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Echo and amplify your content – The key to integrated search marketing

22 November 2011 BY

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Many moons ago, when marketers first set out to use search engines as a tool for reaching potential new clients it was achieved using a banner associated with a search phrase (Alta Vista), then later on through a Google AdWords placement. Essentially, it was just another type of media placement to reach the client. It did not understand the searcher’s intent, or for that matter, the impact the searcher had on the actual results themselves.

In those days an integrated marketing campaign was a media mix where focus was on reach, and performance was measured by CTR (Click Through Rates). This is still applicable, but the structures we work within now are different and this presents new opportunities. The key to integrating search marketing (paid and organic) today is not only defining weather it should be TV, radio or print and aligning the communication message, but also take into account the searchers intent and their social activities. As a company you need to give the searchers access to fresh and responsive content in order to rank well both in the organic and paid search listings.

Search engines need to start “thinking”

People search in all kinds of ways and at all the levels of the buying cycle. They search when they do not specifically know what they want, but also when they know exactly what they want – they just can’t seem to find it. It isn’t the searcher’s fault that they can’t find what they’re looking for and it isn’t Google’s fault either. The Internet and its’ inhabitants are just too complex and too large of a population for a database to be able to define the subtleties of intent. We are, after all, still at the beginning of the Internet era and search engines are still learning how to index and associate the massive amount of content. Results and rankings are OK according to most people, but they are far from great.

If there was an alternative search engine that could provide results based on the searchers’ exact intent, we would be happy, right? The only problem is that a persons’ intent changes over time. For example if you search for a hotel in Bahamas you might put in the search phrase: “Hotels Bahamas” just to find out general information about what is offered in the Bahamas. When later you have the intent to buy, you may still use the same search phrase “Hotels Bahamas”. In addition, unless you are specific and use search phrases like: “4 star hotels in Bahamas” you will receive the same results as a person with the intent of looking for a low budget option.

At present Google search, automatically thinks that the searcher wants to receive listings with information on how to stay as cheap as possible. It serves you these results based on the overall statistics they currently have around the searches intent. To improve on this, search engines need to “think” like a human being – the basis of artificial intelligence. This may become reality some day but we are far from it now.

The closest the industry has come to a “thinking” search engine is the integration of social conversations with search results. This is the beginning of a search engine that places the searchers’ intent and their opinion at the centre of the ranking criteria.

Visitors echo and amplify your content

A potential client has multiple roles: A searcher (anyone looking for products or services); a content provider (anyone creating user generated content) or a researcher (student, journalist or job hunter).

They are generally open and transparent and will normally tell you if you mess up. Google’s integration with social media and peoples’ opinions expressed in results from Twitter, Facebook, +1, Google+ or other social sources, gives the people a voice that influences your rankings. Their opinion about you and your brand is what will influence the success of your search marketing (organic and paid search). In order to perform, you need to have happy clients or at least satisfied ones. No company is perfect, but you need to provide good answers for explaining a mess up. Supply good business rules to search marketing and don’t overlook the fact that the website visitors are your communication channel. Existing and potential clients and even general visitors all want to have a say. Their opinion will echo an amplify you content.

Responsive and accessible content

Listen to what your audience is searching for and create content based around this. In this way, you create responsive content that matches your potential customers needs, rather than pushed content from the organisation itself. To achieve this you need to continually connect and communicate with your audience online. Otherwise, content provided a year ago might not be applicable today. Google’s latest algorithm update is all about freshness. Creating a website today is more about defining the structure of content updates and audience interactivity, than providing a set menu.

My advice is to stop wasting the searchers time and lead them to the answers they expect. Get rid of your old FAQ-page and make sure your answers are fresh, responsive and accessible anywhere on your website. If you achieve this, you will rank well in the search results and have a good search marketing performance to integrate with the overall marketing plan.

Key takeaways

• Take into account the searchers intent and their social activities and listen to what your audience is searching for. Create responsive con
tent that matches this and meet your potential customers need.

