The title of this post is a quote by Dell’s VP of Communities and Conversations, Bob Pearson (care of Forrester Analyst Jeremiah Owyang).
Bob’s quote really struck a chord with me because it’s a simple reality that many organizations are either overlooking or ignoring today. People are starting to view the Google search bar as their URL entry box. Instead of typing “www.zappos.com” people are simply typing the world “Zappos” into a search form. An excellent piece on ReadWriteWeb provides further insight into this rising habit.
What this means for companies is that their homepages should no longer be considered the most highly trafficked resource for people looking for their product. Consumers are becoming savvier, and an unfortunate consequence (for brands) is that people are more likely to trust third party resources vs. the brand themselves.
Because consumers are no longer spending as much time on the tightly controlled environment that brands build themselves, companies, more than ever, need to be fully aware of the search results that are sharing space with them and hopefully taking steps to make those neighbors ones that raise the value of their real estate.
Is Google the Big Winner Here?
Does the above situation translate into a need for all of a brand’s paid listings to pop up when users search for them? To Google’s dismay…not necessarily. A brands biggest concern should not be that their competitors sites are popping up in paid listings next to theirs, their biggest concern should be the negative pages that show up in the results organically. Those are the listings that are much less in Google’s control and more in the hands of consumers/brands.
Shopping for groceries is a great example of the above. You go down the canned food isle. You see that there are diced tomatoes being sold by Dole and Del Monte. They are both about the same price, size, and are located on the same shelf. If you don’t have a preference, you’ll end up just randomly picking one. Next time, you’ll pick the other. Now let’s say the situation is slightly different. You walk through the same isle and on the way to the tomatoes you see a small sign on a now empty shelf that says “Del Monte canned peas have been recalled due to a case of E-Coli.” The peas probably have nothing to do with the tomatoes you want to buy, but odds are when you get to the tomato shelf, your decision on which tomatoes to buy is no longer a 50/50 split.
But my tomatoes don’t have E-Coli!
There are great brands with great products. So much time, money, and resources are put into creating those products and then getting those products into the hands of consumers. That effort should not diminish when the product changes hands.
Just because there are people who are writing about your product on Yelp and GetSatisfaction, doesn’t mean you have to sit back and watch your search results get contaminated. No one is barred from producing content on the web. A brand has just as much right to talk about their great qualities and respond to those who disagree.
It may not be possible for a small team to compete with the entire voice of the internet, but it can definitely help. People want to engage with the brands they use. If an irritated customer posts a review on a site it may get a handful of comments, but if a representative of a brand posts something, it will be dramatically more populated. Those subsequent comments may not all be positive, but they all lead to an initial thread in which a brand got to voice its honest thoughts and show that it took an interest. A thread which in many situations will show up higher on a search results page than a very negative post that has just a few responses.
Reacting to others isn’t the lone remedy either. Creating great content around your product in pivotal to your organic search success. A big part of Google’s secret formula for organic search is traffic. If you build it (something great), they will come. The better something is, the more traffic it gets, the closer it will rest to your ideal search results.
So a microsite isn’t enough?
The key takeaway here is that when planning out budgets for consumer facing entities, the microsite simply cannot take the full budget anymore. The microsite certainly serves a purpose (as does investing in SEO to bring it higher up), but the majority of brand/consumer interactions are taking place in the domain of the consumer’s choosing. Subsequently the brand has no other choice but to focus a larger chunk of its efforts to optimize the content being created by their consumers and their critics.