Why SEO Is Like An RTS Game (and why you should care)

As a fan of video games, I often compare real-life scenarios to similar elements in games. These elements offer a parallel way to approach many of the same types of challenges that we face in everyday life in a fun, unique way. After all, real life challenges shouldn’t necessarily be unpleasant; if they can be stimulating and entertaining, productivity will improve, and improved productivity usually translates to higher revenue.

Growing up, the first genre of video games I fell in love with was the RTS (real-time strategy). While RTS games usually pit warring factions against each other with an assortment of units involving infantry, armored vehicles, and air and sea-borne vessels, to me, SEO is actually a lot like an RTS; it even has its own versions of those classes of units. Let’s take a deeper look at why SEO is like an RTS game and how you can leverage this idea to benefit your SEO initiatives.

The battlefield

A basic element of any RTS game is the top-down view of the battlefield. From here, commanders have complete control over their campaign. They can devise a strategy, build a base, get real-time information and updates, upgrade technology, and take tactical control over their units to lead them into battle.


An Excel or Google Doc spreadsheet may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a battlefield, but in essence, isn’t that what your SEO dashboard (or collection thereof) is? Many SEO professionals use dashboards to manage the various components of their SEO campaign(s), including:

  • Blog content calendar
  • Ranking and traffic monitoring
  • Competitor intelligence and monitoring
  • Guest post content calendar
  • Backlink profile monitoring
  • Brand mention and social media monitoring
  • Onsite optimization monitoring

Years ago, one of the revelations I had that led to vastly improved success as an RTS gamer was simple; increase my screen resolution so I can see more of the battlefield at a time. This change increased information flow to me, allowing me to react quicker and smarter to enemy threats, more effectively monitor my enemies, and control my units for offensive purposes more efficiently.

I had the same revelation one day when I was working in one my SEO dashboard spreadsheets. I had accidentally decreased the font and cell size of the spreadsheet, bringing more information into view at a time. I immediately started drawing new correlations that I hadn’t previously seen; that’s why this page isn’t ranking well. That’s what my competitor did that caused that page to have so much success in the rankings.

This idea extends beyond simply increasing the viewable area of your dashboards, though. Adding a second and third monitor on which you can constantly access dashboards containing information about the state of an SEO campaign, as well as those of your competitors, can allow you quickly detect opportunities for offensive strategies, weaknesses in competitors’ strategies, and tactical advancements being made by competitors.

It all comes down to this: information is intelligence, and what isn’t measured isn’t managed. Here are some of my preferred tools for measuring and monitoring my SEO campaigns:

The offensive weaponry

In RTS games, success is usually achieved by destroying your enemies completely, and battles are fought with land, air, and naval units. Things aren’t usually so brutal in the world of SEO, but offensive tactics can and do result in harm to your competitors.

For instance, moving ahead of a key competitor in the search engine rankings for a highly-trafficked search term will not only increase traffic to your website, but also decrease traffic to that competitor’s website. Repeating this across many keywords will result in significantly decreased traffic for your competitors, as you effectively consume more of the fixed “traffic pie” that exists for your niche or industry.

Similarly, while SEO battles aren’t fought with military units, they are fought with different classes of weaponry that can be compared to air, land, and sea: onsite content, inbound links, and social media signals.

Onsite content represents the foundation of any SEO initiative’s arsenal; it provides numerous benefits that strongly impact overall search visibility while supporting each of the other types of weaponry (by helping to acquire inbound links and providing discussion content for social media feeds). Onsite content is like the assortment of land units in an RTS game, and consists of text-based blog posts, press releases, infographics, video, images, responsive design, proper optimization of internal pages, and much more.

Inbound links are like the air force of an SEO campaign. They provide unparalleled power, and whomever wields the most and best of them generally has superiority on the battlefield (i.e. the best rankings and website traffic). However, getting good inbound links is time-consuming and can be expensive.

Social media signals are like the naval force of an SEO campaign; depending on the battlefield, they may not be needed or useful. However, in the right scenario they can be the force that wins the battle. Social signals currently play a significant role in search engine ranking algorithms, though I believe it’s less than that of onsite content or inbound links. Nonetheless, I expect the importance of social media signals to continue to rise, eventually overtaking or matching inbound links in terms of importance in the ranking algorithm.

