Consider search and site experience. When I say search, I mean your site’s relationship with search engines. When I say site experience, I mean your site’s relationship with its users. The two are interlocked and synergistic.
Your site’s relationship with search includes your site’s natural ranking, presence, placement, etc. and that of a paid nature (usually pay-per-click). Regardless of what it’s called, it’s about relevant access. When your site shows up in search results, that’s when your site is present and accessible.
Consider how powerful that reality is in affecting your business. As we’ve all learned long ago, perception is reality. If I type “insurance providers in Rock Hill, SC” into a search engine, then what comes back are my options. If you are an insurance provider in Rock Hill, SC, then you better be there or you are not an option. If you are a known brand to the searcher off-line, yet still absent in these results, then you are noticeably absent. That absence has negative consequence in the perception of consumers as they come to understand your marketplace.
Where we are now: the local provider must be present in search results for relevant searches. But how? Well, I could write a book about search, and many people have written better books than I could write on the subject. These books range from how search affects our culture and may be the birth of Artificial Intelligence, to how to move your site up the natural rankings, to how to create and manage Google Adsense accounts, and more. So, I’ll approach the subject here in the context of the local service business or professional and hope I add something of interest to the greater body of work.
Search engines work like this:
- The search bot finds your site
- The search bot indexes your pages – each individual page*
- Someone types in a query
- The search engine references it’s database and returns relevant results
*(There are many factors that determine whether a particular page is indexed or not.)
The short of it is that you must be indexed appropriately so that appropriate queries will yield you as a result.
So, how do you get indexed appropriately? Search bots index your website based on the textual content of your site and the connectivity of that site to other sites. In other words, each page is read and interpreted for its textual meaning, and every link to and away from it is analyzed. From the data the bot collects in this process, it interprets what the page is about and how it should be indexed.
Furthermore, search bots return in a frequency directly related to the frequency of your site’s publishing activities. In other words, add content frequently, and your site will be indexed more frequently. The reason for this is that the bot wants to read any page it can and individually index it based on its content. The bot is insatiable – an alien librarian of sorts.
So, you need to:
- Frequently publish quality content
- Frequently link to and encourage links from other relevant websites
These are the basics of your search marketing activities. Of course, these assume that you have a well made website. Not only well developed with clean, operational code, but also effective organization and presentation of the growing content.
In addition to your relationship with the bots and engines, you can pay for immediate presence in search engines for particular search terms with pay-per click programs. For example, you can decide that you want to be present for anyone who searches for insurance in Rock Hill, SC. You do this by agreeing to pay so much per click on your listing. It’s a bidding war so if you bid high enough you will be there. These listings are referred to as sponsored listings and designated as so in the results.
Often I will help service providers run an aggressive pay-per-click campaign during the time between when the site is first launched to when they begin to show strong presence in natural rankings. Some continue with pay-per-click, some don’t.
Your goal should be to be present and accessible when your presence is relevant to the direct motivations of the seeker. Or as one would say, being in the right place at the right time.