Monday, May 29, 2006

Industry Envy: Let your peers do the hard work

Here’s a question for all those travel companies trying to boost their site in the organic search results page: what if instead of trying to figure out how search engines work, we all changed our focus to look more closely at what search engines want?

Users type queries into a search engine. A successful engine must provide the user with a list of relevant answers, because if the responses are not relevant then the user will quickly find a new search engine.

In an industry such as travel there are many competing sites, so the search engines also have to find a way to measure the quality of the sites.

Websites need to find a way to show that they are the best quality, relevant site for a particular keyword. To do this they need to differentiate themselves from their peers and stand out from the crowd.

How can a website stand out from the crowd? Well, one way for sites to stand out is through branding. Another way to do it is through what we call Industry Envy.

Industry Envy is when your site includes a unique and distinct tool or service that your peers in your industry envy. As the travel industry is notoriously incestuous, any new services or tools appearing on travel websites do tend to get picked up on by peers very fast. The more your peers acknowledge something of worth on your site, the higher the quality of your site.

So why exactly does it help a site to develop one of these tools and put it online? There are three major reasons.

Firstly, search engines, particularly Google, take incoming links as an important marker of quality. The more impressive your tool or service, the more likely people are to link to it. Google is already time stamping changes both to sites and to the footprints of sites, so that the more links your site attracts, the higher relevance and quality that search engine will attribute to your site

Secondly, if your tool is envied within the industry, then the links to your tool from other sites within your industry will have high keyword relevance. It’s important to note that it is not your consumers that are important here, but rather your envious peers.

Thirdly, a site containing a tool that the industry envies will naturally receive an increased amount of traffic. In the near future Google are likely to start using traffic patterns to determine site quality, and so the traffic coming to a particular site will gain a crucial importance for ranking, one that will become more important than the number of links on a site.

The last and most crucial question is what makes a successful industry envy tool? Sorry readers, that’s something you’re going to have to figure out for yourself! However, let’s end with a well-known example -

This company’s great innovation was to display all the flights on the database in the form of a graph.

[Click here to see data for London to Rome flights in September]

This makes choosing dates easier for consumers and industry peers alike, and has resulted in increasing numbers of links and traffic to the site. Incidentally, the tool may have become a victim of its own success, as it has recently been moved to a page deeper within the site - perhaps due to the costs of running?

Website owners might do better to concentrate on developing the highest quality site within their industry rather than tying themselves up in knots with search engine algorithms.

Toby Kesterton, head of search engine optimisation, LeadGenerators

No comments: