When people think about the best way for their website to be found online they typically say something like, “I want my website be ranked #1 on Google for terms x, y, and z.” An SEOs natural reaction is to set the expectation that there are no guarantees to be ranked #1, but if we can rank for those terms, and a host of other long tail terms, that we will discover through keyword research, your website will likely receive a significant amount of continuous qualified traffic that we can measure through onsite analytics. That’s all well and good, but there are a lot of questions that come to mind regarding the impact of search on your company that goes beyond the measurement of traffic from Google searches:
- What about references to your company on other websites that rank on search engines?
- What about your company’s multi-media content outside the website that finds its way to search engines via blended search?
- What about how easy it is to find your company’s videos on YouTube (which recently surpassed Yahoo! to become the #2 search engine in the U.S in the U.S)?
- What about the ease in which people find the information their looking for through your own internal search box on your website?
- What about rapidly evolving technology that’s introducing entirely new ways of searching, such as TinEye that allows you to search for images with images (or search for music with images)?
Traditional SEO programs often ignore these types of questions. I am not suggesting the need to broaden your current SEO scope. It is important to keep things focused enough in order to test different strategies, measure, and make small accomplishments that lead to greater success over time (Not to mention the fact that when resources and budget are tight organic traffic from major search engines should, at the moment, take up the lion’s share of your attention). Instead, I am proposing the need for a separate umbrella strategy that approaches ALL online efforts from the perspective of search (Instead of an “umbrella”, it make more sense to think of it as planting your company’s seeds in search-rich fertilizer). I call this your company’s Search Visibility Plan. Wherever and however someone is searching for something related to your industry, you want to be found. Its not always possible that your website is found, but as long as a piece of your content, a video, an image, a blurb, an application etc… is found, you benefit from that visibility.
The act of search will only continue to further entrench itself into everything we do online. You should already be considering search when developing offline content. We’ve been seeing this for a few years now, when the call-to-action in an advertisement is to type in “x” to a sites search box. Is it easier to remember a long URL, or to search for a funky, brandable keyword? Search behavior will continue to evolve as we become more and more comfortable with typing in 6+ words into that search box that lives on all websites. The long tail of how we find information online is only going to grow longer. Query strings will grow, and so will the number of “search engines” we use. Whether it is considered a search engine or not, as internal search on websites improves, people will use it more. With improvements in personalized and social search, search results will become increasingly customized to the individual, and ranking on the first page of Google, will, over time, have less of an impact on driving traffic. Having searchable content in different mediums distributed to your customer’s virtual hangouts and resources will become more important. This is where your overarching Search Visibility Plan kicks in. Because you have paid attention to the trends, optimized, distributed, and syndicated all forms of content, you can be found wherever and however your customers are looking.
In certain respects this concept has been discussed at length, and referred to as Digital Asset Management (DAM). According to Wikipedia one definition of DAM is the following:
“The protocol for downloading, renaming, backing up, rating, grouping, archiving, optimizing, maintaining, thinning, and exporting files.”
DAM should be considered a sizable chunk of your Search Visibility Plan because it will allow your distribution of content to run as smoothly as possible. If your digital assets are well organized and easily found within your company, this will eventually translate to effective distribution and visibility online.
Below I’ve outlined a guideline of a Search Visibility Plan as it would be executed today for a company in any industry. Think of it as a foundation for drawing your own roadmap across the search landscape. A well-researched keyword strategy is the backbone of your Search Visibility Plan. Your keyword strategy must remain constant throughout the content creation and distribution process, as your keywords will work together as a measurable force across the Web. At the same time you must be privy to current keyword trends and be able to make tweaks to your strategy quickly. Good luck!
Search Visibility Plan
I. Keyword Strategy – Encompasses all content creation and distribution
II. Search Engine Optimization – Encompasses all content creation and distribution
III. Mediums – Identify current assets, and those that need to be created (by your company and/or consumers)
g. Software application
h. Social application
i. Mobil application
IV. Distribution Channels – Identify optimal places for your content to live, and references to your content to be placed.
c. Partner sites
f. Social bookmarking sites (primarily text based)
g. Social networking sites (primarily text based)
h. Video sharing sites
i. Image sharing sites
j. Article submission sites
V. Distribution Courses of Action – Identify actions that will be taken or procedures that will be put in place in order to distribute your content
c. Bookmark / Tag
e. Really Simple Syndication (RSS)
a. Rankings (taken with a LARGE grain of salt)
d. Mentions (using tools like Converseon‘s Conversation Miner or Visible Technologies Social Media Monitoring)
e. Goals (sales, brand perception, campaign awareness)
f. There really are tons of different ways to measure success. Here’s an excellent post on 33 website success metrics instead of rankings, Google PageRank, and Traffic
Thanks for reading everybody! I am very interested to know what you think about the outline. What’s missing? What needs further elaboration? Am I completely off base? All feedback is welcome (no matter how harsh ?). Also, if you have any thoughts on how to best represent this plan in some kind of info-graphic I’m all ears.