• Let transparency lead and produce content that is accessible and fresh so that the existing and potential clients can form their opinion and be able to echo and amplify your messaging.

• Stop wasting the searchers time and build an open and updated FAQ-driven website to keep your engaged clients devoted.


sara-andersson
About the Author, Sara Andersson

Sara Andersson is the founder of Search Integration Sweden AB managing both Nordic and European clients with high complexity. Assignments involve high level strategic search consultancy for Enterprise clients as well as integrated search marketing work and education programs on a Nordic and European level. Sara’s main focus is to help clients understand search and how to integrate this in their overall marketing plan and how to measure success and improve. She believes in the Web as a true communications plattform where the potential client can express their opinion and influence the marketing message just as much as the company can itself.

 

AUTHORED BY:
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This post was written by an author who is not a regular contributor to State of Digital. See all the other regular State of Digital authors here. Opinions expressed in the article are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of State of Digital.
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  • http://www.back-azimuth.com Bill Hunt

    Sara, you are absolutely correct. We need to do a better jog of inferring “intent” from the query. Nearly 10 years ago we started working on intent based search were we tried to understand what the user wanted and present the right content in both paid and organic.

    Trying to explain to a customer why their ranked #3 for “las vegas hotels” yet received less than 1% of the clicks in natural search. Trying to understand “why” I happened to notice when looking at a list of the top 100 variations of “las vegas hotels” that the majority of the variations were price related. I put them into clusters and totaled them and quickly found that 87% of all the refined queries indicated “discount hotels” were what people wanted. In this case the client’s snippet was for the “premier resort on the strip.” The query volume for words related to “luxury hotels” was just over 1%. The meant that within their target keyword cluster of luxury words they were getting nearly 100% of the opportunity related to the intent and interests of luxury hotel shoppers and not likely to connect with discount searchers.

    We took this theory and expanded it to other locations, in Phoenix we identified “spa hotels” and “resort hotels” were more commonly searches and in Orlando it was more about specific hotels r proximity to specific attractions. Now, if we roll in social signals we can get ever better context since people ask for specific amenities or nuances via twitter that are not typically found in search.

    For the recent labor day holiday in the US we saw a significant trend in searches related to driving due the all the announcements that flights would be expensive. We saw the tweets and mentions of “car rentals” increase significantly but also noted an increase in interest for car safety in specific areas. A clever marketer would leverage that and do a release around the safest driving resorts or destinations to tie into the increased interest in drive to destinations.

    Unfortunately, too many campaigns don’t look at “why they are searching” and match them with the appropriate content. As I presented at SMX Stockholm, if we lay in social signals we can trend interest around specific locations, features and interests and use that to further refine our content. We in can infer intent from search data but social data gives us the sentiment content for the same words.

    I think the next few years will get pretty interesting for search marketers and the more you can inspire them through articles like this the better it will be for the whole industry.

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  • http://www.adamsherk.com Adam Sherk

    Nice article Sara!

    To a simpler extent we see this in publishing, more so with lifestyle content than hard news. For example magazine sites that cover fashion and beauty will create content that is a great fit for queries with an informational intent. However their articles will inadvertently end up optimized for phrases that are more reflective of an intent to purchase. This puts them in direct competition with brand and retailer sites, and makes it much harder for them to get page one visibility. The fact that they are creating what is essentially deep content on a trusted site is to some degree being wasted. It’s amazing what even a little bit of refinement to better align with intent can do.

    Your “listen to what your audience is searching for” tip applies for them as well. Smart publishers are doing more than simply doing a quick keyword research check to optimize headlines and title tags on newly created content. They’re also plugging keyword and search/social trend data into their editorial planning process, as well as the social behavior of their target audience, to come up with new content ideas and make sure they covering the things that their audience is looking for.

    These sound like basic tactics to search marketers, but the editorial world is often used to operating in a much different way. And unfortunately the rise and fall of the content-farm approach has made some publishers uncomfortable with taking a data-driven approach to content planning, even in smart and appropriate ways.

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