Darwinian chase through search marketing
Darwinian chase through search marketing
Back to basics
Although Seattle-based Fierce, Inc. has been around since 1999, the leadership training and development company is in the early stages of using search marketing to develop leads, says president and CEO Halley Bock. The primary challenge Fierce faced was differentiating itself from its competitors in a saturated space. In addition to "leadership," the company's top-tier terms also include "development" and "training." To help Fierce rank higher on the results page for such broad keywords, the company began to focus its content around the terms. It has adjusted its blog categories to line up with the keywords, developed landing pages specific to the keywords and also made sure to feature these head terms in its whitepaper and press release boilerplates.
"After nailing down our keywords, we're now in the process of optimizing the structure of our website, its content and its links, so that in about 30 days we can turn around and start looking at results. At that point, I feel like we'll be very agile because we'll have that backbone created," says Bock, who uses online marketing platform Optify's keyword marketing tools.
According to Brian Goffman, the CEO and cofounder of Optify, the integration of keywords and content is vital. "If you want your content to be discovered, you have to write it in a way that uses words and concepts that people are actually searching for," says Goffman.
The Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts recently discovered that importance. The nonprofit corporation runs a news page on its site that curates content relevant to Western Massachusetts businesses via marketing software company HiveFire's Curata tool. Mike Graney, SVP of business development at the nonprofit, says he had been searching for a news story on a CEO in the region.
The story didn't pop up anywhere "it typically would show up — the local paper, The Wall Street Journal, etc.," says Graney. He then did a Google search of the CEO's name "and the top page that came up was his page on our Curata site. What we found from the analytics is that if somebody's searching for an entity in Western Massachusetts, the site that pops up really high on Google is our news site. It was even higher than his page on his company's website."
Recent developments in search are likely to complicate such success stories. In late February, Google announced that it had updated its algorithm to reduce rankings for sites that copy content from other sites, in addition to other criteria. The change is intended to target websites that produce multitudes of low-quality content solely to improve search rankings. Google calculates the change will impact only 12% of search queries, but others aren't so sure.
Geoffrey Shenk, managing director of search marketing platform Kenshoo's North America division, says it could hamper the rankings of newer sites that do not have the same domain authority of large sites that have been in existence for years.
Nonetheless, other recent algorithm additions could help startups and new businesses to offset that impact. In fact, new features including social search, local search and instant search have the potential to upend the existing search hierarchy by removing the ability of large companies' to control their ranking.
Google has said that its search algorithm uses more than 200 signals, each with up to 50 variations, to determine a website's ranking and that this algorithm is updated weekly. Bing has said that its search algorithm looks at more than 1,000 signals. The introduction and emphasis on newer signals, such as social networking sites and location, have really raised the stakes for search marketers.
In February, Google said it would begin integrating information from social networking sites such as Twitter and Quora into a search algorithm. If enough of a user's Twitter followers have publicly shared a link — and the user has linked his Twitter feed to his Google Account — the link will rank higher in that user's relevant search results. Bing also said it will tie Facebook "likes" into the rankings for all URLs.
From a search marketer's perspective, the introduction of social content into search rankings steals marketers' abilities to control their message and their brand reputation. From the search engine's perspective, social search reinforces the Darwinistic qualities that have made Google the dominant search engine.
"You can't cheat to get to the top of the Darwin period. You have to actually go through the natural selection process," says Craig Macdonald, SVP and CMO at Covario. "The search engine's market is relevant content, and they want that relevant content to be voted on by the population."
Macdonald pointed to a recent campaign Covario created for Web and e-mail hosting company Rackspace that succeeded because of its search and social integration. The agency built an infographic on the history of e-mail and its new capabilities that Rackspace customers could use in PowerPoint presentations to justify their e-mail budgets.
Meanwhile, local search, which is closely tied with mobile search, also presents a new opening for search marketers. These days, smartphone users can enter "mascara" in a search, retrieve results based on their location and then confirm the identified retailer carries the product via Google's Click-to-Call feature, which is also enabled on non-mobile browsers. Google has reported a 400% increase in searches from mobile phones in 2010 — one in five of which were local-related. Additionally, comScore found that four out of every five phones purchased in 2010 were smartphones. James Beveridge, a senior analyst at the former Google-owned search agency Performics, which was acquired by Publicis Groupe in 2008, found that year-over-year paid search mobile impressions have increased 238%, compared with a 13% increase from computers.
To take advantage of interactive, mobile-enabled features like Click-to-Call and location-based results, marketers should optimize their results entry information specific to mobile, says Daina Middleton, CEO of Performics. Rosetta's Elliott adds that, as with social search, local search "is a leveling of the playing field for smaller business owners or single-location business owners," which means added competition for large businesses such as Walgreens.