Predicting Trends in Search Cycles

Predicting Trends in Search Cycles

12th July 2012

This month I wanted to share some insight into search cycles and the way you can apply lessons learnt from historical search trends to forecast future demand. In particular I wanted to focus on the changes in search behaviours around product life cycles. In this case I have chosen the phenomenally popular Apple iPad as an example.

You can see from the graph below the defined search peaks for the iPad across time. There are big spikes in search activity in the run up to the launch of each iteration of the iPad and also around Christmas time when people want to buy the product as a gift.

UK Internet searches for iPad over time. Source: Experian Hitwise

Now the way that people search for the iPad changes quite considerably depending on what stage of the product cycle the iPad is in. I’ve focussed here on the most popular search terms for iPad in the four weeks ending 19 March 2011 when hype around the launch of the iPad 2 was at its peak and then compared that with searches in the four weeks ending 30 April 2011 – immediately after the launch of the iPad 2.

UK Internet search terms for iPad pre and post launch of the iPad 2

You can see from the highlighted terms how the search behaviours pre and post-launch are quite different. Before the launch of the iPad 2 people were searching for news of the impending launch and specifically around the release date and early reviews. Post-launch the focus changed with people searching for jailbreaks, apps, prices and accessories. In particular iPad cases were much more popular post-launch than pre-launch which makes sense as people buy or receive an iPad first then they want to buy the case to protect it. What is quite alarming (though perhaps not that surprising given the pace of technology) is that in the week of the iPad 2 launch almost 2% of iPad searches were already dedicated to the next iteration of iPad 3.

What’s quite nice from an SEO perspective with products like the iPad is it’s relatively easy to anticipate what people are going to be searching for in the future based on the past search trends. All of the search phrases for iPad 2 availability, accessories, cases, apps etc are highly likely to be exactly the same search phrases used around iPad 3, iPad 4 and so on. This makes creating relevant content and landing pages for these terms a simple task provided you know the most popular terms historically and their relative volume strengths.

And the good news is it’s not just products that you can apply this principle to. Looking at the top search terms associated with the forthcoming movie The Dark Knight Rises, the terms people are searching for now are almost exactly the same as they were for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

Word cloud of most popular search terms associated with Dark Knight Rises. Created in Tagxedo. Data sourced from Experian Hitwise.

In this case about 14 months ahead of the official release date people were searching for Dark Knight Rises news, rumours and gossip. About three months before the movie release people were searching for trailers and prologues of the movie and now with the release just a couple of weeks away people are searching for tickets, wallpapers and merchandise. This mirrors almost exactly the same search patterns and trends as the previous two movies.

As always, good search data is at the heart of this analysis. By looking at the historical search trends you can anticipate how people will search for similar products in the future and start adapting SEO strategies to gain traffic at the key moments within the life cycle of a product.

Until next month.


Written By
James Murray is the Product Marketing Manager for Bing Ads EMEA.
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