Search is for people.

Search_Matt_1“Above all, you want to create something you are proud of. That’s always been my philosophy of business. I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive, then I believe you are better off doing nothing.”

-Sir Richard Branson

So, as was announced earlier this month, I’m new here. My name is Matt, I’m our Director of Digital Marketing, and it’s nice to meet you! When you run into my musings on our Shiny blog, you’ll generally find them to be about SEO, SEM, Email, Analytics, UX, site optimization, content creation strategies, business models and, well, you get the idea. If you’ve made it far enough to read this, you must like this stuff enough to care about my ramblings.

For today I’m going to focus my musings on SEO. Going back to the quote above, few search campaigns that are created to score that elusive, yet highly coveted, free traffic are really effective. That’s because they tend to be focused on what the business wants, not what people need. After a decade in this space I never fail to be amazed when someone shows me a really average, generic, webpage and then wonders why they are having issues with organic search. I generally respond by asking them if they think their content is the best answer to the search query. Shrug. And that response explains why they aren’t having success.

If a user finds your content to offer some unique benefit, or be a safe, well-known bet when satisfactory answers are plentiful, then you’re ready to figure out how to really use search to drive your business. If not, it’s probably safe to say that it’s time to build something you’re proud of and that really puts the needs of the searcher first.

With that said, here are a few questions that can help you start to consider if your Search campaign can be effective, before you start:

1. Is your site known to be a topical authority?

If your site is already a big fish in your space, or at least a semi-respected swimmer in the pond, pass Go and collect your $200. If you’re pretty unknown, it’s a good time to put on the floaties (last swimming reference, promise) and start some educational branding.

2. Can your site answer a search query with relevant information, or do you need to craft an answer to a search query?

If you have good content that automatically meets what someone is seeking, SEO is for you. On the other hand, if you see people searching for stuff but you don’t have a lot of content, then you’d better be prepared to put out some money to get them to your site via paid search. For example, if you’re a transactional site, seeking traffic from informational queries, it’s reasonable to assume you’re going to need to meet the user on their terms. That’s okay because not every search term is intended to lead to a sale, and if you’re not valuing a customer lifecycle, and only focused on a transaction at all points of contact, Search will not likely succeed.

3. Do you have a structure in place that allows you to analyze the results and improve the user experience, based on the data?

It’s easy to blame the Search guy, or gal if you aren’t seeing the results you want. The reality is that if you’ve closed off the option of page optimization, because Search hasn’t yet been successful, you may be missing the exact reason it hasn’t been.

4. Would you be upset if another site outranks you because, in your gut, you know that your product, or offering, is truly superior, and more relevant?

If you’re truly proud of what you’ve built, or what you’re working with, that’s a pretty good sign that Search is right for you. Sounds too simple? It’s not. If your product performance and purpose matters to you, it will likely have a good chance to matter to a search engine, and the users it represents.

As our new Director of Digital Marketing, I’ll be sharing thoughts and tactics based on those principles on our Shiny blog. Feel free to grab me anytime with a comment, or email (mleonard@shiny.agency), should you have something to add, or a question to ask. Looking forward to the conversation!