Random Thoughts on Search Demographics

In his post Using Yahoo! Clues to target your headlines by demographic, Paul Bradshaw picked up on my post from earlier today about Yahoo Clues, which describes some of the demographic information behind who’s using what search terms.

In particular, Paul wondered: “But what if your publication is specifically aimed at women – or men? Or under-25s? Or over-40s? Or the wealthy?”, the implication being that we can tune our words to hit particular searcher demographics (a more refined approach to SEO than the norm).

This is the norm in ad placement, of course, where ad words are chosen according to demographic. I don’t spend as much time looking at ad tools as I should (one backburner project I really should try to get going properly is a consideration of how we can use contextual ad servers to place content), so I’m not really up to speed with what’s out there but a quick trawl turns up a couple of tools like those appearing on Yahoo Clues ob the Microsoft AdLab site.

So for example, we have a demographics prediction tool, that predicts demographics based on keywords, in the example below comparing library with newspaper:

Microsoft AdLab: demographics

There are also Search funnels, cf. the Yahoo Clues “Search Flow” tool:

Microsoft adlab - search funnel

As well as search for “in” terms, you can also look for “out” terms, (i.e. terms that follow the term of interest in a search session. (You can hack the URL to choose between these).

The AdLab Audience Intelligence tool also has a go at prediciting demographics, either of users of particular search terms, or visitors to a particular URL:

AdLab 0 AUdience intelligence

(I have no idea if the above predication bears any resemblance to reality…?;-)

I think that Google AdWords supports demographic placement, so it probably has a similar tool available. Facebook has unrivalled access to demographic data, so it’s ad optimisation tools may also be worth looking at (I’m sure it has some? If you know where they live, please post a link below:-) And of course, Yahoo has its own range of ad management tools and services (look through the Yahoo Advertising Solutions to get a flavour of what;s possible, from geographic and demographic targeting, to behavioural marketing).

Of course, if you want real data, you’ll need to pay for commercial analytics services; have a trawl through some of Experian’s public sector data products to see what’s available… (Note to self: starting blogging about some of these tools…heh heh…;-)

And where does this thinking lead? Maybe authors who want their content to be discoverable via search need to start using some of the tools the marketers use to optimise their content and place it appropriately? (So for example, when writing course catalogue pages, don’t use the words that you’d expect someone who has completed the course in the course description…

PS since looking through the Experian product catalogue, I now rank them right up there with Dunnhumby in terms of what they know about us…

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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