Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Searching Questions

A small test for the office; ask some people in your office sitting at their desk what’s the speed of light? Nobody knows.

Chances are that ask the same question five years ago and still nobody would have known. So what’s the difference? Ask someone today to find out and no doubt within a couple of minutes Google would have supplied an answer. The Internet has changed our lives forever and search is now the key driver.

People still catch plains, stay in hotels, go on tours, hire cars and enjoy cruises but now they have power of information unlocked by search.

Search makes the Internet a true meritocracy. The best will win, if you have the best site, with the best content you will be at the top of the pile (list in most cases). Reassuring for those who live in a free market economy and thrive on competition. Not so reassuring is the fact that the ground rules of this competition are closely guarded secrets of the mega search engines.

Before locking some techies away in windowless basement with the task of
understanding the rules and unlocking the complex and ever changing algorithms of the search engines there are a few important considerations to make.

Firstly, if getting to the top of the list is determined by being the best then be the best, deliver your users the ultimate experience; give them the answer they are looking for. At the heart of this experience is content, rich, unique quality content is the ultimate prize of the user. Your online brand is build through the users experience. Search patterns in travel show that brand related keywords account for a huge proportion of all searches. Give an unforgettable experience and users will be searching on your brand; a search you should be guaranteed to be at the top of the results list.

Secondly, aiming to be the best for a search on ‘cheap hotels New York’ maybe a hard task. Rather consecrate on your unique areas of expertise ensuring you have complete and detailed coverage of an area. This content will stand a better chance of being at the top of search results than generic content in mass-market. Consider using multimedia content; images, 360 IPIX and videos, up to 10% of Google searches are done on their image library.

Thirdly, being the best is not just about getting the traffic its about engage it and holding it. Switching cost are low and users tolerance levels are diminishing. Don’t give users the opportunity to leave because you’re a missing simple content or giving a poor experience. Find out were you are leaking users and plug these gaps. This may present an opportunity not only to convert more users and sell additional services!

So, now that you are ready to let your techies back into the light, they will be undoubtedly brimming with ways to opertimize your pages.

1 comment:

Colin said...

I agree with what you are saying. Not quite as easy to carry out. Most of us out here have a pretty good knowledge of search and the importance of rich content, both to hold the visitor and to help climb the search engines. The trick is being able to keep all these balls up in the air at once. A travel company needs at least one person like you or me to steer it forward. Someone for whom this is a passion too. In an ideal world, with no money constraints we would create a site with the user experience you describe, but its not always possible right away. But get at least one ball up in the air. Get your site out there and test and improve and slowly you will start to see what works, what needs improving, etc, etc. Slowly you will get another ball and another ball up there... As you say "search" is all.