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June 8, 2006

Getting In Through The Side Door

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Seth Godin asked an important question on his blog yesterday. In fact, it struck me enough that I have yet to close that browser window, and at this point I could probably recite it from memory. His question?

When I type your brand or your name into YouTube (or Technorati or Flickr), what do I find?

Do you even know? The question struck me on two levels because it asks two different questions. First, what are you doing to promote the brand of you? And secondly, how proactive are you about tracking company buzz, positive and negative?

Let’s be honest. High search engine rankings are hard to come by and can be compromised with one major change to the algorithm. My mother always told me when the front door is locked, try going around the side. I imagine she was just trying to discourage my habit of busting in windows, but she was right. The side door is hip, generally unlocked and can be a much easier way of getting in the house.

Vertical and specialized searches help keep that side door ajar and give you another in. For example, is your company logo uploaded on Flickr? If I type in your company will I see shots from product launches, speaking engagements or screenshots of features? How about if I use Google’s Image search? If a picture is worth a thousand words, don’t you think you should tell your customers something about yourself?

Kim Roach wrote a great article for Search Engine Guide that highlighted all those other ways to get into Google. One of our favorites is Google Base, a place where companies can upload product listings that Google then hosts and makes searchable. Kim says your ‘product’ could be anything from an optimized press release, to an actual product for sale, to articles about your company. It’s a great way to reach a whole new audience or just reaffirm your position with your existing one.

What about your blog? Does it show up in Google Blog Search? How about in Technorati? Have others in your industry commented on the things you’ve been talking about? Have you even looked? If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

Other Google side doors: Google Local, Google News, Google Video and Google Co-op. Of course, Yahoo! has similar services.

The great thing about these areas is how widely available they are. None of them are in hiding; instead they’re popping up everywhere. But it’s up to you to take advantage of them. And you can start today.

Upload and tag an image on Flickr or newly released Yahoo Photos. Tag your blog entries on del.icio.us or Technorati. Upload a video to YouTube or Yahoo! Video. Now is the time to reinvent a stagnant branding campaign.

And once you do these things, stay on top of them. Track your buzz. There are a number ways to do this. One of my favorite features of new blog search Sphere is it allows users to view a company’s blog profile. The profile lists the last three links in to your blog so you can easily visit them and keep track of your buzz. Find out who is linking to you. What are they saying? What about the other people commenting on their blog?

One of the fastest ways to hear about what others are saying about you is to subscribe to various RSS feeds. Knowing what people are saying seconds after they say it will allow you to put out fires (if necessary) before they have time to grow and help direct conversation.

The point is there are multitudes of different ways to get into Google and the other engines without fighting the crowds at the front door. Why not take advantage of them? My mother was right. Slipping through the side door really is a much better alternative than busting in the living room window. Thanks Mom.

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