Search: Fishing in the Clickstream

VISIBILITY: Part 3 – Search

Ever heard of that old cliché, ‘you’re fishing in a bowl’? Getting that kind of predictable result would be fantastic, wouldn’t it? If I could guarantee that to my client, I would be golden and sitting on a beach somewhere preferably reading some obscure science material. But it is obviously not so easy to gain that kind of predictable traffic for your customer. It takes knowledge of the search criteria, how your audience is looking for that information and even behavior science to really map out a close target. And I mean just a close location where the ‘fish’ really are!

In my last SteamFeed post, I touched the tip of Engagement in visibility [Part 2] which is developing your 5 main channels that connects you with your audience, [5 Touch Points of Engagement: Not in ‘Likeness’ But in Diversity]. In this last step of creating visibility [Part 3], I will just graze the surface of ‘Search’ in all its conducive power but you will be surprised at the final analysis on how truly simple the perspective on search is!

Search – Where the Fish Are:

1. SEO – Search Engine Optimization has been an ongoing chess game since the beginning but much has changed leveling the field by the search engines themselves (Google being the heaviest hitter). Before Penguin (Google’s newest search algorithm) and Panda (Google’s newest content updater) came on the scene there were many more ‘tricks’ not penalized to grab that coveted top ranking spot. Now the tables have turned and even a few big reputable companies got caught in the landslide and had fallen off the rankings and hard! The new algorithms didn’t account for many reputable links and cut everyone down off the ladder. Google quickly released new updates in the wake of the backlash.

But how can you legitimately get the ranking you deserve? It’s all on generating the best, relevant content. I know that seems so simple but it is what Google is striving for. Genuine, quality site content and shareable! The engines like shareable information most but make sure it is in alignment with your content as a whole not just thrown in there for ‘shareablity’. Next is links! No longer will any site profit from link schemes by grabbing low quality links on non-relevant sites. Create links by finding strategic partners that make sense in your info arena. These backlinks can be as a contributing author on their site or by adding a resource link. Just make sure it is relevant to the site and WHERE it is linking to. If you are new to the scene check out your Page Titles and Descriptions. Optimizing them can make a big difference for a newbie on the scene (they should be optimized regardless). If you have local markets then gear your descriptions and content toward that geo-targeted area.

{That’s just a few …}

2. SMO – Social Media Optimization is the sister to SEO. These work in tandem, did you know that? Google wants them to be your team in Search. So you need to consider this as well, since Google still owns almost 70% of the market share (as of 11/30/12). How can you up the ante with your social? First take each profile for each of your social networks and optimize them based on word selection and description but keep the consistency across each network (for brand, message and voice). You can keep them segmented in how you’re engaging but for search purposes remember those consistent key ‘modifiers’ (meaningful and descriptive text in your data) across the board. As always keep them ‘relevant’ … sorry to keep throwing in that word but it is critical in search and has to be adhered to!

Then add proper tags to your blog posts for user ease. Add audio clips, video and PDFs into your posts. The engines love these especially because they are considered such shareable media. Use them where it makes sense don’t just fire out a slew of this media for search results, your audience will possibly find it a turn off. Variety is the spice of life, so without a doubt keep the variety just decide thoughtfully with search in mind. When deciding on modifiers in your posts compete where you can with long tail keywords (Type of keyword phrase that has at least three and some times as many as five words in the phrase. Long tail keywords are used when the website wants to refine search terms to the web page, as well as when the searcher is looking for something rather specific.). Sometimes selecting just a slightly different word that has the same meaning and audience usage can provide you more visibility then being the smallest fish in a very popular search word pool.

3. URLs and Hashtags – Your domain name grabs points in search so while you want it to reflect your brand and company name, you also want it to gain some search weight. So discern during this selection of URL options. The .com’s extension still rank but by adding the .co’s and some other extensions you can amplify your rankings. But again, add them with consideration to your audience in relevancy. These domains need to generate a real page with content/information that supports that URL not end up on some unsupported blind page.

Hashtags add draw in many ways and can increase your friends/followers on social network s. Instagram does a really nice job of this, as well as the originator themselves, Twitter. So take it one step further, promote these hashtags on all your other media (ex: social networks – LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. and on your blogs, websites and print). Again be thoughtful on selecting these hashtags. What would my audience be searching for? What terms would they be using and please use their terms not your own! Not sure how your audience is searching then you need to do a bit of research before just firing one out there.

