Search is what you want right now. Search is watching, listening, and talking. Search isn't just for text anymore; keeping an eye on the latest trends in this ever-changing field (and truly understanding those trends) is your key to the intent-driving kingdom.
The demand nature of search is giving way to the instant gratification that crowd sourcing provides. Blended search means thinking about every connected digital asset during the optimization process. Real-time search means that you will ultimately have less control over what appears for your chosen devices.
In spite of the dramatic shifts we have seen in the search-and-find category, the basics still apply as well. Confused yet? Don't be. As with all things in the connected marketing world, a little preparation and sound strategy, followed closely by smart tactics, will help keep your collected heads above water.
Let's take a look at five search trends to watch.
Search and stream of consciousness
Real-time search is now a reality. That's right, sports fans: After many years of refining the search algorithm, and spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get it right, every Tom, Dick, and Harry with an opinion can pop up in your search results.
Naturally, the first people to capitalize on real-time search marketing have been the ones who know how to exploit it. With a hashtag (#) and a dream, anyone can pop into search results. Don't you feel better about spending all that money on search engine optimization?
However, you don't have to feel all that bad about walking the boulevard of broken dreams (#greenday) -- there's still time to make sure you are optimizing for real-time search. While the concept is still very new, you can follow a few simple guidelines to make sure you are getting it right:
- First, make sure you are using keywords in tweets.
- Second, since every Twitter action or post creates a page, make sure your text is relevant.
- Third, take a close look at web address abbreviators. Some have really sharp SEO attributes. Long, complicated URLs have never been the friend of search marketers, so now is the time to try and re-invent the address. Some even allow tracking; take a look at bit.ly to see what I mean.
Search is social
People waste -- I mean spend -- more time on social media sites than they do searching the web. Twitter ads are starting to pop up everywhere, and it's only a matter of time before we see platforms really start to go to work for the advertising world. Stop by 140Proof for a look at the future of Twit-vertising. While you're at it, spend a bit of time looking at how people interact with social applications, and use that knowledge to feed your SEO efforts.
Today, smart marketers are deploying listening technologies. Even smarter marketers are actually taking the time to apply the knowledge they gain while listening to their search efforts. We have long known that search provides delicate insights into human behavior, but now we can connect the dots between real-time behavior and instigated thought from knowledge aggregators and listening tools.
Want to really connect with your audience in the search box? Invest heavily in understanding what people are talking about on blogs and social media sites. With all the changes in search over the last few years, content is still king. Driving your content strategy with an understanding of hot topics related to your brand is the new killer -- um -- app.
Search and content
Content used to be text on a page. Text on a page used to drive search results. Search engines used to be the way people found everything online.
Today, content is video. Content is an image. Content is an application. Blended search results (formerly known as search result clutter) have changed how we interact with results pages, and yet I am surprised how many marketers and their agencies still focus on text. Get over your stand-alone text and move into the new digital position.
Images, videos, feeds, and the kitchen sink are appearing in search results. While YouTube can be the ultimate time waster, it's also a valuable resource for many people. So, unless your product is as easy to use as a seat belt, you might benefit from posting some simple "how to" videos. People love to learn how to do almost anything. Given that people don't seem to be getting any smarter, explaining how to use your product might just be your key to climbing to the top of the heap.
Pushing content has never been easier. If you are listening to what people want, you know how to interact with them. The cost of producing content continues to drop. A good example of building a business around crafting content can be found with the folks at Demand Media.
With all that has evolved in the search field, the relationship searchers have with relevant content continues on a steady path.
Tried and true search
Each day I pray for the quick and painful death of those promising instant results in climbing to the top of the search page. For as long as I can remember, there have been bottom feeders claiming to have some magic formula for getting top search listings. Don't listen to them.
There are no quick solutions. While there are certain tactics that we could classify as "low hanging fruit" in the world of search engine optimization, handing your cash over to the quick fix people has never been a good idea. Search engines will remove your site from the index if you try to cheat, so don't.
Likewise, some consultants talk about getting you to the top of Google when, in fact, they really want you to pay them for search advertising in sponsored listings -- and at a heavy markup on your click costs. Don't do it, it's just not worth it.
Every search site publishes best practices for search engine optimization. While it might be worth your while to hire a search marketing professional, there are quite a few folks out there you can hire to teach your own people to do it right.
Assuming you are one of the select few who have sorted out how to correctly configure an analytics suite, you are probably sitting on massive amounts of data. Why aren't you using those data? Search is often credited as the last place a potential customer goes to make a purchase. The last-stop mentality only tells me that you aren't paying attention to every stop that was made along the way.
Members of the connected consuming public like their search results served up just like they like their coffee and cheeseburgers: customized. The best place to learn about search engine optimization lies in the data you probably already have.
Noticing that your customers are coming from Denver or Minneapolis? Maybe it makes sense to localize content for them. Potential customers coming from one type of content site? Maybe you should engage the site to help with your link equity. For the past 10 years, marketers have been crying out for more data. Stop crying and start learning.