Developing an SEO strategy in which you think about each of these three pillars of SEO as your offensive weaponry is key to a winning battle plan (and a successful SEO initiative). Each facet should be analyzed, actionable conclusions should be drawn, and tactical plans with clear milestones should be developed.

Just like a good battle plan, your SEO campaign needs careful and strategic thought and execution. Necessary resources should be calculated and acquired, and the campaign should be monitored and managed by a commander with an expert knowledge of the tools and weapons available (ie, an SEO professional), with a mind for strategy and an aptitude for swift tactical execution.

Follow these seven steps to ensure victory:

1. Start with keyword research

Performing good, informed keyword research is like building your base. In an RTS game, without a strong foundation from which to launch your attacks, you won’t win the battle. In the game of SEO, without proper keyword research, all your future efforts could be wasted.

2. SEO-optimize your onsite content

Optimizing your onsite content is like building your base defenses. In an RTS, your defenses are what will allow you to withstand enemy attacks. In the game of SEO, optimizing your content from an SEO-perspective will patch up any weaknesses in your strategy, making you more resilient to holding your rankings as your competitors engage in their campaigns.

3. Set up Google Authorship

Setting up Google Authorship is like enhancing the attack power of your offensive units. When Authorship is set up, your content will show up with visual representation in Google’s search results. Here’s an example:

Google Authorship

Aside from the ego-boosting appeal of getting your lovable face on Google’s search results page, this has strategic, ROI-generating impact. Since these search results include images, they stand out from normal ones, drawing the searcher’s eye and resulting in more click-throughs. Every time you get a click, that means someone else didn’t. So, as your SEO campaign benefits, your competitors suffer.

Furthermore, Google Authorship imbues your name with the ability to accrue Author Rank, which is a growing factor in the ranking algorithm. The better your Author Rank, the better your content (that you authored) will rank.

4. Create amazing content for your blog

Creating content for your blog is like building your offensive army. Every great piece of content you create is like dropping another raffle ticket into Google’s hat. The more pages of content you have, the more chances you have to show up in Google’s search results. Furthermore, more content means more linkable assets on your website, and inbound links are the strongest single factor in the ranking algorithm.

Without great content (both on and off your website), your SEO campaign won’t be able to get off the ground. But with plenty of great content, you’ll have the ammunition you need to accrue inbound links, climb the rankings, and steal market share from your competitors.

5. Get your content in front of people who will enjoy it using social media marketing

Social media marketing is a way to augment and support your “army” of content. Content that receives lots of social mentions and shares will perform much better in search results, garner more inbound links, and generate more referral traffic, brand awareness, and website traffic.

6. Start your guest blogging campaign

Your guest blogging campaign is like your special weapon or attack unit. In RTS games, each faction has its own special weapon that the enemy fears. A little later in this article, I’ll discuss one such unit, the Krogoth, from one of my personal favorite RTS games: Total Annihilation (and how that relates to SEO).

In SEO, guest blogging is a difficult, time-consuming, endeavor that requires a ton of patience, expertise, and professionalism. The barrier to entry is high, but if you can pull it off, your competitors will fear you; especially if they aren’t doing it themselves.

Guest blogging is my favorite way to build brand awareness, authority, and credibility. Best of all, it’s a great way for me to share and add value about the things I know about (like SEO, social media, and entrepreneurship). Knowing that I’m adding value to the community makes me look forward to getting out of bed and writing every morning. The referral traffic is great, too!

7. Build your personal brand

Your personal brand is what defines who you are as an individual, and this is important because people like people; not companies. If a personal brand were to be compared to an RTS game, I suppose it could be compared to your playing style. Do you like to rush your opponent quickly before they’ve had time to build their base, or do you prefer to play a long, strategic game?

Your personal brand defines how you interact and connect with not only your community, but also your competitors. Earn the respect of your competitors and you’ll surely earn the respect of your target market. This will result in traffic, leads, and sales.

Time and effort creates value

In most RTS games, the more expensive the unit, the more effective it is in battle. I fondly remember one unit called the Krogoth (from Total Annihilation, my favorite RTS game), which was a massive and devastating offensive unit that required a huge amount of resources and time to build. However, the Krogoth could take down entire armies of enemy units. Just a few of them could march into an enemy base and wreak havoc, severely damaging the enemy if not causing their complete destruction.


