Search Spikes Lower Search Quality & Value

Typically each day or each week some roughly average number of people search for a specific keyword phrase or group of phrases. Some seasonal terms may have well known seasonal spikes, but typically when spikes occur because of news the quality and value of the associated search goes down. Sure more people are searching, but the people who are searching because something is in vogue have less implied intent than those who searched out a specific product even when it is not in the news.

With the Federal Reserve announcing 2 large rate cuts in a week, that topic carried over into the mainstream news, which drove a lot of search volume for related queries

At the same time, the 4x spike in search traffic drives home how anomalous last week was, and how much pressure people are demonstrably feeling. And it also reinforces that rising rates in mortgage markets, despite the Fed cuts, aren't doing anything to relieve the mortgage pressure out there.

There are many ways to arbitrage these opportunities. Off the top of my head...

  • if your site sells ads at a high CPM and you have an excuse for inflating traffic stats, sending StumbleUpon traffic to your site can easily pay for itself
  • if ad budgets dry up you can become a more aggressive ad buyer
  • if you are in Google news or other trusted editorial positions you can get a lot of mindshare through covering the topic and being featured due to Google's promotion of universal search

There is also a hidden cost to testing or tweaking your monetization strategy during rapid changes in search volume. Unless you split test you don't know if the results are positive or negative because both lead volume and lead quality have changed drastically.

Published: February 1, 2008 by Aaron Wall in Keywords


Rate Maven
February 1, 2008 - 1:15am

There are many interesting SEM nuances specific to mortgage about this Hitwise article, but the general principals underscore a point which applies to all verticals: Tail search behavior, keyword specific emerging trends are the fuel good ROAS, but Zeitgeist level changes in head search behavior like this, can invert all aspects of the marketing ecosystem.

In this case, demand exceeds supply, a rarified and valued customer becomes a swarming pest, short term arbitrage opportunities emerge only to disappear and revert back as the news fades.

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