Andrew Delamarter, Huge
Wiring Your Enterprise for the Post-Search Era
While it’s too early to say that search is dead, it is looking long in the tooth. Search – paid or organic – is no longer even remotely the only game in town. New traffic and content engagement contexts arise almost daily, each with their own specific requirements and optimization strategies.
Brands that seek to align their organization, technology and content to connect to these new platforms via APIs, semantic strategies, partnerships or paid inclusion will be the winners in this new and more complex post-search era.
Examples of how the classic era of search is drawing to a close can be found everywhere, with many innovations coming from search engines like Google.
Splintering referral sources
Leading mobile discovery apps like Google’s Field Trip proactively present location-specific recommendations to users on Android devices, no search required. Add in web content discovery platforms like Pinterest, and users have lots of new options for finding inspiration, getting recommendations or connecting with the information they need.
On the hardware side, gadgets from smart watches to dashboard devices of all kinds use GPS, embedded Internet connections and natural language processing to connect users with information seamlessly far away from any search results page.
From search first to user first
Over the past 10 years, brands and digital publishers have developed, published and restructured digital content to align with the needs of search engines (‘SEO’). Entire business strategies evolved and revolved around ranking well on search engines. Many continue to do so.
While engines like Google have always pushed webmasters to ‘put users first,’ the age of the user has only recently dawned. And it has come about not just from the increasingly sophisticated nature of search engines themselves, but also from the incredibly diverse set of contexts in which content is now being consumed.
It’s no longer enough to publish and optimize a blog post. Now that post needs to be a piece of compelling content able to work across a multitude of places for a multitude of audiences on a multitude of devices. It needs to be visually and narratively compelling, technically sound and adaptive to the device it is consumed on, and worthy of inclusion and curation in a variety of ways.
As the leaked New York Times Innovation document made clear, brands must go beyond creating (and optimizing) content to the wide range of tactics described as Content Marketing – an umbrella term for thinking about content with the user and business objective in mind and making content work for both over the long haul. Even The New York Times is starting to realize creating and publishing great content is not enough. Real thought and effort is necessary to get it out into the new digital world.
Wiring content into engagement platforms
Taking a user-first view of content means thinking about what content suits your users needs and where and how it will be consumed. Proactive strategies are required here beyond optimizing your on-site content for search engines.
For example, when a user accesses a restaurant menu via the Yelp app, the menu data did not just get scraped off the restaurant site and dropped into the app. The restaurant owner needed to actually create a structured data set of menu content and upload it to Yelp or a 3rd party aggregator like SinglePlatform.
Increasingly, brands and businesses will need to undertake these efforts and build content relationships if they want to be in front of users. The unstructured, ‘free’ world of web content discovery is giving way to thousands of structured, paid, and non-web content platforms. Brands need to focus on forging the agreements and building the APIs, feeds and open data sets to push their content into these new places.
If you’re a publisher – and like it or not, if you’re a brand, you should be – you are not going to get your content into apps like Field Trip or Yelp unless you reach out to them, make a deal and build the technical infrastructure their platform requires. It’s a lot more work than traditional SEO, but potentially much more valuable.
One brand, many faces
While the digital landscape is growing more complex, some things remain the same. Search is still a huge business driver and will continue to be so for some time. Instead of throwing winning classical search tactics away, brands should seek to expand their view and investment in content while giving it a chance to fly as far as its wings will take it. This requires thinking about content through many lenses, optimizing and wiring for as many contexts as possible. Like a faceted gemstone, enterprises must understand that no two users may want or have the same view of their content ecosystem and plan accordingly.
About the Author: Andrew Delamarter specializes in online marketing for e-commerce and B2B organizations, search engine marketing and optimization, web analytics and product management.