In the game of SEO, extremely valuable (often expensive and/or time-consuming) content is like the Krogoth. It can attract lots of high-quality inbound links, referral traffic, and social media buzz. Neil Patel of Quicksprout has mastered this concept and represents a perfect example for how to do it correctly.

Neil invests a great deal of time and money to create and publish extremely valuable eBooks, videos, infographics, and blog posts which have helped establish him as a well-known and successful entrepreneur. Not only has Neil’s personal brand benefited from this distinction, but so have his businesses.

Similarly, SEOmoz specializes in publishing top-notch quality content. They have built their business around the success of this content, using it to build brand awareness, trust, and loyalty, which has helped grow and establish the world’s largest community of SEO professionals, to which they sell their SEO software toolset.

Just like it’s more worthwhile to build a Krogoth than an entire army of smaller units, one extremely awesome and highly-valuable piece of content is better than many low-value ones.


While SEO and RTS gaming may seem totally unrelated at first glance, learning to think like a battlefield commander can mean the difference between a good SEO professional and a masterful one (or a moderately successful SEO campaign vs. a wildly successful one).

I hope this unique look into the similarities of SEO and RTS games gives SEO professionals a new perspective with which to view our young industry; one that will breathe some life into the daily grind while yielding more successful SEO campaigns. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!


Reference:-  http://moz.com/blog/why-seo-is-like-an-rts-game







My Reading List: A Review On Marketing Fundamentals

Hello, Moz fans, I’m excited to be writing my very first post on the Moz blog. My name is Stephanie, and I manage client development for Distilled in Seattle. I have had the opportunity to talk to lots of different people about their concerns over their website, their goals for the future, how they can get more links, and how they can rank higher.

As marketers, it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind, or focus on the latest buzz words, or the newest industry change. It’s nice to take a step back and revisit some marketing basics that are really the building blocks of what we do every day. Revisiting the basics of marketing is the best way to refresh your marketing skills to help your clients succeed. 

I’ve asked for recommendations from my team here at Distilled about the best books that really get at the core of what marketing is about. I spent some weeks reading through these and have reviewed my favorites below for you. Let’s dive in!

UnMarketing by Scott Stratten

In the introduction, Stratten says:

“Marketing is not a task.
Marketing is not a department.
Marketing is not a job.
Marketing happens every time you engage…”

Right out of the box, Stratten gets to the point and says, “Hey, if taking the time to be genuine and build relationships is too much work for you, don’t waste your time reading this book.” It’s so true. A loyal customer base isn’t made by spamming people’s inboxes, cold calling, or responding negatively to customer feedback. How do you like it when companies do that to you? I’ll tell you. You hate it.

Stratten really covers the “basics” of good customer service, which people often forget by focusing purely on the numbers. You might think, “500 people is more valuable than 10, but I can’t talk to 500 people a day, so I must blanket email 500 people today!” Don’t think like that. Spend the time to have a couple of actual conversations that will turn into relationships.

Stratten takes the reader through a narrative of stories of successful companies that got it, and the unfortunate companies that didn’t. The stories help to give life to his message and provided context to his theories to make his ideas stick with you.

One example in particular was my favorite. Stratten got an email from a social marketing executive at Ogilvy named Duri promoting a new Kraft product. Kraft was launching an at home coffee brewing system (called Tassimo) and Duri was in charge of figuring out how to effectively promote the product. Duri could have taken the easy route and spent money on ads or a bit of time on sending mass emails. But he wanted bigger, measurable results.

Instead, Duri decided to spend his time compiling then contacting a list of influential social media users to give away a free coffee maker. The hope was these people would love the product and then talk about it. This would spread the word about the new product by actual consumers – much more effective than paying tons of money on a forgettable advertisement.

Duri personally took the time to write an email to each recipient, and Stratten was one of the lucky recipients. Stratten was reassured he wasn’t being scammed because Duri did a bit of research before writing his email. He mentioned to Stratten that they lived in the same town and should meet to discuss social media. Stratten appreciated the authenticity of the message and that he was able to actually connect with Duri, and on top of that, he ended up loving the product. Win for Tassimo!

