Search universe analysis: A deep dive

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Explore Google, YouTube, TikTok, Reddit, and other platforms to uncover growth opportunities and formulate an integrated multi-platform search strategy.

In today’s SEO landscape, effectiveness requires adopting a “search everywhere” approach, as search behaviors extend across various platforms. Performing a Search Universe Analysis (SUA) across platforms like Google, YouTube, TikTok, and Reddit is essential for benchmarking competitors, spotting trends, and optimizing content.

Brands that embrace this expanded search universe and execute integrated multi-platform strategies will gain a competitive advantage. They will establish meaningful connections with their target audience and secure a larger share of the search market.

In this article, we will delve into when an SUA becomes relevant, detail the analysis process, and showcase how to utilize these insights to shape a cohesive cross-channel search strategy.

What is a search universe analysis?

A Search Universe Analysis is a strategic evaluation crafted to unravel the roles played by different platforms in the search journey. It involves a comprehensive examination of your brand, the broader industry, and your primary competitors.

This method scrutinizes content types and optimization strategies across various platforms to improve online visibility, assess current positions, and unveil avenues for growth. This empowers brands to formulate a comprehensive “search everywhere” strategy and expand their presence in the search landscape.

When is a search universe analysis relevant?

For brands seeking to build communities of audiences, particularly those appealing to Gen Z and Millennials, search marketing has evolved beyond the confines of traditional platforms like Google.

TikTok and Reddit have assumed pivotal roles in users’ search journeys, ushering in the era of “search everywhere.” This shift has transformed the user journey into a multi-touchpoint process, where content on various platforms influences decisions. This underscores the immediate importance of conducting a Search Universe Analysis (SUA) for brands.

Let’s consider an example:

  • A user encounters a problem and initiates a Google search to explore potential solutions, identifying a pain point or desire.
  • Their journey progresses as they delve into a visual exploration of a potential solution through a TikTok review from one of their favorite content creators.
  • The product or service gains exposure and is featured in a national press article due to its virality and content creator coverage on TikTok. This reinforces brand awareness and reiterates the user’s initial pain point or desire.
  • To gain deeper insights into the product, the user turns to Reddit for comprehensive discussions, aiming to understand its strengths, weaknesses, and suitability as a solution.
  • Influenced once more by content creators on Instagram, the user rediscovers the product and reaches a point of readiness to make a purchase decision.
  • The user culminates the journey with a transactional, branded query on Google and proceeds to make a purchase through the brand’s landing page on Amazon.

This illustrates the imperative need for an SUA. The better you comprehend the platforms users utilize at each touchpoint, the more effective your activations become, ultimately enabling you to create greater value for your brands.

Why should you conduct a search universe analysis?

Conducting an SUA offers substantial benefits for brands.

Expanding Beyond Google
This analysis not only informs search marketing but also has broader implications for areas such as social strategy, influencer marketing, partnerships, product development, customer engagement, digital PR efforts, and overall brand positioning.

This enables you to align your broader marketing strategies with authentic user behavior, ensuring your brand maintains a persuasive presence throughout the entire customer journey.

Such an analysis harmonizes various activations as you craft a comprehensive content marketing approach with “search” as its cornerstone.

Insights Driven by Data
Leveraging data and analytics from diverse platforms holds significant importance. This methodology tracks current trends, user preferences, and anticipates future shifts in behavior, facilitating both reactive and proactive strategy development.

Tip: Employ first-party and multiple third-party tools across various platforms for data-driven insights.

Demographic Customization
Distinct target audiences often have specific preferences when it comes to search platforms.

An SUA assists in tailoring your approach to effectively resonate with each audience, ensuring no potential customer touchpoint is neglected.

This audit empowers the creation of persona-specific search journeys, departing from the commonly seen “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Effectively Guiding Search Strategy
Certainly, one of the most apparent benefits of conducting an SUA is the ability to utilize the insights and data obtained to garner greater support for and craft a comprehensive “search everywhere” strategy.

