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Search listening and social listening: How to leverage these insights to grow your brand.

Updated: Oct 31, 2020

Google process over 40,000 search queries per second globally/3.5 billion search queries a day/1.2trillion search queries a year. (Internet live stats)

On average, Kenyans spend 4 hours and 36 minutes on the internet daily (2020 DataReport - Kenya), visiting different sites in search of different content. This number is bound to go up in 2021.

Top visited sites in Kenya - July 2020 - Qallann Marketing Agency

Across the globe, the public are sharing their thoughts and ideas on the internet - on social networks, blogs, microblogs, forums, review sites and even search engines. These thoughts represent their experiences, interactions with people, products and services, perceptions on different topics and much more.

Business owners, using listening tools, can monitor: these online conversations using specific keywords, competitors, industries and topics in order to gather data. The analysed data can provide them with insights as to who their audience is, what they value, what their attitudes and behaviours are, and other data that can be used to effectively communicate to them.

From a proactive standpoint, listening can help marketers follow the conversations around and about their brands allowing them to identify new opportunities, protect their brand reputation and strengthen their brand image.

Why should we be doing search listening?

There's always been a heavier focus on social listening compared to search listening. Perhaps it has everything to do with the fact social media analytics are more accessible and easier to interpret than search analytics - who knows! However, looking at the top visited website statistics, it is evident that people are spending more time on search engines than they are on social media sites. This means that brands and business owners need to expand their focus and source insights from search engines as well.

Searching on google

Why is the data different?

When it comes to social media, people are usually consuming general content shared by their family, friends and acquaintances. Every now and then, they are exposed to content that has been targeted to them either based on interest, demographics or any other specific data sets. On search engines however, people are more intentional about what they are looking for. They enter specific keywords and keyword phrases of what they want information on.

I ran a quick analysis of social vs. search listening data over a period of one week on the term 'Ugali' (a Kenyan dish) in Kenya. The recording below represents the social listening findings on Ugali. The conversations were predominantly light-hearted humour.

On the flip side, search listening on Ugali revealed less humorous and/or more functional queries and concerns. The queries were around health, history, origins etc.

Search listening results for ugali in Kenya

What's the difference between social listening and search listening?

Search listening provides insights that are quite different from social listening insights. One of the more obvious reasons for this is the different ways these platforms are used. With social listening, most of the content is posted to be shared rather openly with the public.

Search, on the other hand, is more private. People tend to be more honest about the queries entered into search engines offering an entirely different perspective of data.

How can these insights shape and drive your marketing plans?

Social media platforms are, in themselves, quite different. As such, each platform has different types of content, and will likely be used by different demographics. With search listening however, entries into search engines are not "light actions" like those of social media. Users on search are actively searching. Sometimes, people are even looking to fix an immediate need with a search query, eg "How is ugali made?"

Therefore, when designing a marketing campaign for ugali for example, marketers can take advantage of the contextual insights from social listening as well as address the concerns and queries from search listening.

Additionally, search listening gives marketers a stronger understanding of how their brand is perceived with some kind of indication of the struggles of their consumers in relation to where they are in the marketing funnel.


Much of the material here only scratches the surface of what digital consumer intelligence can do for your brands. We are happy to offer you technical and strategic support as you unpack the insights on your brands.

Find out more about digital consumer intelligence.

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