There are lots of different search listening tools that you can use to understand the differences between what people are telling you vs. what they actually do online. Some are free, others are paid for. Some are enterprise level and some are much more basic.
Knowing where to start and which one is right for you can feel overwhelming.
Here’s our 5-step guide to help you feel more confident in choosing the right search listening tool (or tools) for you.
1. Map out your needs
Prioritise your needs as ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’. This will stop you from being distracted by technical bells and whistles and keep you focused on the most important outputs you need from the tools.
It sounds obvious, but it’s important to understand exactly who is going to use the tool and how they need to use it before even selecting a shortlist of providers to talk to. Even if it’s only you, it’s still worth taking the time to map out your requirements. In fact, this is the most important step in selecting the right too as it will give you clarity, help you systematically work through different options during the selection process and can even lead to uncovering new considerations too.
2. Pricing models
Pricing models are usually associated with how much you’ll need to use the tool over time. You’ll tend to find that paid tools have limitations around things like the number of search queries you can perform, or they may give you a limited view of results, or only offer you a limited number of users, all of which can be unlocked through different pricing options.
From your mapping exercise, you should be clear on your needs on all these areas. This will help you understand whether you’re likely to need to invest in a tool, or if a free version will suffice.
3. Data sources
It’s important to check that the data the tool uses comes from sources that are important to you. The good news is that, unlike social listening tools, where you might need access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, discussion forums, blogs, and mainstream news sources too, there are far fewer sources you’re likely to need access to in search listening. In fact, Google’s dominance as people’s go-to search engine (over 80.05% in the US, 92.8% across Europe and 92.42% in the UK) means that access to its data is usually enough to give you insights on an ongoing basis.
However, it’s worth remembering that Google isn’t dominant everywhere. In Japan, more people use Yahoo!, in China it’s Baidu and in Russia Yandex is the top search engine. Make sure you know which search engines is most popular in the territories you want to learn about and select a tool that gives you access to this data.
4. Historical and trending data
Some tools will only let you collect data from the point at which you start searching, which might not be helpful if you want to understand how people’s searches have changed over the last year, for example. Others might show you search volume, but don’t give you an indication or trending keywords. Make sure you consider whether you need historical and trending data in your needs mapping. Google’s free Google Trends tool could give you what you need or you might need to invest to get the data you need.
5. Have a play
One of the best ways to find the right tool for you is simply getting your hands on it and having a play. Try out a few (through a trial if needs be) to understand which best fit your needs. Check out videos on YouTube for guidance on how to use them to quickly assesses which is right for your needs.
Then give them a score. Does the experience measures up to the sales patter? Do they meet your priority needs and do you get any ‘nice to haves’ thrown in too? Does the interface work for you? Is the data actually useful and easy to navigate? Will they save you time? Different tools have different visualisations, and the prettiest ones aren’t always the best. Do the data visualisations you’re looking at actually help you get to useful gems of insight quickly and easily? Can you export data? Does the customer support live up to your expectation?
And that’s it. The key is step 1 and if you’ve clearly mapped and prioritised your needs, the scoring should be a walk in the park. You’ll end up with a clear assessment of the right tool, or combination of tools, for you.
If you’ve got any other ideas that we should add to our guide, let us know!