The search universe analysis process

To proficiently execute an SUA, it’s advisable to have a clear understanding of the following aspects before commencing the audit:

  1. Identifying Key Competitors:
  • Start by recognizing your key competitors on Google, gauging their “share of search” to comprehend their potential impact within the search universe.
  • While conducting the audit, keep in mind that other competitors, such as content creators, may emerge, but this core competitor group serves as an effective starting point.
  1. Selecting Platforms for Analysis:
  • Determine which platforms you can realistically influence or create content on; these will be the primary focus of your SUA.
  • It’s essential to analyze the platforms where your target audience actively spends their time or conducts their searches.
  • Utilize reports that offer top-level analysis of demographic platform preferences if you’re unsure where to begin.
  1. Defining Key Pillar Themes:
  • Depending on the scope of your SEO strategy, identify key themes that hold particular significance for your brand.
  • For instance, a bank brand might prioritize the key theme of “mortgages” as the central focus of their SUA.
  • While not mandatory, you can also assess key keyword terms associated with these themes.
  1. Recommended Approach:
  • I recommend conducting your SUA using a combination of a PowerPoint slide deck and an Excel spreadsheet to organize and present the supporting data.

Below, you’ll find the steps outlining how to conduct a search universe analysis.

Platform overviews and introductions

Begin with an introductory section that provides an overview and background information for each platform included in your analysis. Delve into their emergence and evolution within the search marketing landscape.

Next, delve into each platform’s core functionality, highlighting the typical search functions that users engage with and the features that bolster the platform’s search capabilities.

Further, examine the platform’s unique selling proposition when compared to similar solutions. For instance:

  • Google SERPs offer features like “People Also Ask” and rich snippets.
  • TikTok has introduced features inspired by SERP functions.

Identify and describe these distinct features to gain a comprehensive understanding.

Following this, you can lay the groundwork for a more detailed exploration, which may encompass technical aspects like algorithm considerations, nuances in user interface design, and an analysis of how content is prioritized on the platform.

Moreover, emphasize any platform-specific features that contribute to the broader search marketing landscape.

This approach will provide a holistic view of each platform’s role and significance in the context of search marketing.

Platform role within your industry search journey

Once you’ve grasped the fundamental aspects, it’s time to delve deeper and explore how each platform fits into the search journey of your brand and industry.

Direct your attention towards identifying and justifying the stages of the search journey where the platform is likely to witness engagement. This should be based on how audiences currently use and experience the platform. Additionally, consider the typical search intents that the platform caters to and where touchpoints are likely to occur.

I recommend tailoring this analysis to your specific industry rather than adopting a generic approach for each platform. The most effective way to achieve this is by immersing yourself in the search journey on a platform and experiencing it firsthand.

Investing time in manually assessing this on the platforms for crucial terms or topics in your industry will unveil how the platform is currently leveraged. Simultaneously, you can offer recommendations on how you anticipate this evolving.

Ultimately, this hands-on approach will enable you to propose actionable strategies for effectively utilizing the platform within your industry. Be sure to take note of your observations, as they will be invaluable in shaping your strategy.

Competitive landscaping

In the competitive landscape section, you should aim to highlight key examples of the following:

  1. Existing Search Activations by Competitors:
  • Identify and showcase search activations implemented by your competitors within your industry or relevant space.
  1. Prominent Content Creators or User-Generated Content:
  • Highlight key content creators or user-generated content that have gained prominence within your industry. These creators often hold significant influence over audiences.
  1. Influencer Creators Collaborating with Brand Partners:
  • Identify influencers and content creators who are actively collaborating with brand partners in your industry. These collaborations can significantly impact brand visibility and engagement.

By gathering these examples, you gain a deeper understanding of the competitive landscape, including the strategies and activations undertaken by your competitors. This analysis serves to elucidate the prevailing conditions and the competition for visibility on the platform.

Furthermore, consider conducting a top-level “share of search” analysis to determine which competitors are effectively leveraging the platforms or generating the most discussion. This analysis will help you gauge the competitors with the largest share of search and identify potential content gaps and strategic opportunities that your brand can capitalize on.

Emerging trends analysis

When delving into social search platforms, it becomes evident that trending subjects, contemporary news, and responsive engagement play pivotal roles in search marketing. Therefore, it is essential to scrutinize prevailing trends, emerging patterns, and historical successes.

Analyze these trends, keeping an eye out for any discernible content creation trends or shifts in user behavior. Investigate what captures the audience’s attention on the platform and, in the end, how it garners momentum.

By doing so, you can offer valuable insights into the potential evolution of the platform’s search landscape and its implications for your own marketing initiatives and strategies.

For your convenience, utilizing Google Trends in conjunction with Glimpse proves to be an effective method for trend exploration, offering a comprehensive view across various platforms.

Explore platform-specific content strategies

Once you’ve gained a comprehensive understanding of the platform’s functionality and how audiences interact with search marketing features, the next step is to dive into the specific content types that excel and gain traction on the platform. For instance, you might want to investigate the factors contributing to the success of short-form videos on TikTok.

