Does search marketing still matter?
Yes. When people want to know something, they Google it. More than one billion times a day. This is how we find things out. Douglas Adams identified the stages of civilization with three questions:
The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question ‘How can we eat?’ the second by the question ‘Why do we eat?’ and the third by the question ‘Where shall we have lunch?’
We use Google to answer all three.
What’s different about search?
On the one hand, nothing much is different. Google (along with the other search engines, which together share nearly a third of search engine market share) has always said that the goal is to show searchers the best possible websites. They’re getting better and better at that. Have the best page on the internet for the specific searches your customers make, and you’re a shoo-in.
On the other hand, the search engines are indeed getting better and better at what they do, so SEO tricks don’t work. Not even as well as they used to.
We have never relied on SEO tricks, so for us, these changes are good news. On the other hand, there have been other important changes in search:
- People use search engines differently. Search engines respond to the ways people use them, and people respond to the changes in the search engines. Since I’ve been teaching people how to use search engines since the turn of the millennium, I’ve had many opportunities to watch the changes in the way people interact with search engines. As an SEO pro, I’ve had many opportunities to watch how search engines interact with people. I can therefore say with confidence that this is a big deal, and one that people often overlook.
- Search results are personalized. This is another big deal that people overlook. What you see at Google just isn’t what other people see at Google. We’re working with a local art museum. It’s a world-class museum in a small town, they are a huge big deal locally, and there is no possibility that anyone connected with the museum will ever see anything but #1 placement when they type in the name of their museum. Google tells us that they average a position below the fold for all searches for their name. They are flabbergasted by this. For small companies, it’s often the opposite situation: they type in the generic name for their product, don’t find themselves on the first page of the search results, and despair. In fact, since people don’t use search engines in that way and search results are personalized, their customers are frequently finding them on page 1 of the search results.
- Many of the changes in search are about technology. Search engines are doing more with visual content, requiring different ways of using . They’re allowing and using more kinds of markup. Google is sharing different sets of information with us in their Analytics. For the most part, these changes are not things that business owners or marketing directors should be messing with. They are, however, things that make a big difference. People who are in charge of marketing need to know enough about these changes to be able to make good choices in hiring and delegating.
So here are the top New Year’s resolutions we recommend for those responsible for search marketing:
- Get up to date on your SEO data. Learn how your website is functioning when it comes to search and what needs to be done to improve your results. Focus on your data, not just on general principles, and certainly not on tips and tricks. That’s the great benefit of online marketing.
- Determine your business goals relative to search. Do you want to show up when people look for solutions? Do you want to strengthen your brand identity or associate your brand with certain activities and market segments? Do you want to bring people to your website? Is it all about the sales? If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, you’re less likely to be happy with your results.
- Align your search marketing activities with your business goals. There are general ways to measure the overall health and success of a website. But your business goals should inform your website goals. You don’t want to have a super successful website that does nothing for your business.
- Make a plan for search marketing. This should be part of your overall marketing plan. In general, it should involve excellent content, on your site and in other places online where your target market will find it. You simply cannot build a website — even a good website — and then ignore it and still get results. There is too much competition online now for that to be a practical plan.
- Be consistent. A few years ago we built a website for a large company that had an ambitious plan for bringing fresh, quality content to their website on a regular basis over a period of months following the website’s launch. They felt confident that this would be enough for their website to do well in search — but they never implemented the plan. Months later, they were dissatisfied with their results. They were right to be dissatisfied. They had the resources to do something ambitious, but competing priorities kept them from following through in-house. A small, consistent effort would have brought them better results.
Do these things and you will see results. We’d be glad to help you plan and execute your search efforts for the coming year. Call 479.966.9761 or use our web form to contact us. You can also download our white paper on the 10 most common online marketing mistakes for further food for thought.