Should Search be Renamed?
Developments in the past year are rapidly progressing to redefine the concept of search. And in fact, I believe the term “search” will soon be outdated. You’re not just searching anymore; you’re being found. Information is served up to you without even having to dig for it, based on things like your location, your behavior, your intent, your social networks, you. Search is about making your experience more personal and relevant, and it will only continue to do so.
The topic of the “Search: Where to next?” was yet again discussed at SES this past October. Bruce, Chris Boggs from Rosetta and Robert Murray of iProspect talked about the future of search in a panel session, then did a video recap on the topic (jump down to view key points of the interview):
Bruce: Look at your keywords all over again; they may not be as ideal today as they were when the project started years ago. Longer-tail keywords are more appropriate. Paid advertising will become more necessary as a supplemental activity because positions one to three on the SERPs are now becoming the most important. With Universal Search results, we need to look at other ways of ranking, including looking at all types of content. YouTube and Facebook are key outlets to consider. Businesses that are slow to adapt to these concepts might just change their minds when the bottom line is affected by drops in traffic.
Rob: Understand how SERPs are constructed in your category and keyword set (called “search shelf space”) in order to construct a holistic content strategy that will address all the touch points, whether it’s video, blogs, social, etc. Growing search volumes are occurring at places like Facebook, but it’s a long way away from displacing the major search portals.
Shaking Up Search
To expand on this discussion from SES, let’s take a quick gander at some specific 2010 developments that have contributed to the way search is changing and conversions are made.
Google Instant can become a great way for you to find long-tail keywords you maybe hadn’t thought of before, helping your site to be found. This can also play into the effectiveness of your PPC ads, making them much more targeted.
Google Place Search
Your location is now automatically registered in Google without logging in. If Google believes you are intending to look for a service or place of business in your local area, it will automatically bring you local results via Place Search. Those local results are now pushing the organic listings below the fold. In addition, the local map, typically found towards the middle of the SERP, is now in the right-hand column, pushing PPC ads down.
What does it mean? For one, making sure all your local listings are in order is now more important than ever. Consider using a service like LocalPack to make it easier and less time-consuming to do so. Also, geotargeted PPC ads continue to be important. But now that those PPC ads are pushed down further below the fold, is Google planning to sell pins on the maps?
Social media’s role in search is multifaceted. Once a person finds your business, recommendations that come from the user’s social networks and online communities might be a deciding factor in whether or not your business sees a conversion.
A recommendation or “like” coming from a Facebook friend, or a review someone in one of your circles has given can carry much more clout in the conversion process than simply just ranking – and can even drive conversions if you’re not ranking at all.
Another way social matters is when searching for things directly within your social networks, like Facebook. Social search can also occur when things are recommended to you on a website you are visiting based on interests logged by your social networks. With services like Facebook’s Open Graph protocol and browsers like RockMelt, you have your community and interests following you virtually everywhere you are on the Web.
Check out this awesome video on the progression of social (this guy obviously knows how to promote himself through viral tactics, eh?):
How will your business be a part of the new online experience?
UPDATE 11/12: For more on this topic, check out the liveblog coverage of Bruce’s talk for “May Day SEO for Google Caffeine” at PubCon this week via Search Engine Roundtable.
UPDATE 11/18: Read Bruce’s article in our November newsletter, “Are ‘likes’ the new links?” to learn more about how social is changing search.