At this stage, it’s crucial to identify those who have achieved success with their activations. Determine whether the platform’s content is predominantly driven by brands, similar to what you observe on a Google SERP, or if content creators hold more sway, as you’d expect on platforms like TikTok and YouTube Shorts.

Additionally, consider utilizing third-party tools to assess the performance of essential keywords within your competitive landscape. This helps you start understanding the potential of the activation strategies you plan to implement.

This accumulated information forms the foundation for exploring content optimization requirements on the platform. By comprehending which content surfaces for search marketing purposes, you can delve into potential ranking factors, optimization prerequisites, key visual elements, hashtags, and keywords that are essential for success.

‘Search everywhere’ as a holistic strategy: Considerations

To create an effective “search everywhere” strategy, it’s imperative to explore potential cross-platform synergies and opportunities for repurposing content. Allocate a dedicated section to elucidate how insights gained from one platform can inform strategies on another.

This step should be undertaken after the preceding steps for multiple platforms have been completed. By doing so, you can underscore the importance of a unified approach that capitalizes on the unique strengths of each platform, while maintaining consistency and efficiency across your search journey and touchpoints.

Over the past two years, my focus has been on maximizing the value of content activations through a comprehensive “search everywhere” approach. To accomplish this efficiently, it’s critical to develop clear strategies for repurposing content across various platforms.

In this section, place emphasis on the methodology for potential adaptations, investigate whether competitors are adopting similar strategies, and explore ways to enhance your repurposing and optimization efforts. This approach ensures that your content not only reaches a broader audience but also retains its effectiveness and relevance across different platforms.

How you can align a platform with your wider strategy

With all the foundational work now completed, congratulations on your progress! It’s time to piece together the puzzle using the insights you’ve gathered to discern the potential role of the platform in your strategy. This is the strategic phase.

Explore the possibility of aligning your content strategy with the user journey, connecting it to the observations from your prior analysis. This will culminate in a summary of key takeaways, noteworthy observations, and highlighted competitor examples, which will be invaluable for future strategy development.

The next step involves connecting the dots of your search journey, investigating ways to synergize the efforts and activations of one platform with another. Are there opportunities for repurposing content that can transcend similar platforms?

For instance, can content initially created for YouTube be adapted and leveraged within a TikTok or Instagram search engine results page (SERP)? Such insights will enable you to craft truly comprehensive content strategies.

I recommend taking a published content example from your brand and evaluating how this piece can be optimized, developed, or repurposed as part of your “search everywhere” approach, building upon the insights gathered during the previous analysis. This practical demonstration can make the process tangible for internal stakeholders, fostering trust and confidence in your brand’s strategy.

Taking this forward to a strategy

Upon completing this presentation, you should possess a clear “map” to guide senior stakeholders and strategy creators in crafting a comprehensive search marketing strategy.

The deck is likely to unveil vital considerations, illustrate examples, and offer takeaways that can serve as the bedrock for a strategy that aligns seamlessly with your key business objectives and goals.

To wrap up your presentation effectively, always include a concise summary section at the end of the deck, presenting key information in the following format:

Platform Takeaways:

  • Insights and lessons learned from each platform analysis.

Platform Examples:

  • Illustrative examples showcasing successful strategies and activations on each platform.

Next Steps / Key Actions:

  • Concrete steps and recommendations for advancing your “search everywhere” strategy.

This format ensures that the audience gains actionable insights and tangible value, facilitating the development of a robust and effective brand “search everywhere” strategy.

Embracing the expanding search universe

As SEOs, it’s imperative to adopt a holistic strategy, particularly in an era where platforms like Google, TikTok, YouTube, and Reddit play pivotal roles in shaping diverse search journeys.

To excel in this landscape, we must look beyond traditional search methods, explore various platforms, meticulously dissect competitive landscapes, and craft content strategies that span across different mediums, all through the systematic SUA process.

Conducting an SUA empowers brands to actively shape narratives within the expansive search universe. This approach allows us to seize opportunities on social search platforms, fostering connections and nurturing brand communities.

It’s essential to understand that this analysis is not a one-time task but an ongoing process of adaptation. To thrive, we must remain agile and responsive, continuously adapting to evolving search behaviors and emerging platforms.

As we prepare for the audit and formulate a comprehensive “search everywhere” strategy, our ultimate goal is twofold: to increase visibility and to establish lasting, meaningful connections with our audience.

Original news from SearchEngineLand