It all starts with a title. The better the title, the stickier the title, the more likely you’ll suck us in.
It all starts with a title. The better the title, the stickier the title, the more likely you’ll suck us in.
A lot of companies are going to transition to becoming a social business and fail horribly at it. It’s not entirely their fault. You might be sitting there and asking why not. Look no further than their website. It starts there. Here’s a real world example. 3 days ago I was on the phone with a prospective client, before I got on the phone I did a little research. First I wanted to look at their source code. I wanted to see what they thought of themselves. Regardless of who built the site, the meta tags that lie underneath can tell you a lot about what a company thinks they are, of how they view themselves.
I know, in the grand scheme of things meta tags don’t matter, but ahhhh, they do. It let’s people like me get a quick understanding of whether a client or company gets the rudimentary element of knowing who they are and how they want to be perceived online. you know why? Metas matter but not in the sense that we were all told or taught years ago. Metas matter because they drive the creation of content, the creation of bios, and the creation of hyperlinks from Tumblr and Twitter to YouTube and Pinterest. Metas are your descriptors of you and your company.
If you can’t tell me who you are with hyperlinks, geo specific hyperlinks,160 characters in a Twitter bio,25 characters for an adwords title, and or 70 characters for ad text, then how are you going to do it for your customers? The point being that search will continue to love social but before you even get to the point of cranking valuable content about you and your business. You have to have your act together structurally, internally and digitally.
Go look at all of your digital touch points and see if they pass the smell test. Are you painting the right picture of how search views all of your current content. Understand that part of being a social business is that, regardless of whatever social channel your choose-the digital content that you will create, has to align perfectly with what you do offline and what you currently have online.
When customers or prospects do a search, the results that they get back tell more of a story about you and your business then you may be aware of, and sadly the results may contain content that you had no control of. By the time you see it, or become aware of it-it’s too late, it’s been indexed and it’s virtually impervious to reputation management fixes.
Don’t wait for that to happen, go check your digital house and see if it’s in order. Align reality with perception and make sure that as a social business you understand that you are now searchable and accountable for content everywhere, starting with something as simple as your source code. Metas might not matter in search, but in reality, they can tell us what you think your business is.
Let’s do a hypothetical. You like western saddles. You search for them every day on Google. Google gives you relevant results from a) your Google Plus peeps and then b) the most relevant, most SEO’d results. Let’s assume that your peeps straddle the lines of friends, family and business contacts, so the results or likelihood that there will be content from these people about western saddles may be 50/50.
You continue to search for info about saddles. I am a marketer that sells cowboy hats or western hats. I know that if I use the term “western saddles” as a key word, page title, hyper link, hashtag, splog site or blog post in some social networks or platforms, the likelihood of you finding or landing on my pages might be pretty high. Why? Every link that you will find will ultimately take you to my western hat pages. I may or may not have much on saddles, but the bottm line is that I sell hats not saddles. Will you buy from my site? Maybe not. Of course I will or may affiliate links on my pages that will get you to a site that sells saddles but…the “quick” search has now turned into an hour’s worth of chasing the long tail of a bullshit game of bait and switch.
Is that a good user experience? No, but it’s the reality of search and social.
The more content that is created, the more that you have to choose from. The more that you have to choose from, the more of a chance that the content is watered down and possibly gamed. The more that search and social become intertwined, the more that you may become the victim of a bait and switch. Clicking on a link in the hopes that it is the right link-has become more precarious these days than it ever has.
The more that search and social lines become further blurred by the notion that content drives the machine, the more the user will get played. Pretty soon it won’t be social media any longer, it will be social mediocrity.
Last week in a very thought provoking Tweetchat hosted by Lisa Petrilli, the discussion, though swirling around how an introvert uses social media, somehow segued into driving website traffic. So my first thought was a poll was in order. But then I started to think about 2012 and the challenges that most brands will face and thus the basis for this post was born: The challenges for a digital marketer or a digital brand in 2012. What are they specifically as it pertains to the web?
1) Driving traffic– The challenge in 2011 is the same in 2012. In order for people to know that you are open for business you have to get them to your website, your blog, your Twitter account or your Facebook page, right? Whether you’re a click and mortar or a web based only company, either or requires more than just a cursory amount of effort revolved around driving traffic. So you have to think about things like:
All with the premise of driving traffic. Eyeballs.
2) Engaging that traffic-You’ve got them to your site(s) now what are doing with them? In 2011, it was all about doing “something” with someone once they had visited your site, your blog or your Facebook page. Well that hasn’t changed. In 2012, it’s imperative that we determine what engagement looks like. What does it feel like, what does it smell like? Is it conversational? Interactive? Is it wrapped around gaming? You have to test, you have to experiment and you have to understand that you have about 20 seconds to get it right.
