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Search volume is decreasing. Should your dealership be scared?

Original post: Search volume is decreasing. Should your dealership be scared?

According to Nielsen Wire, “The number of searches conducted in the U.S. over the last year has decreased by 16% from 10.5 billion in July 2009 to 8.8 billion in July 2010."

What in the world is going on here?

Are people not “Googling” anymore? Is this the beginning of the end for our beloved search giants? These are valid questions. I spent some time giving it thought and realized the following:

Nielsen isn’t tracking the right properties anymore.

There it is, plain and simple. Information has been decentralized. With more and more people using networks such as Facebook and Twitter, people don’t have to go to Google/Yahoo/Microsoft.

At their Chirp conference in April, Twitter reported an estimated 19 billion searches per month and growing. That volume would have landed them solidly in third place behind Google and Yahoo. However, they are not tracked as part of the volume numbers due to the fact that the vast majority of their searches come through API calls from their partners (e.g.Tweetdeck, Hootsuite).

Twitter is clearly not the only service to affect search volume. Let us not forget social networking powerhouse, Facebook. February of 2010 showed a 10% increase in Facebook searches to about .5 billion (the only “search” provider to show a % growth in February according to ComScore) and in June 2010 Facebook served over 600 billion searches.

It is clear that although Nielsen Rankings show a decline in search traffic, the rise of social media creates a new opportunity to increase your presence online.

How does my dealership gain more exposure?

1. Embrace social media - It’s time to put away the skeptical glances when your Internet Department brings up social media. It’s real, it’s here and it’s not going away.
2. Be consistent - Not only do you need to make sure that your offline message is online, you need to coordinate the release of your message across ALL of your digital properties.
3. Delegate ownership - Who is accountable? Do you know who’s managing this? Is this person a Digital Marketing Manager or an Internet sales person? Make sure there is clear ownership of online and offline initiatives.
4. Engage - While you’re sitting around discussing the “should we’s” and “what if’s” the dealership down the street is garnering a lot of local attention for their efforts. It’s time to get in the game.
5. Don’t forget the goal: Branding - We know that the majority of searches that produce visits are for your dealership name. Social media are putting your name in front of your customers - just like the newspaper used to do.
6. Don’t abandon your PPC campaigns - Auto shoppers have shown a growing affinity for paid links. Though search may be on the decline, it is important not to abandon your search budgets. Using social media in tandem with paid search offers a broader reach that can return targeted visitors to your site.

Pay Per Click Data
Declining search volume is not a sign of Armageddon; it’s a sign of evolution. We are constantly finding new ways to integrate with the information we need and want in a more efficient and personal way. Embrace the change.

Views: 57

Tags: Automotive, Media, SEM, SEO, Search, Social, Traffic


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Comment by Matt Murray on September 20, 2010 at 7:23am
There's no doubt that people are getting better at using search engines. Example: The average search query in 2006 was 2.6 words in length. In 2009 that average was over 4. This has also driven search providers toward doing a better job understanding long tail search.

While this is a contributing factor to the decline in overall search volume, it's also pretty clear that people are getting info from more places than the search bar. I would like to see folks like Nielsen focus on measuring some of this new information sharing. We'll see I suppose!

@ David Johnson: Love the focus on the Relationship, totally agree.
Comment by Bill Allen on September 20, 2010 at 7:12am
Are users getting better at searching, and performing fewer searches as a result? With the (pre-Instant) trend towards using more keywords I wonder if users are more familiar with how using more words will help them get better search results with fewer attempts.
Comment by David Johnson on September 17, 2010 at 7:01pm
Consumers use Google and other search engines to find an answer to a question. In our business that question could be, "Where can I find a good truck at a good price."

Of course if that consumer knew somebody in the business, an expert lets say, then they would ask the person they know instead of searching for it on Google. The same could be said if you fell ill you would ask your doctor buddy before searching Google.

Keeping that logic in mind, if an auto dealer built the kind of relationship with their customers that went beyond the typical "customer" relationship then said customer would have no reason to go to Google because they would feel like the knew an expert in the field.

