Do you consider SEO to be part of your product development?

Just saw this throwaway tweet from search guru Danny Sullivan, who I guess is currently attending SMX East in New York:

What this would suggest is that HTC looked at what people were searching for around their phones (say ‘htc purple’ or ‘htc evo fuchsia’) and realized that there was latent demand that they weren’t addressing. As a result they are now bringing out a line of multicolored phones that presumably will be on the end of these searches in future, leading to more satisfied customers and obviously a few more dollars in the bargain.

What a great example of using one of the cheapest market intelligence tools out there: internal and external search metrics. For external search, query your web analytics tool for your keyword referral data. Look at what search terms are used on Google, Yahoo, Bing and the other major engines to reach your site. Are there terms for which you don’t currently have neat product placement, but could provide something with relative ease? (If it’s longer term you may need to work it into the product roadmap). Perform the same exercise with your internal site search engine. Most solutions in this space will provide metrics on what are the most commonly searched terms on your site.

If you want to look further afield at what people are searching for on Google, you can also poke around on the Google Keyword Tool. In this example you can see related terms for the base keyword ‘htc’:

The next step is perhaps the toughest: particularly if you work for a large enterprise. Somehow you need to get this information over to your product team. They may already be clued on to what you can learn from the web and embrace your research. My experience is that there is generally some education to do (and possibly the building of a process) before you can embed this search-based market intent into product development. Still, at least you know your product portfolio will become more closely aligned to the (online) market.

Do you have any examples/experiences of your own to share?

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