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.
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.
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.
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.
• 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 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.