Money on the table: how search data can reveal new revenue opportunities


Search data is a mine of insights about customers’ needs that can translate into new revenue. Here’s an example from my own experience…

Recently, my beloved Urban Decay Naked Basics eyeshadow palette went from looking like this:

make up palette

To something a bit more deteriorated:

used make up palette

This isn’t uncommon or unexpected: I knew that the uneven ‘wear and tear’ was inevitable. And so, I did what any normal 21st century consumer would do: I turned to Google.

I started my search journey with the utmost optimism. ‘Naked palette refill’, I demanded of Google. Scanning the page, I frowned at the lack of relevant results but persisted.

‘Empty urban decay naked palette’; ‘replace urban decay palette eyeshadow’; ‘refill naked eyeshadow venus’…

I furiously modified my search query, hopeful that the increased precision of the keyword would return the golden ticket result I was looking for. I tried synonyms (replace, refill, replenish), I tried different branding (urban decay, naked palette, UD naked, urban decay naked), I even tried describing what exactly was empty (eyeshadow palette, pan, bucket, vessel).

Every new search and surge of hope was quickly demolished by a wave of doubt – refilling that empty eyeshadow pan was starting to look like a pipedream.

I knew I couldn’t be the only one with this problem. Turns out, roughly 180 customers each month turn to Google in the hopes of refilling their Urban Decay Naked eyeshadow palette:

Keyword Monthly Searches
naked palette refills 40
urban decay bootycall refill 40
urban decay empty palette 30
naked palette refill 20
urban decay refills 10
urban decay eyeshadow refill 10
urban decay empty eyeshadow palette 10
empty naked palette 10
urban decay empty palettes 10

The people conducting these searches are in the “Buy” part of the purchase funnel. They’re searching for something very specific, often indicating that they want to accomplish a task (i.e. buy a product). These long tail queries occur less frequently than broader queries (e.g. there are 2,400 every month for ‘eyeshadow palettes’) but typically have a much higher conversion rate.

long tail sweet spot


These long tail searchers are your brand’s biggest fans. There’s almost nothing they could do to more clearly demonstrate their desire to buy from you again. They’ve bought your product, you’ve won them over, their loyalty is steadfast. They plead with Google to guide them to a satisfying answer – a place to make a purchase – but come up emptyhanded. Their demand is evident, but the product just doesn’t exist.

To quantify the value of refilling one empty eyeshadow pan, we can look at the price of Urban Decay’s single-color eyeshadows, which come in the same colors as those in the palette and in the same 0.05 ounce unit. These singles are sold in small, round cases for $19.

Assuming a 95% conversion rate, the 180 searches for Urban Decay Naked palette refills represent $3,078 in lost sales for one month. Multiplying out over a full year, the 2,160 searches for Urban Decay palette refills represents $38,988 left on the table.

This may be chump change for a brand that probably has a marketing budget in the millions. But consider how this missed opportunity impacts the future purchase decisions of those loyal customers.

Upon discovering that refilling the empty pan in their eyeshadow palette is impossible, they think through the next-best scenario: buying the single-color eyeshadow is an option, but that would mean carrying around two separate eyeshadow compacts – kind of defeats the point of having a palette. And once they’re faced with the decision of buying something that won’t even fit into the palette they own, $19 seems a little steep.

Suddenly, your biggest fan, your repeat buyers, are surveying the goods of your competitors. Oh look, there’s something in almost the same color I finished but $7 cheaper! It won’t fit in the palette I own, but at least I’m saving money.

This is the exact scenario I found myself in: I found a single palette produced by a different makeup brand, almost identical to the color I wanted to replenish.

The $39K is a miss, but the loss of brand loyalists to competitors is far tougher to swallow.

These estimates represent the missed opportunity of converting the people searching on Google – they don’t even take into consideration the people who start their search on another site like Amazon*, Bing or the Urban Decay website itself.

Also excluded are the people who don’t seek answers from a search engine in the first place, like those who go directly to a cosmetics store. The demand is probably much larger than the roughly 2,000 annual consumers we can identify from the long tail search data. Considering that there are 90,500 monthly searches for just the term ‘naked palette’ – almost 1.1 million searches every year – the opportunity cost is likely many multiples of $39K.

What does this mean for your brand?

Search data offers unfiltered access to what people want and the way users perceive your brand. The external factors that might influence someone’s behavior in a focus group or a user study are absent. Such clean, unobstructed data like this is rare, making it all the more worthy of your time. After all, there are so many applications for using this data:

  • Understand sentiment: What do users really think about your brand? If a central pillar of your company is offering exceptional customer experience but you’re seeing a lot of search queries around your brand + poor service, there’s probably a gap to investigate.
  • Product positioning: What are the qualities of a product that your customers care about? Analyzing the words people use to search for specific products (e.g. inexpensive, easy-to-use, lightweight, etc.) can signal what features are most important to a potential customer. Speaking the same language and giving weight to the things they care about can give users confidence that they’re making an informed decision.
  • Product naming: There is no lack of creativity when it comes to the things people search for. At minimum, looking at search language can spark a new idea or a direction for a product that perhaps hadn’t occurred to your branding team.

Ask yourself: what words or products do searchers regularly associate with your brand? Do you meet the demand? Could you meet the demand? Sometimes, your best customers don’t want shiny and new. Sometimes, a simple refill is enough.

*A recent study conducted by BloomReach concluded that 44% of respondents said they go directly to Amazon to start their product searches.

Laurel Marcus is Sr. Manager, SEO & Digital Experience at Tank Design. You can follow Laurel on Twitter.

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