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Content: A Key Part of the Search Equation
Monday, August 09, 2010
A lot of people ask me where I think Search is going?  My response is that Search is going to where the people who are looking for information are going.  Today Google is the search choice of many, but are search engines the best tools to find information?  Well today they are but tomorrow, I'm not so sure.  Micro-blogging sites such as Twitter and social environments such as Facebook are popular online destinations for people who are looking for information.  Could the search engines be going the way of the dinosaur?  Some suggest that there are a second wave of search engines that lie ahead.  However, a search engine is only as good as its algorithm and quite frankly search algorithms based on link popularity may become extinct in the future.  Regardless, search engines have made it easy to access information and content like never before.

It is fair to suggest that people use Search and search engines to find information.  Search is a two part equation.  It is about seeking information, so in theory the search equation might look something like this: 
content + results = information

That is the first part of the equation and sometimes the search stops there, but a lot of the time the second part of the search equation comes into play, let's call this "research" or "refined search".  Based on the information that was received in the first part of the equation, additional search may be required.  So users may go back to their search engine of choice or perhaps they will go visit their favorite social environment such as Facebook or Twitter.

Depending on that initial search, the components of that equation, content and results, may differ.  The content may consist of a traditional web page, or a blog post, a video, a news release or even an simple image.  The results may be for a well-known brand which may or may not be what the user was looking for.  There is a lot of great content being put out there from brands that we have never before heard of.  So how do we access this information?  Well that is where the refined search equation comes in:  refined search = information + influence where information comes from your previous search experience and influence comes from social activity whether it is online or offline.  Online it may comes from friends and peers from places such as user forums, Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.  Offline it may come from the opinion of friends or family.  At the heart of these two equations is content.

Your content is your greatest asset.  Whether on your own website, your facebook page or your Twitter account, the content that you provide will determine if people can find the information that they are seeking.  For someone looking to take their first trip to say New York, presenting timely, informative content about places to stay, things to do, airfare prices, maps, weather conditions etc, will help that person acquire the information that they are looking for.  However you will need to show up in the search results of search engines or places such as in the trending topics of Twitter.  The thing is that you do not have direct control of this.  Especially with the search engine algorithms because they rely heavily on the power of link popularity, which can limit the effectiveness of the results component of our search equation.  News flash, the search results will never be 100% accurate.  Everyone leverages a different semantic map and has different "influencers" that determine why we select what we do when we search.  Google tried to compensate for this by offering personalized search results.  Not bad, but quite honestly impossible to fully control and ensure that the users are obtaining the information that they want.

So what does this mean if you are a content provider, an e-marketer, a larger brand, a mom and pop shop, a portal, or even a blogger?  Here are five items to remember when developing a content strategy and providing content for your online audience.

Being successful online means that:
  1. You must provide timely, accurate, informative and useful content. 
  2. Your content needs to be optimized but not be spammy.  While many suggest that things such as on-page optimization are a thing of the past, on-page optimization will always be a key component of the content that places in the search engines.
  3. You need to update your content from time to time and you need to interlink related content as well. 
  4. Your content has to be found where people are "hanging out" online.  The online universe is vast and highly competitive.  Take note of where your target audience is and give them the content and information that they are searching for.  If you don't, your competition will.
  5. The way that you present your content must be varied.  Try to provide video, news releases, images.  People are seeking information from all types of media, why not accommodate them?

Search will always be about content.  From people who are seeking the content to satisfy their appetites for information to the content providers who will be sharing their expertise on a given topic.  Content development and content enhancement will be key for your online success for years to come.

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posted by Jody @ 1:51 PM  
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