We all can see that the world of search is evolving rapidly, making staying current with the landscape challenging for business owners and marketers alike. Sometimes, business owners are frozen with fear that they won’t do all the right things. The truth is that you won’t have time to do everything; however, with the right priorities, you should be able to tackle what’s most important. So, if you do nothing else, you should at least…
“Search” is no longer the domain of Google, Yahoo, and Bing. If a searcher wants to find an obscure fact, these search engines are great places to look. For commerce, though, the field of online search is much broader, with a diverse mix of information resources:
- In addition to search engines, sites like Yelp, which recently reached 11 million reviews, have reviews for just about any product or service.
- Niche sites, such as UrbanSpoon, or directional media, including Internet yellow pages, help narrow consumer searches based on the topic or industry vertical, making for a better search experience and relevant results.
Assess your industry to discover where consumers are looking for your service or product. Then, see how people use these sites to find you. Does the site have a listings service, a forum, or another venue for you to participate? Getting to know general search engines is fine, but don’t overlook the niche sites for your industry.
Facebook is a massive word-of-mouth search engine. Twitter is often used to discover trending topics, and even companies. Being part of these social networks increases your chances of showing up when users look for your products and/or services. Creating a Facebook page or Twitter account (and being an active participant) establishes relationships with customers. Plus, when your friends’ friends ask for ideas or advice, you can be part of that conversation, resulting in greater awareness through peer referrals.
While Facebook searches have topped 650 million per month (comScore), the network as a search portal is still nascent, but clearly growing as a source of search. And although many of those searches are name-related, commercial-specific searches are growing as well. In addition, many niche sites at the industry level have community sections, such as forums and Q&A areas, which are perfect for showcasing your expertise to help customers and prospects. Remember, search is not just about products, names, addresses, and phone numbers – it’s also about opinions, likes, and dislikes. Your participation in these networks improves your likelihood of being mentioned in a positive way.
What can you do to enhance your mobile presence?
- Claim your business listing on Google to ensure its accuracy and likelihood of showing for Google Maps searches.
- Certify that your location is listed properly on sites like Foursquare and Gowalla.
- Represent yourself on niche sites for your industry and market.
- Encourage patrons to use their mobile devices to create reviews on Yelp or other relevant sites.
- Suggest to-do items on Foursquare, or promotions in Groupon.
- Give consumers a reason to interact, including opportunities to upload mobile photos to Facebook or Twitter.
- Run promotions. For your loyal patrons – those who like you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, or check in on Foursquare, for example – provide “extra” incentives, including exclusive discounts or giveaways. Using mobile devices, consumers can show that they qualify for your exclusive promotions.
Search engines gather information from almost anywhere, and they show that information to people, regardless of accuracy. This information, if not correct, can spread across the Internet or even to GPS devices. Once your business listings are wrong, getting them fixed can be a real problem. The necessary actions for you are:
- Review your site; ensure it has the latest location information: a valid phone number, address, or e-mail contact.
- Look at local sites through the Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, or Internet yellow pages (e.g., YP.COM, yellowbook.com, Superpages.com, and DexKnows.com) to guarantee that they correctly display your business information.
- Pay attention to the local listings on search engines and claim them.
Earlier, I referred to updating your business’ physical address online. But because search engines can pick up more than just your contact information:
- Be sure that your site explicitly talks about your products and services, keeping them logically organized.
- Put your product lists – complete with SKU, product numbers, and descriptions – on your site, even if items can’t be ordered online. Greater product awareness can lead to more leads; just make alternative ordering information immediately available on the screen.
- Prominently display your phone number and address on Web pages – don’t make users work in order to contact you.
By implementing these ideas, you greatly improve the likelihood of your products or services being found locally. If you’re unsure how to do these, engaging a reputable professional is worth the investment. (Tip: Avoid the “too-good-to-be-true” promises of guaranteed, first-position listings on Google).
I often tell people that search is not rocket science, but it is hard work. Many ways exist to engage the active searcher. If you have the time and resources to tackle search, it’s worth your while. Sticking to some foundational elements as mentioned above can go a long way. As my colleague often says, “Don’t try to boil the ocean.” Tackle one thing at a time, and you’ll start to see results.
This column was originally published in SES Magazine in August 2010.
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