The results were fantastic, and Tassimo was increasingly talked about online and sales increased. Two months into Duri’s campaign, Tassimo was “mentioned almost 5,000 times online versus around 50 times before the campaign.” It’s true that this marketing effort took more time than just buying commercial space, but it worked and was measurable. I love this because we think about marketing in the same way at Distilled. Our outreach team spends their days discovering who to contact, then making these actual connections. It takes longer, but it is so much more effective than if they were to automate the process.

All in all, a great read and something I highly recommend as a refresher on how to build your company through real relationships.

(P.S. Make sure you read the notes, they are hilarious.)

Influence by Robert Cialdini

This piece isn’t a marketing book in the traditional sense, but it discusses what every good marketer should understand: what makes people do what they do. Cialdini covers how to recognize and understand these tendencies to persuade people to say “yes.”

The book is broken down into six main themes that neatly break into chapters: reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. Cialdini examines each theme’s “ability to produce a distinct kind of automatic, mindless compliance from people.” Every trait (or chapter) described in the book is supported by several case studies, some Cialdini saw in the news, and some from research he (or other psychologists) completed. Let’s discuss a few chapters in more depth.

Liking: Raise your hand if you have been to a Tupperware party. You poor souls; Tupperware parties are the worst. I’ve been coerced into attending a few times, and I always leave with something I never wanted in the first place. “They made me buy it, I couldn’t say no!” I say to myself.  But how? No one actually tied me down, took my money, and forced an overpriced plastic container into my hands. True, but it was a friend who hosted the party. She will make commission off of the total amount purchased, plus she graciously invited me to her house and served me dinner and drinks. I like my friend, and therefore I feel obligated to buy. I never thought about it this way until it was described in this book, and I bet a lot of other people haven’t either.

Social Proof: I found this chapter chalk-full of intriguing examples as to why people are so easily swayed to follow the crowd.

First thing discussed: laugh tracks. I cringe when I notice them, yet I know it has caused me to occasionally laugh as if on command when something wasn’t particularly funny. Hearing the sound prompts the response to reciprocate the laughter as we are “so accustomed to taking the reactions of others as evidence of what deserves laughter.” The reaction is automatic. It is slightly unsettling to think we so easily fall victim to auto pilot that we react without thinking. 

Cialdini goes on to discuss how social proof is useful as it allows us to see what type of behavior is appropriate in a situation in which we are unfamiliar or uncomfortable. I compared this example to the first time I ever had sushi. I had no idea what to order or how to eat it, so I watched my friends and mimicked their every move. It worked; I made it through the meal without a major faux pas (except when trying to keep up with my friends, I tried a large amount of wasabi and about cried). 

The evidence presented by Cialdini describing human nature proves useful to review as both a consumer and a sales person. As a consumer, you want to be free to make independent decisions without influences from others. As a marketer, you want to persuade people to want your product. Seeing case studies from both perspectives gives us a solid understanding of when it’s appropriate to apply these principles to get our way, and when to guard against them.

These situations and warnings are peppered throughout the book. Remember the Tupperware example? I was weak, and they profited. But in the future, I will understand where my guilty feeling is coming from and make a more informed decision.

I highly recommend this book and, although it doesn’t directly talk about how to market your business, it does talk about how people react to things and how they engage. And what did we learn from Stratten? People and their engagement make or break your business. 

Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

The pages of Made to Stick are spent exploring why some ideas stay with us and others don’t. Early on in the book, the Heath brothers follow their own model and break their book down into something easily remembered. They summarize it as, “There are two steps in making your ideas stick. Step one is to find the core, and step two is to translate the core using the SUCCESs checklist. That’s it.” 

So, what is SUCCESs?

Simplicity: Get to the heart of an idea. Once you understand this, everything else will fall into place around it. Here’s a quick example: Southwest Airlines is the Low-fare airline. Every decision is based on whether or not it will help them to uphold that motto.

