Can You Ignore Google And Still Succeed At Search?

Now that Google has kicked the cookie can down the road -- again -- there’s a runaway winner for the question I hear from brands the most: “How do we factor search generative experience [SGE] into our organic strategy?”

The bad news: anyone outside of Google who tells you they know the answer is lying.

The good news: You can plan for the SGE era (which Google just hard-launched with AI Overview at Google Marketing Live in May) by ignoring Google altogether.

Well, maybe “altogether” is a stretch, but more and more, organic brand-building is happening away from the search giant and on channels like Reddit, Quora, TikTok, and industry-specific forums.

Why is this happening? Whatever report on user behavior and priorities you want to reference, the trend in 2024 is clear: authenticity matters. The platforms mentioned above – particularly Reddit, where users are semi-anonymous -- lend themselves to real, unvarnished perspectives that users have come to trust more than corporate brand-speak.



And Google itself is noticing; its principle of E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness), while not officially a ranking factor, has its fingerprints all over the SERPs (non-SGE results, anyway), to the point where Reddit and Quora content dominates a big swath of certain queries. For instance, a February study from Detailed showed that Reddit results showed up in 97.5% of product review queries in Google Search.

What are the benefits for brands? Other than a side door into the SERPs, a presence on Reddit, Quora, et al is a way for brands to form more relatable, personal connections with their users. These kinds of connections, especially forged on community-oriented sites, lead more directly than 1:1 SERP clicks into community-building, which is a hugely valuable outcome for brands.

In a best-case scenario, brands will develop an authentic presence through insightful and valuable (sometimes even entertaining) content, and the community of users that develops will end up doing the work of promoting the brand -- which is a powerful combination of awareness and social proof.

How should brands take action?

First, find the right community through relevant Quora topics and subreddits.

Second, create valuable (non-sales-oriented, non-manipulative) content with some strategic keyword usage that helps organic discovery without looking like it’s engineered for algorithms.

Third, consider using brand advocates, team members, and/or UGC to help spread the word -- after all, people are far more engaging and relatable than corporations or entities.

Fourth, make sure your approach and goals are designed around trust. Don’t aim for sales; aim for conversations. Educate before pushing offers. Look for ways to help address user questions in a way that builds trust for the long term, even if your immediate inclination is to try to close a deal. In short, meet the user where they are.

Fifth, work with the platform’s rules and strengths: Follow guidelines, jump on trends, use hashtags, etc. These will vary depending on the platform, so make sure you know the ins and outs and modify your approach for each.

As SGE and AI take over more and more of the SERP real estate, a more personal, human approach to building consumer trust elsewhere is a great counterpoint -- and a pretty good insurance plan against lost site clicks.

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