Sullivan on search trends, strategies

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Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of Third Door Media’s Search Engine Land, an online portal for search marketers, has been chronicling the explosion in search engine marketing since the early days. Although still a relatively young industry, innovation continues in search marketing, much of it coming from the search engines themselves, which relentlessly introduce new products and tools for searchers and marketers alike. BtoB spoke with Sullivan last week about what b-to-b search marketers can do to keep up.

BtoB: How has search changed in the past six months?

Sullivan: Last year, blended search was a revolution. There’s a lot of buzz around the whole blended search space. I think people are still trying to get their head around what that means for them. They only had one entrance point until now, and so [the question is] which door do I walk through?

If you want to be in the top listings at Google, you need to consider [other searchable content such as] video. There are several new doorways to the front page. Blog search, news search, video search, image search, shopping search and book search. Google is integrating these into search results much more than it did.

B-to-b marketers need to think about doing videos related to particular products or services someone might be searching on. It’s something radically different than what has happened before. Now it’s just how Google works.

BtoB: How can b-to-b marketers take advantage of some of these new doorways to customers?
Sullivan: If, for example, you have any kind of local-oriented business, your ability to show up on Google is much better right now. If you do searches on Google now, you’ll notice a map at the top of the results and ten little listings which take up half the screen. Local results dominate the page.

Marketers should look at each of these areas and look to see if they have materials in each area that are relevant. Not everyone will do local search, not every b-to-b marketer is locally oriented, but people who are looking for b-to-b providers are going to be doing some local searches.

BtoB: Are there specific challenges unique to b-to-b marketers?
Sullivan: There’s a much smaller audience out there [in b-to-b], so paid listings may be more of a challenge. They don’t have enough volume and their ads might get disabled or turned off because they are not perceived as “quality enough” because of the volume. That seems to have gotten better over the years. Google wants to make money.

BtoB:What are b-to-b search marketers getting wrong?
Sullivan: When potential customers come to the sites, b-to-b marketers tend to want to qualify their information, but sometimes they ask for too much and that can impact whether they get the leads they are looking for. You need to do a lot of testing to see how people are coming into your site. It can be helpful to talk to customers beyond those who are doing the purchasing and understand how they work with the employees who have purchasing power.

There are too many people who think of search secondarily. They put together a marketing plan and they figure out where they will buy their ads. And after the fact, they think about search. They need to be thinking about these things in the beginning.

If you run an offline media campaign, you have to understand people are going to go search on it. You want those results to put you in the number one position, but all too often people think about it after the fact if they think about it at all. BtoB: What advice would you give b-to-b search marketers who may not be as advanced as their peers?
Sullivan: If they are not that savvy on search to begin with, they need to go back and look at the Web site to make sure it is search engine friendly. You need to be comfortable with that before you start thinking about the higher end stuff. If they are not blogging, they should be really looking at that because it’s an easy way to get into certain kinds of search results that are based on blog content. If you are not blogging, you are not at the table. Technorati only lists blogs, so if you are not a blogger, you don’t get to be in it at all. It doesn’t mean you have to make a huge effort. You can do one blog post per week. That’s not unheard of. Starting out slow is a good idea.

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