Unexpectedness: How to get and keep people’s attention. Engage their curiosity, and show them something unexpected. I bonded well with the Nordstrom example used in the book. The Nordstrom brand is known for quality customer service. They established that reputation by teaching every employee that customer service comes before everything else. As a former employee, I saw my coworkers go above and beyond in their relationship with our customers. I saw seasoned employees hug their customers. I watched our lead sales person take care of her customer’s children while the woman ran and got a coffee. As a new employee, I was taken aback, thinking, “Shouldn’t she be selling?” 

How did that employee know watching those children was the right choice? Because customer service is the most important thing. She could have made a sale during that time, or spent a few minutes checking in on other clients. True, but the customer was happily surprised with the level of service and she will be back to shop at Nordstrom. Was investing ten minutes into building a relationship worth it? Absolutely. 

Concreteness: Speak in plain language everyone will understand. Have you ever been in a meeting or read an article and were just dying for an example? You just needed some way to tie down these abstract statements to something you were familiar with. In our industry, it’s easy to use our buzzwords, but that doesn’t facilitate communication. “Updating the architecture will improve the UX across the site with the aim of increasing conversions”… no. A CEO who isn’t familiar with SEO will not understand how this will help his business. Instead, try something like, “We want to make your website easier for your customers to use to help increase sales.” This the CEO will get.

Credibility: Establish a trusted source. Numbers are impersonal and easy to question. People trust people, and numbers enhance. Here’s a quick example: seeing a commercial against smoking hosted by a women dying of lung cancer is much more powerful than seeing stats from the health department on how many people die from lung cancer each year. Although the commercial host isn’t a doctor, it’s clear she knows from experience the consequences of smoking and we believe her message. 

Emotions: Associate your idea with something people care about. Do you remember those dog adoption commercials with Sarah McLachlan singing in the background? You’d probably already heard the song and felt sad from it. Combining that sound with the images of sad dogs (which are already emotional triggers for a lot of people) makes it difficult not to call the shelter and rescue a dog.

The most basic way to make people care is to form an association between something they don’t yet care about and something they do care about. Let’s take the example I used in the “concrete” section above about talking to a CEO. They aren’t going to care about updating the architecture of the site unless you can connect it to something they do care about, like increasing sales. 

Stories: Get people to act. Stories help to inspire us into action. A good example is Jared and his Subway diet. Jared, an overweight college student, ate Subway sandwiches daily and lost considerable weight. Remember his commercials? It’s a simple message I can relate to and remember. “He lost how much?” As a customer, I think to myself, “If he can do it, so can I.”

We use this idea of storytelling in everyday business. It’s the principal reason behind using case studies; they paint a clear picture about what happened and why in a way that is easy to digest and remember. Using this checklist to help frame the story is especially effective as it will ensure people don’t just hear the message, but act on it.

This checklist helps us communicate in a more effective way. We can be the smartest person in the room with the best ideas, but if we can’t communicate them well, we won’t be effective. I found this extremely helpful in refining my communication skills to maintain a successful work life and my own sanity. This book is a must-read for everyone.

UnMarketing, Influence, and Made to Stick aren’t about internet marketing in particular – or even specifically about marketing, for that matter – but they all teach us how to be more effective communicators. Preparing for this post, I created a book list and read several of the following books, but I have more to go. I’ve listed them below and I encourage you to check them out, as well.

I would love to hear other recommendations of books to add to this list in the comments below. Happy reading!


Reference:- http://moz.com/blog/my-reading-list






8 New and Underappreciated Marketing Resources from Google

We have a bit of a complicated relationship with Google In the SEO/inbound community. We are often the first, and loudest, to call them out when they get their priorities messed up or hoard data for questionable reasons.

But on the whole, we use more of Google’s wares than probably any other industry.

At Distilled, we use Google Apps for email, calendars, document collaboration, reporting, Google+ for internal sharing discussions, Hangouts for live video, chat, and webinars. Most of our clients use Google Analytics (as we do for our own websites). Our PPC specialists have core expertise in AdWords. Our keyword research work invariably turns to the AdWords Keywords Tool for search volume estimates.

While working with our Creative team to plan a data visualization project recently, I learned about a relatively new service from Google (Consumer Surveys — see below), and it got me thinking about other Google projects that have proven to be useful for our work and those that promise to be in the future.

This guide is intended for those SEOs/inbound marketers who are familiar with the fundamental Google resources (Google Analytics, Apps, the AdWords Keywords Tool) but may not be aware of what else is out there and what is coming soon.

