Tag Archives: search

Why Facebook Should Search Outside of Search…

The news that Facebook is considering a venture into search has sparked much debate in tech circles.  Since its very inception, Facebook has striven to integrate itself ever more visibly into every facet of our lives; its recent IPO and subsequent floatation on the stock market accelerating this desire for ubiquitous omnipresence even further.  But are plans to enter the search market one step too far for the social networking behemoth?

My initial reaction was that this is a step too far.  Although no technology company is ever untouchable (look at the declining fortunes of Nokia), Google’s dominance of the search market and the web economy shows no signs of slowing.

This venture into search actually parallels Google’s avenue into social media: Google Plus was launched last year in an attempt to leverage the company’s ownership of search and content and thus grab a slice of an extremely lucrative social pie.  But even the most ardent Google fan would have to admit that this venture has not been met with the success the search giant would have hoped for.

As of September 2012, Google Plus boasts 400m accounts, which, at half of Facebook’s membership, gained in only a year, is a staggering achievement.  But the truth is that many of these accounts have simply been given automatically to people who use various other Google products, such as Gmail – and this may go some way to explaining the low engagement rate.

And this is not to say that Google Plus is a failure: it has a beautiful UI, its integration with search results allows us to see content publicly ‘+1’d’ in search results and features such as hangouts and circles have been lauded by many tech commentators and consumers alike.  But despite this, the platform has simply failed to inspire the wider general public in the way that Facebook has.

So if Google, a company with almighty clout, has ‘failed’ to dent Facebook’s ownership of social, what makes Facebook think that it can take on search?

There’s a lot of compelling arguments to suggest that Facebook is in a good position to do just that.  Search links people with content, and Facebook is one of the biggest sources of content generation on the Internet.  Facebook is a visible part of our everyday lives and a digital destination that we use frequently throughout the day.  Adding a service such as search makes it easier for users, right?

I’m not so sure.

You see, for me, one of the big appeals of social media is its serendipitous nature.  I like browsing through my feeds, stumbling over amusing photos that friends have shared on Facebook; reading an article that a colleague has posted on Twitter; discovering some amazing research from a contact on LinkedIn.  Browsing and discovering are wonderful features of social media – and browsing is very different to search.

When we search for something, we actively know what we want; what we are looking for.  And tools such as Google and Bing serve that need perfectly.  When I log into Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, I don’t go there because I’m after a specific piece of information – I go there to discover.  And that’s crucial.

Social media connects me with content, which, granted, is exactly what search does.  But when I visit my social channels, I’m engaging in a journey of discovery.  I don’t know whether I’ll stumble across a fascinating piece of research shared by a colleague, or a photograph of a cat dressed in a cowboy outfit posted by a sibling.  If I knew exactly what content that I wanted to consume, the chances are that I would have turned to Google to seek out my insightful research article.  Or cat picture…

You could argue that Facebook is in a position to offer both – serendipitous moments of discovery shared by friends, as well as providing a search feature.  But, in my opinion, Facebook needs to be very careful that it doesn’t dilute its proposition as the world’s foremost social networking platform – which it is – by trying to model itself into a sole hub for people’s entire internet experience.

For me, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google – all of these channels have been so successful because they own their particular features – and are damn good at what they do.  Trying to shoehorn a service offered ten times better elsewhere leaves a company in danger of diluting the core proposition that made it so successful in the first place.

And for me, that’s why I believe that Facebook should search outside of search for any new additions to its popular service.

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David ‘Social’ Cameron & Nick ‘SEO’ Clegg – a Digital Marketing Coalition?

Three years ago, I started a new job as an SEO copywriter with the express directive of making websites visible in search results.  36 months on, and it is now consumers who are making themselves visible online, through social networks and digital communications platform.  Is SEO dead?  Can we actually continue to make ourselves visible, when consumers choose whom they want to see – and indeed, whom they want to be seen by?  Is there any point?

The topical Gap logo debacle is surely testament to the fact that consumers are now brand owners, although my personal opinion is that this was a cleverly construed PR stunt to generate buzz around the brand.  Regardless of the intended effect, the outcome of this recent issue adds further credence to the power of social.  Consumers now own brands, and social has undoubtedly been the conduit that has made this achievable.  But social is only half of the story.

Once people are talking about your brand, where is the transaction?  Gap may well be back at the forefront of the collective consumer mind, but if a search in Google generates no results, how does the customer journey continue?

Whereas magazine readers will sit down, engage with and caress a magazine for a discernible period of time, digital customers are fleeting phantoms.  If, as digital marketers, we don’t cover all touchpoints, our potential customers will become bored, frustrated and move on – I’ve behaved exactly like that on more than one occasion.

There’s no doubt that social is now very important for digital marketers – I’d venture so far as to suggest vital.  However, we have to keep social as part of an overall digital toolkit and ensure that we use those other tools convert the transaction that social generates.

Social media may be David Cameron-esque in its relative metaphorical position of power, but make no mistake; without Nick ‘SEO’ Clegg, the digital coalition would not be anywhere as effective.

Google Instant: Not Re-Invention of the Wheel, Just a Change of Direction.

As an SEO copywriter at heart, I have long maintained an avid personal and professional interest in this crucial digital discipline.  Needless to say, the arrival of Google Instant – an engine that delivers results *as you type* – has caused something of a stir in digital circles.  Will this spell a complete re-write (literally) of large digital websites?  Or will well-optimised platforms be nicely positioned regardless of the change in search method?

Here are some key pointers for digital marketers

i) A search by any other name is just as sweet…

Let’s not forget that Google Instant does the same as Google ‘normal’ (Google ‘un-instant?’) – it delivers results based on users’ search requests.  In theory, digital marketers with well-optimised websites should have nothing to fear.  The time and effort that has been invested in SEO will continue to serve to serve them well.  Google Instant is a change in search – but it’s still search.

ii) Redefine your keywords

Of course, this isn’t to say that Google Instant should be ignored completely.  Like it or not, Google is Caesar, and when in Rome…  If the masses do adopt Google Instant as their preferred search method, shorter keywords will become much more significant.  For example, if you have built your SEO strategy around long-tail search strings such as ‘cheap electrical goods with free delivery in the UK’, you may need to refocus this to ‘cheap electrical goods’.  Why?  By the time your customer has typed ‘cheap electrical goods’ – nay, even ‘cheap electrical’ – they will have a stream of search results before them already.

iii) Long-tail search is not dead

Despite the introduction of Google Instant, this does not spell the death knell for long-tail search.  If web users are looking for a specific search string, they’ll continue to type keywords until they find it.  It’s far too easy for businesses to get hung up on being found for a very generic keyword, but consumers are a lot more savvy than we give them credit for.  Don’t get me wrong; if you are a provider of ‘cheap holidays’, you have your work cut out for you – but then this is nothing new.  If you are a manufacturer of bespoke Isle of Wight Oak tree furniture, the chances are people will continue to seek you out traditionally.

In summary?  Google Instant will undoubtedly cause SEO copywriters and digital marketers some work over the next few months, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.  Good SEO copywriters know that you should regularly refresh your copy as best practice anyway, so Google Instant is not the doom-bringer than believe it to be.

This is an excellent opportunity for SEO copywriters and digital marketers to re-establish the keywords that they want to be found for, and to give their online presence a refresh.  Google has not reinvented the wheel – it’s simply given that wheel a new lick of paint and as SEO / digital marketers, it’s our job to ensure that that wheel remains on the right track.