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Google; it’s not you, it’s me.

Over the past decade the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) industry has boomed. Getting to the number one spot in Google for your chosen keywords was the name of the game.

Businesses have done, and continue to, spend thousands on moving up the rankings of search engines. And there has only ever been one search engine that people really care about which is of course the internet giant – Google. Bing, Yahoo, Ask, and many more have tried to muscle in on the search engine market but Google has stayed strong and is widely seen as the one to focus SEO efforts on.

In the last 12-18 months the search engine space has changed dramatically and unless there is a major U-turn in the way the masses use the internet then we can continue to expect to see “traditional” search engines being used less, or at least for a different purpose.

So what has changed?

The rise of social media. More and more people are fundamentally changing the way they use the internet. As a business it is important to understand this change and what it means to you.

To quote Paul Marsden, writer for Social Commerce Today – “Search is about finding what you want, and social is about researching what you want”.

People have always asked their friends and family when researching a new purchase but now that conversation has moved online and the friends and family are their social networking circles.

As Paul states – “In a commercial context, we use social media to research options – from the shared ratings and reviews of strangers, to being open to the ideas, endorsements and behaviour of people we know and trust.  When we’ve researched, and settled on an option, then we search.

So as a business it is time to take a serious look at social media, which sites your target audience are using, and how to become influential in those networks.

Is a good search engine listing still important?

Yes, but not like it used to be. On face value it would appear that if you were number one in Google for a chosen keyword then you’d get 20%-30% of the traffic.

For example if you were number one for the word “sunglasses” and it received 1,000 searches a month then you could expect 200 – 300 visitors a month from that word alone. In reality the average amount of organic (not Pay-Per-Click) traffic for the number one spot is about 0.75%. So for sunglasses you would receive 7.5 visits a month. Not really worth the effort.

The return for organic searches is not what it used to be.

What is important is that you rank number one for your business name and variations of it. As people ask their social network which business to go with for their purchase, and then search that name, it is vital you come up at the top or at least on page one.

What type of traffic is best?

The good news is that you should start to see a higher conversion rate from the traffic you receive. Consumers are far less likely to research other companies and prices when your business has been recommended to them from their social network.

Traditionally we have seen that when people use Google for research then they will view a number of the results returned from their search. They will check the number one website, number two, three, four, five, etc. and see who has the best value and fluctuate between sites.

With the change in search behaviour consumers are using Google to find your business specifically after a friend recommended you. The impulse to then shop around is reduced.

What does this mean for my business?

This is an exciting time for marketers. We’re beginning to move away from spending time conquering Google and can now look at how to increase recommendations. Everything you do as a business is now out in the open, consumer opinions can be shared around the world within minutes. A disgruntled customer can affect the buying behaviour of hundreds of potential customers and likewise a happy customer giving a great recommendation can drive sales and loyalty.

It is a great opportunity to look at where you’re are focussing your marketing efforts and perhaps look to hit two birds with one stone through creating engaging microsites that boost your SEO whilst increasing customer interactivity and improving experience which could result in more recommendations.

Online marketing has evolved and continues to evolve very quickly. What is relevant today may not be as important tomorrow. We cannot predict the future but the trends are showing today and by moving with the times you can ensure your business does not get left behind.

Written by James Hay, Social Media Coordinator at Fasthosts Internet Ltd.


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