4. Unstructured Content (images, video and audio) – Here you can use Alt Tags for your unstructured content media. The bots can’t read the content so it queries it differently than the text data. Don’t just put a list of keywords in even though it may seem like relevant words rather define the media with a sentence using very clear descriptive words on what the image, video or audio is about. Keywords will penalize you even though you intended it to be a genuine explanation for your audience. Keep all this material ‘shareable’ by adding plugins and already built-in options to share it on other channels. You can also make sure you ‘watermark’ (mark showing contact info of some sort) your images with your logo mark, Twitter handle, or URL. Keep this contained somewhere in the main section of the material not on the edge where it can easily be cropped out. The more viral share you get on this, the more your searchability stays intact!

5. Search Measurement Analytics – With all this research, thoughtful selection of modifiers, and relevant content work you have supplied would it make sense to not measure your results? And then what? How can you now reapply this found insight into your continued strategy? It is a must and don’t think that this part is easy. It is the hardest part but the most worthwhile. Search is an ongoing process that must constantly be refined. Also, it can become more and more specific based on the criteria you are measuring.

There is the top level view of clickstream analytics in reporting the results of how much traffic is coming in on which pages, how long they stay there and how many pages they have traveled to. Then you can move into specific IP addresses and follow purchase patterns and how the user navigated the site, where they linked to, what they were interested in and for how long. Sessionization will show you when they departed the site and when then returned. You have the ability to mine users for behaviors and social network effectiveness. Create scalable data queries that look into strictly behavior analytics. Customer patterns galore! Google Analytics does a nice job of generating decent reports and it’s free. If you are looking for more in depth analysis with some customized solutions then there are other analytics software out there from which you can choose.

In the end with the introduction of Penguin and Panda we no longer are trying to ‘beat the system’, though in effect I suppose we are always looking to get the best results. What becomes the driver is the relevancy of your content throughout every element you place on your site, your blog posts and your social networks.

Genuine content that makes complete and perfect sense to your audience is where it is at. I would love to fill this whole page up with nifty ‘tricks’ on how to circumvent that but it would help you not. Don’t we all want to provide the information that best educates, enlightens and motivates our readers to actually do something? So stop the keyword embedding you will be penalized. Write short relevant copy that describes concisely and overall use your BEST content and not manipulate the system!
… so now what? You’re ‘good-to-go’ right? Not so fast rabbit.

Continued Online Growth is next because it just “never stops” and neither should YOU!

Google Plus: The Just In Case Network

Google Plus. Some love it, some hate it, and quite a few are still trying to figure out what it is. Google’s much beleaguered social network has been overwhelmingly unimpressive. What is impressive: The strong opinions many have espoused.

Launched in June of 2011, Google+ now boasts an impressive 400 million users, 100 million of which are active every day. Granted, it still lags behind Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, but 400 million users is nothing to sneeze at. I’m pretty sure we’d all be doing backflips if we had that kind of monthly traffic. However, there does seem to be a strange disconnect between the sheer volume of users and vocal few who seek to malign it.

Why are so many people, especially social media aficionados, using a social network that they spend so much time complaining about? Or worse, that they find irrelevant and predict will ultimately fail? Why bother to cultivate a presence if you believe it is a waste of time? I have a theory. That theory has its own acronym: JIC. Just In Case. Just in case Google can pull off this social media experiment. Just in case Google was right and social signals translate to more meaningful search results.

Google has a track history of doing the improbable, the unthinkable. Case in point, the very word “Google”. It has evolved from a noun to a verb. We don’t search, we google. Google is synonymous with search. It is part of our vocabulary. Google is a search powerhouse. We are tantalized by the SEO possibilities. Do you really want to ignore what could mean the difference between life and death for your online presence? Neither do I…….just in case.

Recognizing that it would be foolhardy to ignore Google, I have a suggestion for Google. Give us something that will make Google+ indispensable. Something so inherently useful that we wouldn’t dream of looking for the next great thing in social media. Something that would make us circle with glee. Give us Venn Diagrams. Yep, I said it. Math geeks rejoice. Venn-Diagram functionality in our circles. The ability to automatically create new circles based on the intersection of existing circles. For example, I could take my “Believers” circle, my “Women of G+” cirlce and my “Social Media” circle, see where they overlap and create a new circle, “Social Media Women Who Are Believers”! Genius.

Such a simple concept, yet so incredibly useful that its hard to believe they have not done it yet. In that I’m a “cup half full” kind of gal, I have faith that they will eventually give us what we need. In the meantime, I’ll do it manually….just in case.