3) Keeping the traffic-The segue from the last sentence in #2 says it all. You have 20 seconds. For some of my friends, when they are telling me a long story and I start to lose interest, I tell them to quit circling the airport, land the plane and get to the point. Marketers and brands will need to land the plane in 2012. Remember when websites were stuffed with content because marketers and webmasters thought that’s what we wanted? Guess what? The challenge now is to do more with less and strike the balance of keeping your users happy, engaged and delivering exactly what it is that they are looking for. Keep your users focused in 2012. Be iconic, keep it simple.
4) Converting the traffic-This is the holy grail of web marketing and sales. Doing something with the people that have come to your site(s). From the dawn of the internet, the goal has always been to convert the people that come to your site into either a lead or a prospect or a sale-Either for your company or your partners. This has not changed. The challenge in 2012 will be to further understand how to utilize the social tools, sites and platforms that now exist in order to convert the passive visitor into something other than a mistaken click, a browser or a passerby. In 2012 social will continue to help deliver customers to websites, but it still falls back on you to deliver on the promise of a good customer experience. The biggest issue? Brands and marketers doing everything to get to the prom but not getting the kiss at the end of the night. Why? It will always be about the customer experience. Don’t discount the importance of search in this equation.
5) Getting the traffic to return-Repeat business, Word of mouth and increased sales, this is what it’s all about. It’s why people go into business, it’s why companies sell stuff. What’s better? The one off or the repeat customer? Why will people keep coming back to a website? Because of the initial experience. How many people give a crappy website a second chance? None. They come back to good sites that are easy to navigate, easy to understand, simple to use, that are safe, secure and trusted and they can find and get exactly what they want without much more than 2 or 3 clicks. Put yourself in the place of your customer. Search for your own product or company the way they do. Do you/they find what they are looking for? Can you be found through search and social? What is your perception of the branded web experience? What are your competitors doing? What are your favorite sites? What brands do you follow on Twitter and Facebook? There’s a reason you follow them. You need to take that mentality into 2012 when it comes to marketing and branding your web presence.
Meet your own expectations as a consumer and flip them into those of your customers.
Remember all of the Rocky movies with Sylvester Stallone? How could you not? He only made 6 of them. In the very first movie, Mickey, Rocky’s crusty trainer played by Burgess Meredith, had a couple lines in the movie that I will never forget. Some of which seem to be appropos for two reasons. One, they apply to the worlds of search and social and two, they just makse sense from a business standpoint. But beyond the lessons that we can learn from Mickey-the real lesson is in the title of this post. But first let’s look at one of those lines and see what “the Mick” has to say.
#1 Mickey constantly is telling Rocky to “Stick and Move”
Mickey wanted Rocky to “stick and move” because essentially Rocky was too slow to stand in front of someone and go toe to toe with them. Sticking and moving is a method involving landing jabs, while backing away without giving his opponent, Apollo Creed, an opportunity to launch a barrage of shots to Rocky’s head. Apparently Rocky did not heed that advice as well as Mickey wanted him to.
In search and in social, there are so many moving parts that it’s easy to become stuck in doing one thing and one thing well or badly for that matter. Call it Myopic or blinded by focus, while not necessarily a bad thing in search and social, there are just too many moving parts. It’s better, or I should say tantamount, that you understand how search can makes a good social strategy better and vice versa, but all the while not becoming bogged down in the 101 type of activities that alot of people tend to hover on. Stay high level and keep moving; and yes I know it is the little things, but in this case, it’s about moving and being effective and the bigger picture.
For instance in search, there’s the whole aspect of campaign planning, or the strategy itself before you even launch or relaunch. There is creating search programs just for branding purposes. There is SEO, both on-page and off page for main sites and micro-sites. There is PPC, there is mobile, local, and of course the whole analytics side of it all. The point being that all of these can be managed separately and or they can be managed as channels that contribute to or funnel into the bigger picture. It’s a huge task and yet one that is best managed by sticking and moving.
The key here is to attack and address all of these and see where they fit or fall within your organization, but not get caught up in the minutiae of managing them. Now some companies, the smaller ones, can get away with just doing some of the above mentioned tasks and not doing others, and I might add, doing it well, but larger ones at the enterprise level cannot. If we’re to understand that all of these components contribute to greater profits for a company, think how social now is playing into all of them. Social has virtually the same amount of moving parts.
In social you have to have the ability to create and manage a strategy, understand and manage social analytics, create blogs, wikis, microblogs, manage profiles and activity feeds, create and manage communties, create tags, create and manage campaigns and then rinse and repeat. Very similar to search, and yet, both very complimentary as well. The scary part? All of this can be done at both the enterprise level and the SMB level.
The common themes? A couple of them. One is the digital consumer. Another is the digital vendor. and still another are the digital expectations of and aspirations of both. Another, is how extremely well search and social play together. And still the last 2 themes? One is how important it is to stick and move in managing both search and social concurrently-especially in todays rapidly changing digital world and the other? Don’t get caught up in the minutae of managing both search and social- they are large, fluid, everchanging monoliths. “Stick and move Rock, Stick and move”.
