Questioning the Future of Search

Last week I presented a Webinar based on the “thought paper” I wrote called, “New Signals To Search Engines.” As it was a long read at 23 pages, I highlighted the more salient points, but mainly wanted to try and answer the hundreds of questions I received following its publication.

The top question was about social media. It seems that many companies already have barriers to entry. Amy Labroo, associate director of online media at Advantage Business Media, asked specifically about any backlash due to unmonitored content in the social media space.

I’ve come across this situation quite a lot recently. Many companies worry about negative commentary and therefore don’t accept comments on their blogs or social network sites. In fact, many haven’t started a blog or a dialogue space at a social networking site.

This is simply hiding from your audience. If people have negative commentary about you and they can’t make it known at your Web site or blog, they’ll make it known somewhere else.

I advocate putting yourself out there and listening to your audience. Marketing has changed from a broadcast-my-corporate-message medium to a listening medium.

The voice of the customer is very, very loud online. And those companies that still believe they own their brand and the message may well be in for a bit of shock as brands are hijacked by customers.

Let your customers have their say. Keyword-driven marketing is all about understanding the language of the customer and creating marketing messages in that language.

From time to time, I meet with creative agencies and almost always end up arguing about the message they have created about their brand vs. what their audience really thinks about their brand.

Of course, you have little control over malicious comments made online by disgruntled customers or employees. This is not a new phenomenon. Reputation management is an age-old public relations job. And if you find that very negative results at search engines show up following queries for your brand, products, services, you should evaluate if you’re doing enough PR in the social media space to counter it.

Hiding behind a closed comments area is not going to achieve anything. Whereas, a productive social marketing, shall we call it — program — could work wonders for your brand.

Amanda Elliott, marketing manager at Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System, asked about video in the SERPs (define) as did many others. With video’s prominence in search engine results, are we likely to see video from sources other than YouTube? Of course, the answer is yes, absolutely. At this time the major search engines have relationships with trusted networks such as the Google’s YouTube, which is owned by Google, and Yahoo, which has a partnership with Metacafe, an online video site. But you can still find plenty of YouTube at Yahoo and plenty of Metacafe at Google. It’s still early, but a lot more of these partnerships will happen as online video becomes more prolific.

During the Webinar, I also discussed connected marketing, which I believe is the future of marketing — not just search.

Connected marketing is about the convergence of mobile, local, social, multimedia on one device. Apple’s iPhone is probably the best example at this time. With an always-connected 24 hour a day audience able to receive all types of content at broadband speed, marketing must adapt to that audience.

Sure, you can have a browser on your mobile device, but the browser is being sidestepped as hundreds of apps are developed for mobile devices.

I don’t have enough space here to tackle all of the questions that came up. But I have to say, I really do enjoy finding out what people have on their minds and trying to come with answers and solutions.

So, let me take my own medicine and throw the column open for burning issues you’d like to discuss. We’re going social. Let’s start a dialogue.

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