Making Sense of Trends & Behavioural Insights


SEO is growing up. In the past (for the most part at least) SEOs sat on the fringes of Marketing and PR departments (or perhaps, nowhere near them at all!) and were often left to their own devices – provided of course that the requisite search traffic was bubbling along nicely.

Today however, companies are looking for SEO strategies which work alongside and compliment broader Marketing and PR plays. As the lines between SEO, Marketing and PR continue to blur SEOs need think like Marketers/PRs, and indeed Marketers/PRs need to think like SEOs.

Marketers have historically been interested in consumer trends, behavioural insights, etc. – but as SEOs we’re probably lagging behind a bit. Fortunately, Debbi Evans from behavioural insights agency Canvas8 has kindly agreed to help get us up to speed.


What is a behavioural insights agency?

Behavioural insights agencies provide companies with an understanding of people's attitudes and behaviour so they can make smarter, more informed decisions about how to engage with their audience. They use research to deliver actionable insights.


What sort of methodologies do you use for your research?

We have an in-house team of writers and researchers who all come from an academic or journalism background. Each day they monitor hundreds of academic journals, culture and consumer blogs and opinion pieces, looking for developments in behaviour.

We also use our network of industry experts, academics and Thought Leaders, who contribute opinion and analysis pieces, conduct ethnography projects, mine quantitative data etc.

Then we step back and connect the dots to see what broader behaviours are emerging and what insights we can uncover for our clients.


You produce a bi-annual report called Keeping TABS – which behaviours particularly stand out for you as being exciting and/or interesting from an SEO / Online Marketing perspective?

The first one that springs to mind is Identity Games – the idea that, as a backlash against privacy intrusion by brands, people are getting better at spinning out fictional identities online, fragmenting what was once a consistent 'Brand Me' to make themselves harder to track.

Being+ also ties into this idea; on the one hand, it's great for online marketers to see so many people tracking their own data and making it public in highly visual, easy to understand ways. On the other, it's important to remember what the behavioural drivers are – for many, self-tracking is a way of regaining control of themselves and seeking a deeper understanding without recourse to brand/product recommendations.


Are there industries that in your opinion especially need to pay attention to these trends? Why?

Any company that provides a product or service to people should be interested in understanding what makes them tick :)

As a result two very different companies could find equal use from the same insight. By way of example, we recently used the insight from Hyperawareness of Health to help a FMCG brand understand the attitudes of French women over 60 but it was just as relevant for a media production company seeking to understand the mindsets of teenagers.

To some extent, the application will depend on the specific trend – but looking for the behaviour behind the phenomenon means they can usually be applied to any industry.


Do you see search engines picking up on any of these trends?

Serendipity is the most obvious one. As Eli Pariser said in his interview last week, Google needs to give people more nuanced search options to reflect the different context in which they're searching. For example, some questions will only ever require a clear-cut result, such as a phone number.

But perhaps Google has an ethical responsibility to make sure that when someone searches for a political issue they're shown the whole story, rather than just the results personalised to how they already think and feel.


We’ve asked a lot about how the trends will influence the internet, but how has the internet influenced the trends?

Massively. In fact, technology (and the net) is the single biggest mediator of what for the most part are fairly long-standing behaviours and impulses.


Can you recommend any further reading? (EG must-read blogs / other public research etc?)

I'm a big fan of the Experientia blog, written by Belgian psychologist and UX designer (and erstwhile Thought Leader) Mark Vanderbeeken. Ethan Zuckerman's blog is also brilliant – he comes across very humble but razor sharp. Then there's all the big research blogs – PARC, Microsoft, Yahoo – their research papers are freely available online. Pew Internet and American Life is another good (free) source of research into tech and society, if you're looking for stats.


What else are you loving online right now? I can't say cats, can I? (Erm, you totally can!)

NTS Radio or for work tunes – the latter solves the music overload problem perfectly, loving the soul mix.


Thanks for the interview Debbi!

Image credits: You Look Fabulous & Kitten

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