The impact that search and social media have on a consumer’s purchase has never been disputed. I have always maintained that they were always joined at the hip. In a recent GroupM Search and comScore study this has pretty much been verified. Search drives the intent or consideration to buy, and social locks up or seals the intent and turns it into a conversion.
Interestingly, the research show that search alone is still a powerful tool in online buying intent, behavior and research. Always will be IMO, but what really caught my eye though was how little online buyers relied on social alone as the primary driver to a purchase. The internet is too broad and delivers too much information in regards to research on a buying decision to just rely on a social recommendation. Why? Because we still want the best deal possible. Relying on one piece of info, i.e. a recommendation from Twitter or Facebook isn’t enough for today’s savvy online customer. We start with search, we add social in there and then we finish with search.
What does this really mean? Ignore the power of search at your own peril and relying solely on social to drive consideration and conversions is a risky proposition.
Game changer alert! It’s not what Google knows anymore. It’s now going to be about who you know, who you are connected to, and how connected you are that will affect the results of your searches. Let that sink in for a second. The time has come where social and search are no longer sharing the same clothes. No, they are now joined at the hip sharing the same clothes!
Read this snippet below from Google’s blog post about social search
Is this is a good thing? I think so, there is definite relevance to our existing relationships when doing business. Case in point, I use my Twitter followers and also the people I follow on Twitter as a de facto RSS feed for information about the work I do and the research I need to do my job. So tying that information literally into a search feed, is essentially the same thing.
What this will get people to do possibly, is change the nature of the online relationships they have, they make, and that they curate. It may in fact increase the value of content created and networks joined, as well as the volume and frequency of participation. So this begs the question, Will this increase the noise or the signal?
Here’s some more info about it.
Creation, curation and aggregation. We all probably fall into one of those categories. We do one of those. I do. I don’t dispute blog posts like this Why Content Curation Is Here to Stay. I get that. What I have a problem with is the type of content creation we run across when doing brand monitoring work for clients. It’s falling into two camps.
Here’s the first.
Recently we were doing some work for a very prominent client where in the analysis of brand mentions we had to sort through thousands, yes thousands, of useless pages of content on websites that were set up as splogs to drive better search results around pages geared towards Google Adwords. This is troll like stuff. This is not new. Useless web pages have been appearing high up on search result pages for awhile now. So Let me ask you a question. I assume that most of you who read this post are fairly savvy web users, but when you do a search-what part of the search result do you look like? Me? I look at the URL under each search result. and that in and of itself can be revealing-sometimes content that you think is going to be worthwhile turns out to be crap.
I’m using Google search results as the prime example here.
I thought we were getting the best search results possible? Maybe not. For a lot of us Google is part of our everyday lives. We are slaves to the rhythm of search as much as we are to what Google returns to us. Google and search dominate the web. The conundrum? To get traffic to your webpage, you have to appear high in Google’s search results. Which in turn means that you must create some type of content that works for Google. Thus the incentive to learn or understand SEO and Google’s Algorithm i.e. game the system, is huge.
Google will admit that the quality of it’s SERPS is higher than it has ever been; in terms of comprehensiveness maybe so, relevance may be debatable. They might be the first to tell you that there is a proliferation of sites that rip off other people’s content because they’re too lazy to build their own audiences based on fresh content and fresh thoughts and ideas; and that is a problem. Yep, the rise of the “content farm” which is heavy on volume and light on fresh, original content is upon us.
Google has been making changes to its algorithm to keep low-quality sites from appearing high in searches, according to Matt Cutts in a blog post last month. But he also wrote that, despite Google’s efforts,
The fact is that we’re not perfect, and combined with users’ skyrocketing expectations of Google, these imperfections get magnified in perception.”
I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to have to sort through garbage search results both personally and on behalf of a client; to be bogged down with the process of weeding through content farms.
“As pure web spam has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to ‘content farms’, which are sites with shallow or low-quality content,” Cutts added.
I got into SEO years ago and understand the game. High rankings in search have always been driven by the number of pages/sites that linked to it and how prominent they were ranked and what pages and sites were linked to them. There were always “other” little things involved, but to me it was always about the hub and spoke model. What sites were at the end of the spoke and so on and so forth. Oh yea, and one other thing-Content.
Marketing departments and SEO companies understand this. Thus, they’ve been creating “landing pages” buried inside corporate sites to hit all of the different possible combinations of keywords of a search query relating to their company/ industry. Bloggers do it by linking to each other. It works, content farms work, and that’s part of the problem.
The bigger part of the problem? Large companies are catching on. They know this and are willing to play in this grey area space that Google doesn’t police very well, and we, the people that do searches, suffer for it. As it turns out, they are getting away with it. Or are they? The latest to be identified according to the New York Times is JC Penney. Large and small companies will continue to game the system like this until a) they are caught and penalized or b) Google in particular-fixes the algorithm. Until then, content farms will continue to rule and the research that you and I do on behalf of clients, will still take three hours instead of one.
If only there were a way for monitoring companies to weight and kick out splogs and obvious content farms…hmmmm.