So, in that case, an actual reduction in search would be a good thing. Long live Relationship Marketing! LOL
Comment by Matt Murray on September 17, 2010 at 1:29pm
@ Ken Nix I think that it's important to wait and see what happens with Instant before we decide it's affect on search volume. There is a possibility that a few things could happen:

1. Instant could attract more activity because it's "cool" - temporary affect
2. There could be more volume due to the "3 second rule". If you stop for 3 seconds, that's an executed search. So, I might actually perform 3-4 searches using instant in one session.
3. As you mentioned - search volume could drop more because the service is more efficient (ideal for the user I would say).

I totally agree with you that folks like you and I are having information fed to us everyday. Twitter is a perfect example as I mentioned above too... all those searches in tweet grid or tweet deck or whatever tool you use. In the end, it's up to the advertiser (dealer!) to understand how the landscape is changing and capitalize on it!

Comment by Ken Nix on September 17, 2010 at 9:15am
Why search when you can have your information pushed to you via social media. Nowdays, instead of searching for things that interest me, I check out my RSS feeds, touch on facebook, if something specific and new I may ad a search in tweet grid, but most of the information is being pushed to me. People will probably always search, but more an more people are getting their information sent or "pushed" to them. Of course features like google instant and smart search have reduced the number of searches just by finding the information you're looking for in a quicker and easier way. So, is it the end of Search and the Web as we know it? Probably not. People will continue to "search" for new topics, services and products, we just have to determine what information they want and how they want it delivered to them.
I agree with Nicolas. Businesses who do not stake their claim and embrace social media and web properties like Google Places are going to find it difficult to stay in business in the coming years. I'm sill amazed how many dealers I come across who have not claimed their Google Places account. If you haven't, you're inviting trouble. I have several clients right now who have had their places account edited by competitors on categories/ location, and several blatantly hijacked.
Comment by Matt Murray on September 17, 2010 at 6:03am
@ Nicolas Warren: I like the analogy "Coming to a gunfight with knives" - right on!

@ T. Lavon: Agreed. Search engines have improved their services as well. I do believe this has had some impact on total search volume however the 16% decline in volume (over 1 year!) is certainly the result of many other changes in behavior. Thanks for the comment!

@ Paul: "we have to work harder to make sure our messages are in front of the people who want to hear them" - Amen to that!

@ Ralph and Missy - Thanks guys!

Comment by Nicolas Warren on September 16, 2010 at 2:05pm
After Google, the #2 Search Engine today is
Facebook just launched 'Places' which is going to make waves in terns of checking- in and reviews.
Blogs and forums are all indexable content and very powerful when populated with relevant information.

I agree wholeheartedly with #1 that Social Media can't be denied. As Paul mentioned, it's fragmenting the market of search because we all have a different level of trust in each source of information and it's easy to do the research in multiple areas.

Right now the dealers that are embracing Social Media holistically have a leg up on the competition and are leaving the rest to come to a gunfight with knives.
Comment by T. Lavon Lawrence on September 16, 2010 at 1:59pm
It may not sound particularly tech savvy, but I don't search as much because search has become so effective at getting me what I want quickly that I don't have to do a high volume of multiple searches. Methinks part of the reason for a drop in search numbers is due to better search results. Thank god.
Comment by Paul Romanacci on September 16, 2010 at 12:56pm
As the article points out, people have not slowed down their search volume. I would guess it has probably even gone up. But the landscape is a bit more fragmented now which means we have to work harder to make sure our messages are in front of the people who want to hear them, regardless of where that may be.
Comment by Eddie Coleman on September 16, 2010 at 12:36pm
Everyone searches for information regardless of what format they choose. As long as there is a need to "find" something, there will be searches. Social media moves from within like a right wing, left wing political movement backed with numbers and graphs. Tweetster or FacePlant it's still about search, about finding things we didn’t think of yesterday. People don't have time to absorb the transparency and all knowingness of social media swelling into personal Yodas and so they will always need to reach for information and search. The trend in the graph is very cool but I think our conclusions may not reflect reality. But very supporting for a social media vendor trying to get biz and spin their dealeo.

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