might have talked to a friend or colleague who told you to check something out.
Any of those things might have been the impetus for you to search, but no web analytics tool in existence will be able to detect it.
We all assume that SEO is once again super-important because organic search traffic is going up. What if it’s not SEO? What if it’s assisted search instead?
There’s only one way to know the answer to this question: ask people when they get to your website how they heard of you. Don’t wait for them to go buy something or fill out a form – ask up front:
This is a little 1-question custom survey I’ve got running on my site. I can take the results of this survey and compare it to my web analytics to see just how much of my organic search traffic can be attributed to assisted search. Here’s an example of the early results:
Obviously, the above is statistically invalid, laughably so, but it’s a start. I already see one out of three responses are word of mouth. One is referral, likely from the interview I did with Michael Stelzner. One is social media. Over time, more of this data will tell me just how much of my traffic is from assisted search.
Consider setting up this kind of survey (can be done with a popup or third party services like Google Consumer Surveys for Websites) on your own website so you can start measuring assisted search!
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