Analytics & Tagging

1. Universal Analytics

This is not particular to inbound at all, but it affects all disciplines of web marketing. Most online marketers have some familiarity with Google Analytics. It’s the most widely-adopted analytics platform on the web, and it’s about to evolve.

Universal Analytics (in beta) is apt to change the way we use and think about marketing analytics. This successor of the Google Analytics we know will bring improved performance and, most importantly, new functionality and flexibility to your reporting.

Uses & benefits of Universal Analytics:

  • Cross device tracking of individual users: We live in a multi-device world. To date, Google Analytics has not had core functionality that allowed for tracking users across all of their devices (one user is tracked as multiple “unique visits,” one for each device). Universal Analytics creates a User ID for the individual and allows you to track their interactions with your site/app across their devices allowing for cross-device optimization.
  • The ability to push “offline” data into the system: Using the same User ID functionality, you can tie this data to a single user — across devices and interactions — over the lifetime of their relationship with your business. While passing any “Personally Identifiable Information” into GA is strictly a violation of the Terms of Service, this doesn’t mean you can’t securely keep that information together on your end and (respectfully) use it to manage your customer relationships and otherwise learn who your best customers are.
  • Performance enhancements: The current iteration of GA passes a lot of data to GA servers from multiple cookies. Universal Analytics (UA) uses a single, simple cookie and stores most data on GA servers. Faster pages = happier users.
  • 20 custom dimensions, 20 custom metrics: You can do a lot with GA’s customer variables, but this is really going to open things up. If you want to push offline and other data into your reports, these are going to come in handy.
  • Set your own session and campaign expirations: Sessions can be set up to 4 hours, campaigns up to 2 years.

Justin Cutroni, one of the most well-informed analytics gurus you’ll find publishing online, wrote a nice post about the potential of UA, using his local gardening supply store as a case study of sorts. It is highly recommended reading.

There is so much here that even if you don’t start implementing for live campaigns yet, getting your head around the possibilities of UA (if not the measurement protocol itself) is only going to benefit you as this next iteration bridges the chasm to wide adoption.

Note: before you dive in and start using Universal Analytics on your website, keep in mind there are some things still missing: AdSense, DoubleClick, Content Experiments, and Remarketing are not yet integrated. You’ll probably want to run UA tracking concurrently with your existing GA tracking. The next resource in the list will help with that.

2. Tag Manager

Again, not particular to inbound, but big enough to matter to everyone. Google Tag Manager was released in late 2012 and has seen strong growth, but many marketers are still unaware of its benefits. Google is certainly not the first entrant into the tag management space, but they may well (and quickly) become the most popular.

Mike Pantoliano wrote a solid technical overview of Tag Manager (and tag management in general) here on the Moz blog that is well worth a read.

Essentially, Tag Manager gives you central control of tracking tags firing in the <head> of any given page, without having to touch the page code itself once you’ve added the main container. The rules to trigger tag firing are flexible enough that the possibilities here are broad and powerful.

Uses & benefits of Tag Manager:

  • Central, organized management of your tags/scripts: Targeting a given page with a rule is a lot faster than adding it via a CMS or to the source code directly.
  • Cuts dev cycle bottlenecks out of the equation: No more waiting a week for your colleagues in dev to update your tracking snippets: Tag Manager takes the work off the dev team’s plate, so everybody wins.
  • Improved performance: Flexible firing rules allow you to load resources only on the pages that require them, cleaning up code on other pages and optimizing page loads.

While Tag Manager’s benefits will be greatest for organizations with significant web operations and drawn-out dev cycles, it’ll save most web marketers some time and headache, and signup/setup is relatively painless. There’s a lot of flexibility here, and I expect more clever uses will emerge as the community gets comfortable with this tool.

3. Tag Assistant

If you are using (or intend to use) Tag Manager, Tag Assistant is a Google Chrome extension that will make double-checking your tag/rule configurations a lot easier.

Here’s how it looks:



As above, you can quickly see the details of any tag by clicking the blue arrow to the right of its status.

Uses & benefits of Tag Assistant:

  • In short, it makes checking your Tag Manager configuration a lot easier.

