Real-Time Search and Your Business

Every time a new technology in the search world crops up, I get this squinty look in my eyes. I can feel the processing engines of my brain start to turn on and begin to fire up. It seems like I can physically feel new neural pathways being carved out somewhere in my brain to make sense of the new technology.

I enjoy the ongoing freshness that never seems to abate in the world of search marketing. I thrive in newness and a certain amount of chaos. But that doesn’t stop my brain from hurting a bit to process exactly what new search technology means to me and my clients.

This is my current state as I somehow try to make sense of what real-time search means to you and your business. Let’s see what we can make of this new technology and what it means to you.

Real-Time Search: Google vs. Bing

Google and Bing are starting to integrate results primarily from Twitter. Google is injecting these results directly into the standard results pages that everyone sees. This isn’t for all searches — mainly it’s just for hot topics of the day.

The easiest way to know which phrases are getting real-time search results in Google is to go to Google Trends. Clicking on any of these phrases will take you to a search results page that includes real-time search results.

Bing does it a little differently. Bing’s results are kept at a specific URL rather than being integrated into the main search results.

Each way has pros and cons. Google’s format gives you real-time results in the main listings, but it’s for a relatively small number of phrases. Bing gives you a wider array of real-time search results, but you have to go to the special portion of Bing to see these results.

However, you can’t just use a word or phrase in a tweet and automatically assume it will get included in Google’s real-time search results. Nathania Johnson did a nice overview of these findings at Search Engine Watch and offered three key takeaways:

  1. Cultivate your following on Twitter.
  2. Don’t overdo the hashtag.
  3. Be comprehensive in your real-time efforts. Don’t just focus on Twitter.

How Does This Affect Your Business?

You could receive a considerable amount of traffic if you have some way of contributing to a hot topic of the moment. That said, the trick to trending topics is watching them. You never know what topic might suddenly become hot.

As an example, Haiti is an incredibly hot topic and has been so for some time. Places like the Red Cross could likely benefit from participating on Twitter, using the key phrases that are triggering real-time search results in Google.

Looking over today’s hot topics, it’s easy to see a direct business perspective for virtually every one of these discussions. From Bank of America to the Golden Globes to the Australian Open, all of these people could be participating in the real-time search conversation.

It’s also easy to see how semi-related companies could glean some of that traffic. For instance, mortgage banks with a well-followed Twitter account might start sending out tweets that say something like, “Bank of America looks like they had a rough Q4. Our Q4 was great. Check it out here.”

Think Creatively

Once you start thinking a little creatively, you’ll start to see a wide variety of ways that you could experiment with this.

While clearly a lot of traffic is searching on these topics, I have no data at this point to prove or disprove this type of campaign. But like all new things in search, a little bit of experimentation can often give your traffic a nice boost.

The downside to all of this is the time. First, you need a decent following on Twitter. Then, you have to be monitoring trending topics all the time. If you aren’t doing either of these things already, you might go insane trying to incorporate them into your otherwise busy life.

But, on the other hand, I know people who do these things just for fun (I’m not kidding — these are the kind of people I hang around with). So, for them, there would only be one more step in the process. That would be contributing to the trending topics they’re already watching.

If you try this, let us know your findings in the comments below. I’ll do the same if I come across a topic I can participate in.

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