In a fundamental sense, your brand lives in the metadata that determines which products come up first when I ask, based on how relevant they are to my specific request. Knowing this lets you speak the searcher’s language on your site, to meet them where they are with what they need. Visibility into these behaviors helps to identify transactional customers, unlikely to make your site a destination, versus the people who read everything and then act, who are potential long-term advocates for your brand. Advertising helps train people to use terms, so think of it as establishing a brand vernacular for the internet. But all content counts, because people are searching on every available platform and search engines are now indexing that activity. How a brand’s content is coded effectively determines how it operates in search. Search engines reward specific coding practices that specify the purpose of site content. Also, your pages will come up higher if your tags simply classify the content of a page or image rather than try to sell it (e.g., an executive’s bio is tagged as name/title/specialty, not something like “healthcare pioneer”). While these rules are simple to follow, they often go overlooked. But increasingly, a brand strategy that doesn’t account for the search reflex is destined to fail because the answers to a search query set brand relationships in motion.
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Your brand has a new moment of truth. Are you making the most of it?
I’m talking about the second someone who could be your customer speaks or types a search command into a smartphone or computer. How you show up in that moment is your brand.
As smartphones become an extension of who we are, we operate more unconsciously on a search reflex. We see, think or feel something and ask a question, then click on the answers that compel us. And we end up buying from one, whether immediately or because retargeting ads keep the product in front of us.
In a fundamental sense, your brand lives in the metadata that determines which products come up first when I ask, based on how relevant they are to my specific request. When all that matters to me is meeting my need instantly and accurately, I’m not having a brand exchange as much as a utility exchange.
That’s a real threat to most businesses. To survive it, marketing teams need to develop a new expertise.
Start by becoming students of how people search for things now. Understand what kinds of information they look for, how they ask questions, what search engine they’re using, and generally what they’re thinking when they do. Google Analytics, Search Console and an impressive array of tools for data visualization (e.g., Datarama, Power BI) allow you to examine the entire path people follow to your site — the user journey, in marketing speak — not just the last link they clicked on.
Are people entering sentences or strings of keywords? Are they using some terms and not others? How specific are they about location (zip code, city, cross street)? When they visit your site, do they make decisions before reading a story all the way through, or do they wait until they finish it?
Knowing this lets you speak the searcher’s language…