Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - June 2007
Welcome to the June edition of our monthly newsletter, covering current web search and marketing issues that can have an impact on business websites.
In this issue we report on the latest announcement from Google with their 'universal search' results and the impact this may have on search engine optimisation, plus the importance of getting your business listed on the Google Maps service. We also consider the role of online competitors in the search engine results and what you should be looking out for when considering the impact on your business.
On to this month's edition...
Google's ‘universal search’
Google announced, and implemented, its move to ‘universal search’ results in the last month, which means that they are now combining all relevant search results into one place. This followed soon after the introduction of personalised search, so what impact will these changes have on search engine optimisation?
Google’s 'universal search' results means that the main Google search engine will also display more results from images, videos, maps, news, blogs and other sources, which are related to a particular search, rather than just text content. This has been happening to some extent for several years now, but with Google's mission to 'organise the world's information' this marks their next big step towards provide relevant search results from all sources.
You can only see the full impact of these changes on Google.com at present and different results tend to appear on searches for people (Kylie Minogue), films (Pirates of the Caribbean) or TV clips (Dead Parrot Sketch) although more differences will be expected to appear as well as a roll-out of the these results to regional versions of Google.
This move is a challenge for Google since they need to provide suitable weighting of search results from different sources – for example, images and video will need to be included in the search algorithm in a different way to pure text content. Google also seems to be moving away from their separate vertical search tools by presenting this information on the main Google search tool, although this is probably a reflection of relatively low user numbers on these other options.
In terms of search engine optimisation we will need to see how the results begin to differ and how widespread any changes may be. Some business sectors will be affected more than others and certainly searches related to local markets will need to ensure coverage in Google Maps (see below). Optimisation of a website should be covering all likely options available on the site anyway, but it also adds new layers to the strategies that may be required to support business rankings in certain markets. Ultimately Google wants to present the best, most relevant, results to users and the challenge for online companies is to continue to take advantage of these opportunities across this potentially broader field.
This announcement by Google follows the previous one about personalised search, whereby users who have a Google login may search and record their results, so that as data on their search history grows, so will the end results begin to differ from the public results seen by other users. There is likely to be limited impact from this option at the moment although the trend to more personalised results will be one that we will need to monitor in the future.
For more information or help on how these changing search results may affect your business, please contact us for details.
Keeping track of online competitors
Search engine marketing may be considered by some to just be about search engine rankings and search referral traffic. However, any true search engine marketing campaign is ultimately about increasing business enquiries from search, which means that the conversion rate from a website or business process also plays a key role, as does the impact of competitor websites.
Reviewing ranking reports to assess the ranking positions being achieved, or website analytics to gauge the volume and type of search engine referrals, does provide valuable information, but this is often just a snapshot of what is really going on within the search market for your business. High search rankings may not necessarily convert into increased business, whereas better volumes of search engine referral traffic may still be generated, despite some poor rankings for the main search terms.
All these elements need to be considered as part of the overall marketing process and one of the main factors that can often be ignored is what the actual searcher experiences. When your website ranks well for a particular search term that’s relevant to your business, what else will the searcher – and potential customer – see? Which other companies are ranking in the ‘natural’ or paid listings? What are they saying on their search links to their websites? And what will the searcher find when they compare your site to others?
Just as in any other business sector, online companies need to be aware of their competitors within the search market. You should be searching the market on a regular basis to know who are your competitors here, since they may be different to those that are competing with your business ‘offline’. You should also consider how they are operating, by reviewing such factors as:
- how do they attract searchers to click on the link to their site from the search results?
- what initial impact does the potential customer see once they land on the site?
- what ‘tone of voice’ does the site address the visitor?
- what is a the usability of the site like – does it work quickly and make the enquiry or ordering process easy for the user?
- what is the functionality of the site like – is it easy to navigate and does it offers tools or services that others don’t?
- what information is provided about their products or services?
- are they offering any free services or special offers and, most importantly, what are their prices like?
Some of these items may be difficult to assess and ideally you should also get an independent view of your competitors’ websites compared to yours. You also need to consider how important some elements may be in attracting visits and business away from your site.
As we have highlighted previously, it’s now more important than ever to convert as many visitors to your website as you can, which may mean testing some different approaches and learning from your competitors what may or may not work well. The search market can also change quickly, so this is an area that does need regular attention, because it may be the case that your competitors are doing the same to you!
We can provide help with different levels of competitor analysis, so if you want to know more, please contact us for details.
Local business listings on Google Maps
As Google Maps becomes more sophisticated and increases its visibility through Google's new ‘universal search’ results (see above) and mobile search, there is an increasing importance for many businesses to obtain a listing on this service.
Since Google Maps was first launched in early 2005, as a development of the Google Local search service, it has provided the opportunity for searchers to locate businesses or other services within a local or regional area. Business listings were initially linked to company information found within Google’s search results, or from associations with Yellow Pages listings (or similar services in the countries covered by this Google Maps service, which currently covers United States, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, the UK, China, and Japan).
More recently Google Maps has allowed business owners to edit their listings and to provide more in-depth information, such as additional contact details, a more detailed business description or images, as well as opening times, payment methods and other customised attributes, such as specialisations, areas served and local transport links. You can even create coupons that users who view your business details may print out and bring along to your shop or other venue.
Local search marketing is growing in importance and will be especially relevant for businesses that have a customer outlet or want to attract business from a local area. As mobile search services develop and the interactivity supporting local business marketing increases, it should be an essential strand to the marketing activity undertaken by any localised business or companies with a chain of stores in different locations.
If your business isn’t currently listed then you can submit your details online, or if you do have a listing you can check these are correct and then add additional information. Google Maps will then write to you at the address provided to confirm the information is correct and provide you with a verification code to activate your new details on this service.
When users search Google Maps for a type of business within an area, listings appear ranked in order of distance from a required location, or based on keywords if searching within a wider area, some optimisation of these listings can also be an important factor.
If you’d like to know more about Google Maps and how you can list your business, please contact us for details.
Recent articles from The Marketing Workbench
The Marketing Workbench is our regular blog covering news and comment on Internet marketing events and trends. If you want to keep track of current stories you can visit this section of our website on a regular basis, or set up an RSS feed. These are just some of the items posted over the past month:
- Auditing web traffic statistics
- Web 2.0 and business
- Spotlight on the Australian SEO industry
- Trademark issues with PPC advertising
We hope you've found this month's issue useful. Please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website's performance. Also, if there are any issues you would like to see in future editions of this newsletter, please submit your suggestions to us.