People who use Google Search already know what they’re looking for. So how many people are looking for theatre? I was working on a digital marketing strategy for a client recently and we decided to ask Google Keyword Planner how many people search for theatre in Ireland. If we knew that we’d get a sense of the level of interest in theatre among the Google using population – which is a lot of people. So here’s the monthly average figures: 720 people a month search for theatre, 590 search for drama and 120 search for plays. You can look at this in two ways: a) not a lot of people are searching for theatre, or b) people don’t use that generic term when they search because they have a much clearer sense of what they want. So we asked some more questions…..Maybe, we thought, people are looking for specific production companies, so we took Rough Magic, Fishamble, and Decadent (random choice) and we discovered that 170 people search for Rough Magic and Fishamble every month and 120 searched for Decadent Theatre. Again this is pretty low. So people are not searching for these companies. Last port of call, we thought we’d try the theatres. The results were pretty interesting. 3,600 people per month searched for the The Gate Theatre, 1,900 searched for The Abbey Theatre, 880 searched for the Gaiety Theatre, 720 searched for the Everyman Palace in Cork, and 310 searched for The New Theatre. Now here’s the kicker – 18,100 people per month searched for Bord Gais Energy Theatre.
That last figure is an outlier but the disparity between it and the other numbers is startling. So how do we interpret it? One way of looking at it is that when the vast majority of people in Ireland who use Google think about going to the theatre they think about The Bord Gais Energy Theatre. From a marketing point of view BGET has positioned itself as The provider of theatre experiences to such an extent that a person is 58 times more likely to see what’s on there than at The New Theatre and about 9 times more likely than The Abbey. It also tells us that a lot of people interested in a theatre experience are online so we can’t dismiss the low numbers of the other players by saying that our audience doesn’t use Google.
There are other key lessons from these numbers. The people looking for theatre experiences on Google are not searching by production company, which means the producing company is essentially unknown or irrelevant to the audience. People search by Venue – which means that the marketing power and responsibility lies with the Venue. The great challenge posed by these numbers is can a marketing strategy be developed that can re-destribute those search numbers. I believe it can.
As a piece of research this is clearly flawed – but the results are interesting enough to warrant serious study and serious action.