Search: Moving Beyond Your Website in 2013
When we think of SEO, we think about the big three search engines (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) and how well our website(s) perform in the results of these search engines. It makes sense. After all, the goal of any good SEO program is to drive qualified traffic from search engines, to your site in order to generate leads and sales.
The thing is, there are other ways to optimize for “search” that don’t include your website or the search engines themselves. Questions to consider asking:
- Where are your customers searching for information?
- Are they only searching in Google?
- Are they spending all their time on Bing?
Customers are now on multiple platforms. They’re using search engines but they’re also on social media and mobile apps, and they’re spending time in communities and places that interest them.
On top of that, search results now go beyond the traditional 10 blue links and come complete with social integration, personalized results, images, maps, etc. There’s considerable opportunity for your business to be found and it may not be your website that’s being shown in search results.
How do you make sure you’re optimized for search as a whole? Here are a few places to start:
Social media has become a huge component of search as Bing delves further into Facebook integration and Google continues pushing Google+. On top of that, users are spending huge amounts of time on social networks, presenting another opportunity for your business to be found.
Aside from just having a profile set up and running, marketers need to take the next step:
While hashtags are best known for being used in Twitter, Google+ recently improved its hashtag functionality, and Facebook has been talking about adding them for some time. When it comes to hashtags, people are not only using them on social media but they’re also using them to search.
Start by identifying the hashtags that are commonly used in your industry and by your customers. Try out a couple when promoting blog posts. Monitor specific tags to see what’s being said and how others are responding. Check out related hashtags on Google+ to get some additional ideas.
The John Deere MachineFinder Twitter account for example uses hashtags like #Deere, #Tractor, and #Planting. Each hashtag is relevant to the business and a highly searched term.
Once you identify a few core concepts that represent your product/service, you can go from there.
Hashtags offer a great opportunity to identify and get in front of customers and potential customers. The key is to be active and to make sure you’re targeting the right keywords. Don’t be the person adding 10 hashtags to your posts.
At SMX West this past March, Duane Forrester of Bing mentioned that everyone should fill out as much information about his or her business as possible in Facebook. About a month ago, Google Places began the switch to Google+. Social integration is happening, particularly for businesses.
While that’s an important shift in search itself, let’s forget about that for a second and think about the customer. When a customer comes across your business on Twitter or Facebook (presumably from a hashtag you are now utilizing after reading this post), he/she wants to find out as much information as possible without having to leave the network. How can you deliver that to them?
Fill out your bio with information about the company, your phone number, and of course include a link to your website. On sites like Google+ and Facebook where you know integration is happening, make sure you take the time to include as much information as possible. Do you have specific company hours or customer service hours? What industry are you in? What services do you offer?
Check out the KoMarketing Twitter bio for an example:
The more information you have out there about your business, the better chance people have of finding it. On top of that, the more information someone can find out about you ahead of time, the better chance you have of generating qualified traffic and leads.
When I first began my career in SEO, I spent many, many hours submitting client sites to directories. In fact, I could still probably recite the addresses and taglines of half those businesses in my sleep.
While mass directory submissions are no longer a valuable tactic in the search world, directories themselves should not be ignored. After all, people still use them to search!
Sites like Angie’s List and Yelp are essentially directories, and they are used every day by a large number of people. CrunchBase, a database of technology providers, is a directory that’s often referenced as a source in other posts, and comes up in search results all the time. TMCNet, a pretty highly regarded site in the B2B space, has buyer guides and company listings available on the site, and they allow you to submit your company information.
When it comes to directories, don’t just start submitting your site to any random directory because you can. Choose one that is relevant to your business and will actually give you qualified traffic.
- Where are your customers spending time?
- Where are they researching products or services?
- Where are they reading industry news?
Find those places and then assess whether there’s an opportunity for your company information to be included. After all, if people are searching in these places, there’s an opportunity for your business to be found.
Directories and social media are just a few “other” places companies need to consider when it comes to search. Customers are looking for information elsewhere and so are search engines. As the online marketing world evolves and the term “search” evolves, marketers need to think beyond just their website and focus on the bigger picture.