Update Your Exposure: Optimizing Your Search Engine Presence
When it comes to shopping for products and services, the internet has changed the game time and again. Gone are the days when you’d have to scour the mall (or worse, comb through the yellow pages) to find what you’re looking for—now, all you have to do is type a few words into a search engine, and all of your options are digitally delivered to you. But wait..do you still have to type a few words?
Search engines like Google serve as an electronic directory to every website under the sun, and with the help of SEO (or search engine optimization), there is a science to making sure your page ranks among their top results. Learning this science is not without its perks—in addition to bringing more visitors to your website, it can lend to brand transparency, boost conversion rates, and build up your bottom line overall. As pivotal as SEO still is, there are new ways to search on the horizon that could revolutionize the process all over again.
It’s the dawn of 2019, and this year is bringing two sophisticated, high-tech search options to the forefront: voice search, and visual search. Though these methods have been available in some form for a while, early glitches and a lack of familiarity have kept many businesses from tapping into their true potential, leaving the door wide open for you. While powerful alone, combining these tools with your existing SEO strategy makes it a triple threat. Who couldn’t use that? You know you could, and we’ve got the breakdown covered so you can dress your brand for search engine success in the next year.
Going Old School with SEO
If there were an “elder statesman” of digital marketing, it would be SEO—it stands as the quintessential way to stand out among thousands of search results. Whether you sell lip gloss or cleaning services, you know your competition is out there, and your goal is to make potential customers choose you over every available option. Turns out, that’s really hard to do if they never see your website.
An SEO strategy involves telling Google that your page is relevant to what their users are looking for, and a successful one makes your website top their list of search results. Being one of the first choices they see can lead them to trust you, engage with you, and be more inclined to buy from you. The search engine monolith wants their users to get exactly what they need quickly and easily, so your job is to show them that you are your industry’s crème de la crème.
It’s true that best practices for SEO are ever-changing. Depending on your individual business, they may include keyword research to utilize phrases your target market is searching for, or designing your website in a way that communicates precisely what you have to offer. If you haven’t dabbled in this method before, check out our podcast for a crash course in SEO 101.
Listen Up: It’s Voice Search
In the event that you didn’t know, people love AI-based “assistants” on their smart devices. As you read this, folks around the country are asking Apple’s-own Siri to tell them a joke, or Amazon’s Alexa to play their favorite song on their Echo. The once awkward (and even scary) concept of verbally engaging with technology has won over the public, and they’re quickly learning that it’s as useful as it is entertaining.
Voice search refers to customers using these programs to find services and goods that they want to buy, and its impact has been nothing less than impressive. Not only do shoppers want to talk to their devices about the hot buys their favorite brands have waiting for them, but the purchases made via this method has climbed to over a billion dollars (and rising).
As AI software improves, so does their search functionality, and the latest smartphones and “smart speakers” are built to be an intuitive asset to their users’ lives. This means big business for companies large and small, and can be particularly useful for organizations with a local customer base. Picture it: your audience can talk “to” you without even having to pick up a phone!
All Eyes on Visual Search
Say you’re at a park, and you see someone wearing a killer sweater. It’s asymmetrical, it looks vaguely European, and it’s covered in dots and stripes. You want the sweater, but outside of asking a stranger where they get their duds, how would you find it for yourself?
You might try to Google “European asymmetrical dot stripe sweater”, but you’re going to get a ton of options, and many will likely not be the knitwear you’re after (we know because we tried it). If you try to describe it to the personal assistant on your phone, you’ll likely run up against the same problems. If you can’t easily identify it, how can you search for it?
Cue visual search to save the day (and enhance your wardrobe). With services like Google Lens, the camera on your tablet or smartphone becomes what you’re searching for, allowing you to pinpoint a specific item with a snap of your camera lens. Simply take a picture, and the software does the searching for you. Now, imagine how accessible this technology will make the products you sell? Needless to say, the future is now.
Applying What You’ve Learned
Whether you’re excited for or terrified by technologies’ enhancements to your online presence, their takeover is seemingly inevitable. That could leave you wondering how to best incorporate their elements into your own marketing strategy. Kick off the new year with these 5 tips in mind:
1. Keep voice search short and sweet – As fun as it is to chat with Bixby or Siri, customers aren’t looking to have a novel read to them every time they search for a new product. Prep voice search for your brand by utilizing condensed sentences, and summarize what you have going on as concisely as possible. The more information you can pack into a few seconds of their attention, the better.
2. Have the pics to back up visual search – If you’re the type of brand that has one really beautiful image per item on your website, you might want to consider beefing up your photo quantity. Keep in mind that someone might snap a photo of your goods from the top or bottom, in bad lighting, or from an awkward angle. Offering them more photos to match can increase your visibility, and after all, that’s what it’s all about.
3. Make visual search a cohesive experience – In the same way that your overall company image should be fluid, your photos should be too. Using both random shots and professional images of a product on your page is not only sloppy, it makes visual search identification harder to come by. People won’t know that it’s you if it doesn’t look like you, so try to keep your pictures consistent across the board.
4. Think about your brand voice – It’s true that potential customers may first hear your “brand voice” through Alexa’s robotic tone, but when it comes to voice search, you still need to be sure that your words appropriately represent your company. If your social media is fun and light, don’t put dry, drawn-out phrases on your page for the world to hear. Make sure that every element of your online presence is complementary, and there will be no doubt that shoppers have found the right business.
5. Don’t forget about SEO – While you rush to rise to the high-tech demands of your target audience, don’t feel like you have to abandon good old SEO. There will likely always be segments of your audience that prefer the hands-on experience of a manual search, and you don’t want to alienate them with too much future-focus. Do your research, identify your keywords, and re-work your SEO strategy until it works for you.
When it comes to courting new customers, the tides have turned from being there when they look for you to actively engaging with them. As marketing moves toward a more tailored experience, your interaction with your audience does too, and it’s all the more important to meet them where they’re at.
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