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Google: Frenemy?

Can you imagine not caring about how you rank in Google? Maybe someday something will replace Google as what is arguably “the” most important source of top-of-funnel traffic but today much of your marketing activity is rightly focused on SEO and SEM. Having a strong Google game is critical to many companies success. But is Google your friend? I’d argue that Google as Frenemy is the proper way to look at the relationship; Google is critically important at some points but dangerous to rely upon later. Let me explain.

Friendly Google: The Top of Funnel

Helping prospects and customers find your digital presence is perhaps the most important role of Google. Utilizing tools, techniques and skilled employees to make your organic search results better and to buy the right keywords is the right way to manage your business. The competition can be pretty fierce in this space but its worth playing the game. Your competition wants your prospects to go to their site. Your job is to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Website Leakage

Once prospects and customers get to your site you’re in control. Your messaging, your user experience, your products need to be compelling enough to seal the deal. For high consideration products, especially in the B2B space, the consideration phase can be quite long and require information that will be deep on your site. You’ll design navigation paths that try to answer all the questions but you’re not going to satisfy everyone. Some folks will get lost.

During those important mid-funnel transitions, when someone gets lost, they search. Many websites have site search, that handy box on the upper right-hand corner of the page, but you’ve probably trained your visitors to ignore it. How did you train them to ignore it? Well, they tried to use it and the results were awful. Those results are awful because you may not be paying enough attention to the quality of results and you’re also may not be measuring their success effectively. So, instead of using your site search your visitors go back to Google right as they’re approaching conversion.

Google as Frenemy

The good news is that Google has the ability to search within a site. The bad news is not many people know about this. If all users knew how to do this, relying upon Google for mid-funnel searches would be fine. However, not many users use the search within a site function. So, they’re starting with an empty search box and searching for that next piece of information they need.

If your organic search results are awesome, then maybe you have a chance at getting the visitor back on-site and on track to conversion. But your competitors know this so they’ll be working to put ads on the keywords they know you use and their organic results are going to be nestled up alongside yours.

Not only do you have this problem of competition but there’s also an economic argument about not letting your prospects and customers go back to Google. You spend a lot of money on SEO and paid search. If one of your prospects returns to Google and clicks on one of your paid links, you’ve paid Google twice for the same opportunity. There’s got to be a better way than giving your competitors a second crack at your prospects and paying for the privilege.

Attract them. Keep them.

There is. You have a tool on your website, that search box, that can be helpful in such situations. You have to train your prospects that it’s worth their time to use this tool. Your site search doesn’t have to be awesome, it just has to be good. Really good if you want to stretch. There’s a couple of things you can do to get started.

  1. Measure search usage and search success. You can’t get better if you don’t have a good baseline.
  2. Do the two things that can quickly improve site search results. These are things almost everyone can do easily.
  3. Utilize automation tools that use search success data to improve search results. You have the data to at least get started with rule-based automation. A/B testing is one method that works. Smarter auto-suggestion is another. There are many opportunities where search data can be utilized in simple tools to make the customer experience better.
  4. Apply Text Analytics and Natural Language processing techniques to improve taxonomy and develop relevant facets to improve findability. This is a bit more difficult but worth the effort. Your content is the most important thing that influences both internal and external search results. Text Analytics can help to improve findability.
  5. Deploy machine learning capabilities that improve visitor journeys that go through site search. Site search is data. Machine learning can do the pattern analysis to help you draw insight from your visitor’s site search behavior.

You’ve paid a lot of money to get prospects to your website. Give them a reason to stay. Make sure they can easily connect with the content they need by having site search that delivers on the promise.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.