Search marketers need a change in attitude. Think of connecting with the consumer first, rather than optimizing. Search marketing must turn into a consumer service to help make the correct decisions when purchasing products or services.
Mike Moran, chief strategist at Converseon, rallied the troops at the Search Insider Summit in Captiva, Fla. Friday to not only become transparent, but focus on serving consumers rather than getting backlinks or appearing on the top spot on the first page in Google search results. Don't forget the PageRank, but think more about answering consumer questions.
Companies need to start acting like they care even if they don't, Moran says. He points to an email that ended up on the Internet, in which the CEO at Spirit Airlines flipped off a consumer. The CEO hit the "reply all" button.
"Consumers have more confidence in those who have failed and fixed it, instead of ignoring it," Moran says.
There's more going on behind the scenes than being transparent. Many backroom actions that executives and employees companies want to keep secrets are being exposed on the Internet.
Moran says those who criticize search marketers for scamming and spamming consumers don't understand the difference between optimizing and connecting with consumers. He defines optimizing as researching the most popular keywords and rewriting copy to use the popular words.
Connecting means figuring out what customers want and using their language to communicate with them. They may sound the same, but the difference is in the attitude. SEO professionals need to focus on what consumers need rather than getting higher ratings in search query results.
Companies need to target teaching consumers, answering questions and providing support to enhance the buying experience. Brands must share their expertise and monitor the opinions expressed by potential and existing customers.
"Opinions are fleeting," so marketers need to continually monitor them on social sites, says Allen Hammock, director of technical sales at Looksmart. "On Facebook, we call those people friends, and on Twitter we call them douche bags," because people can more freely express their opinions.
Social media creates awareness. And while it's not an SEO or paid-search program, applying it correctly can lead you back to the correct keywords to support search marketing programs. Hammock suggests understanding the significance in monitoring buzz to assist search campaigns. Monitor the mentions, know what URLs shorteners work, and become aware about the tweets that retweeted most, driving traffic to profiles. Hammock says it will help marketers see if anyone cares at all.
"Don't underestimate the influence of negative buzz," Hammock says, explaining that companies need to personify the products, so customers want to engage with the brand.