Market Research

4. Think Insights

Think Insights has been around for a couple of years and recently updated their site. While there is a lot of self-serving promotional material here, there is also a great deal of value.

Organized by industry, marketing objectives, and ad types, this resource includes a wealth of research studies, most of which were co-conducted with Google and partners (often research firms) to come to some data-driven conclusions on the way specific markets and demographics use the web. It also serves as an inspiration center for digital marketing campaigns, linking out to some compelling and innovative pieces.

Uses & benefits of Think Insights:

  • Free, searchable access to market research studies, organized by industry, marketing objectives, and ad type
  • Visualization of the most common multi-touch paths by industry with “The Customer Journey to Online Purchase
  • Inspiration for your next data visualization project with Chrome Experiments. The “500” home page alone is worth the time to click.
  • There’s also the Creative Sandbox gallery, showcasing creative online campaigns that “blend creative genius and digital innovation.” This is skewed toward paid channels, but there are a lot of creative approaches here from which we can learn.

5. Consumer Surveys

Consumer Surveys is the only paid service in this post, but research with surveys, if you want to step outside of your customer email list, will always require an investment. Google’s offering is relatively affordable at $.10 a response ($.50 if you need to target a specific demographic).

We are using Google Consumer Surveys for a client project currently at Distilled, and so far the straightforward pricing model and predictable timelines for turnaround are promising.

Matt Cutts ran a playful survey with this service to determine how many people have heard of “search engine optimization.” The answer: about one out of five.

Uses & benefits of Google Consumer Surveys:

  • Relatively fast turnaround
  • Accurate data
  • Affordable cost

Search History & Data

6. Trends

Trends is a relatively well-known but often overlooked source of historical search volume data.

Search behavior is fluid. If you work in SEO you probably rely heavily on the AdWords Keywords Tool for volume estimates. But if your campaigns are planned for the long term, Trends provides data that tells you something about how users will search in the future.

For example, here’s an interesting comparison:

Note: “News headlines” (at top right) can be useful for identifying the cause behind spikes/drops in search traffic. I’d take the “Forecast” option with a sizable grain of salt.

Trends is also useful for measuring client brand recognition over time (vs. competitors), and for discovering the seasonal pattern for a given keyword throughout the year.

The new Top Charts section provides an engaging visual navigation through current trending searches. Perfect for brainstorming content angles.

Also check out the new live visualization of Hot Searches. Useful? Maybe. Entertaining? Yep.

Uses & benefits of Trends:

  • View historical data for a single keyword, or compare two or more
  • Discover seasonality in search volume
  • Browse current trending searches
  • Export to CSV for your Excel/other reports

7. Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist isn’t exactly a tool or a data set but more of an interactive recap of the year in search. You select the year (and/or country), and Google walks you through the biggest search trends and the related events around the world.

The most recent Zeitgeist for the year 2012 included a well-produced video recapping what the world searched for (and therefore experienced) in 2012:


At 15 million views, not a bad example of content done well in itself

If you’re looking for a large data source for a rich visualization, this is not the place. But Zeitgeist can be useful for brainstorming historical context and content angles.

Uses & benefits of Zeitgeist:

  • Rich visual “story” experience of historical data
  • Helpful for brainstorming historical content angles
  • General nostalgia/inspiration (What? That counts.)

8. Public Data Explorer

Public Data Explorer is Google’s portal into government and institutional data sets. While you won’t find anything uniquely available here data-wise, the ability to search and browse data sets from one tool can make your research and brainstorming around data visualization concepts far more efficient.

This tool will also allow you to upload your own data sets and visualize them, which might not give you much of a share-worthy result for publishing purposes, but it is a handy way to play with the different ways to present a given data set before the dev team goes to work building the beautiful version.

Uses & benefits of Public Data Explorer:

  • Search/browse many public data sets from one interface
  • Upload your own data set
  • Quickly switch between different chart/visualization approaches for a given data set

This is not an exhaustive list; there are no doubt some other Google applications and features you use for marketing (Related Searches, Ngram Viewer, etc). I am sure I have also missed some uses and benefits of the resources included here. Please share your favorites in the comments!

Reference:-  http://moz.com/blog/8-new-underappreciated-marketing-resources-from-google