Do you ever ask yourself the following?
- How effective is my small business’s paid search strategy (SEM)?
- How well is my content performing on Google?
- How are my organic efforts performing versus paid and earned media?
Do you blame Google? Panda? Other cute animals?
Ever asked the hard questions: is it me/us? Is our company’s approach flawed?
I’d recommend one simple thing: dig deeper into the psychology of search more than the technology of search. Habit is the new black, orange or whatever colour you assign to hot trends. Technology matters, but it’s more important to understand buyer behaviour and human motivations and trust.
I would bet you are 99 per cent focused on the technology and, to be more precise, I bet you are 100 percent focused on Google. I’d bet the reason Google isn’t working for your small business isn’t Google; it’s you. Trust me: you’d do even better by stepping into the human psyche.
The following two questions will help you fix your blind spot:
1. How can you get curious about how people really search? (Don’t let your personal bias skew your investigation. Get curious. Ask or watch kids searching.)
Are you acting old, biased and inflexible?
Go ask young people how they use Google to find a bar or a local place to buy a new clothing brand or to research a problem and find a solution. I’m suggesting young people simply because they are more aware of their processes; they have honed their thinking to survive in the digital age. And they find it easy to explain their newly learned processes.
My research shows people prefer to find a page that lists options versus finding a single recommendation or link on Google. They like to leverage the work someone else has already done in compiling a list. There are many such blog posts. They exist to help people find stuff that matters. Are you facilitating the creation of this type of content for your domain and your prospective customers?
People type in words like “top [videos, bars],” “best [books, tips on.., ways to…, solutions to…]” and “alternatives to [Netflix, Priceline, Hertz, etc.” These qualifiers produce a different set of results on Google. They then use the results to make smarter decisions.
Each day, 15 to 20 percent of Google searches are new. This is because people become ever more precise in their questions.
People can skim through these list-post answers to see what they think. Does it match their existing knowledge? Is it independent? If so, they continue to read. If not, they look for another post and another list. Soon, they find what they need.
Self-service has become a collaborative experience. It’s a coping mechanism to deal with the excess of content. People look to the input of others (human curation) over algorithms that could be biased by advertising and sponsorship. They also don’t bookmark. They assume they can find a good enough equivalent next time they search. That’s kind of scary, because it means everything is disposable. Not being included can quickly make your small business brand irrelevant.
2. Have you explored how search really works? (It’s not as dominated by Google as you’d think.)
Are you aware of the acronym P.O.E.M.? It emerged three years ago to explain the interaction between paid, owned and earned media. This model has evolved because the digital landscape has evolved. I did a deep analysis on this in a new model I call S.C.O.P.E.
S.C.O.P.E. stands for Shares/Social, Collaboration, Owned, Paid and Earned. It’s more reflective of the current media landscape than the original P.O.E.M. model. Why? Because there are more places to search than just Google and, based on the traffic volumes of these sites, lots of people understand where to go to look for certain types of information
There are different technology implications behind paid/owned/earned/shared/social that impact more than just Google. Most importantly, consumers (you and I) have modified our search approaches to cater to their full power. I know I go to Slideshare for some types of content and YouTube for others. Sure, Google is my default, but I know where to go to get specialist knowledge.
For instance, I love board games. I even published a game. I’m a game geek. There’s a dedicated site for board games (BoardGameGeek). My game is listed there, too (GiftTRAP). BGG gets a disproportionately high proportion of traffic in the board game domain. Essentially, it’s a search engine for board games and when you search on BGG, you are 100 per cent free from any Google influence. It’s my site of choice when I want to buy or research a game. Perhaps there’s a specialist site you need to explore in your industry.
As an example, YouTube is the No. 2 search engine in the world. It may be owned by Google, but it’s a distinct product – it’s actually a media network for video – and all this content is highly searchable.
Here’s some of the most trafficked sites on the net. The number shows their global ranking via Alexa (think pop charts for the web). I’ve clustered the sites by function to highlight the significance of these three types of sites (Beyond Search Engines, Social Networks, and Media Networks):
As you can see, search is more complex than you probably first thought. It’s certainly more about understanding people and, once you do that, you can think about how you can best serve prospective customers.
Customer needs at the beginning of the buyer journey are usually very simple and focused on learning and assessing how to solve a specific life or business problem. You can be their advisor on that path of discovery.