By Michael Blankenship, PepperDigital
Recently I attended SXSWi to partake in the annual gathering of the interactive
world of new products, industry panels and networking. (It's interesting to
watch people who have made a career out of social networking online try to
network face-to-face. That's fodder for another blog post.) The overriding
theme this year was location-based search by providers such as Twitter and
Foursquare. What intrigued me the most, though, were a few discussions on the
psychology of search.
During a panel I attended by Peter Morville, Search Patterns: Tangible futures for Discovery, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman sitting next to me
who suggested that search is a "last resort for people who don't know what
they are looking for…and that if people knew what information they were
looking for, search would not be necessary." I guess he's sort of right,
but search has deeper value than being a last resort, especially today.
Search is an invaluable tool for end users looking to glean information
relevant to their knowledge needs. With billions of Web pages in existence,
search is a necessary function for finding relevant information online.
But in thinking of terms as "search as a service offering,"
businesses can actually help potential customers by thinking like their
customers. So much technical wizardry goes into site SEO, such as site
architecture and figuring out the search engine algorithms, that too many sites
forget the reason they exist – to provide information that their customers are
seeking and to start a dialogue with the customer.
Adopting the mindset that search can be a conversation starter immediately
elevates the importance of relevant content on a site to equal footing with
architecture, coding and meta data. With the explosion of social network sites,
it's easy to adopt the strategy. Search engines now include Twitter and
Facebook results on their search engine result pages. As a result, search is a de facto conversation
starter. Leveraging social media conversations into your search strategy helps
continue and foster the dialogue in which businesses should be engaging with
When a business listens to its customers, it begins thinking like its
customers. Thinking like customers means business can deliver information for
which they are searching and stand out in crowded search results.