Google + and the “End of Search”

Who likes hyperbole! Well, people who like provocative headlines, for one. Wired has a current article on “The End of Web, Search, and Computer as We Know It.” The gist of the article is that the way we interact with the internet is changing, moving away from static pages and individual searches, and more towards streams of steady information. The author calls this the “lifestream.”

“This lifestream — a heterogeneous, content-searchable, real-time messaging stream — arrived in the form of blog posts and RSS feeds, Twitter and other chatstreams, and Facebook walls and timelines…All the information on the internet will soon be a time-based structure”

You may or may not find the article’s argument convincing, but it does seem to tie in to an issue I’ve been hearing and thinking about quite a bit about recently – the recent rise of Google +.

When Google + first surfaced, it seemed primarily designed to compete with Facebook. It aroused plenty of curiosity and a good number of people gave it a try, but when it came down to it, it couldn’t compete with the main thing Facebook had going for it as a social media platform: people. Everyone was already there, and failed to feel a mass compulsion to switch it out for something new.

Now Google + is embracing a new identity. By linking Google + usage with your authority in terms of how Google determines ranking, Google + is quickly becoming a content distribution platform, with a strong influence on SEO. Or, another way of seeing it, via Copyblogger:

“Google+ is less social media platform and more backplane social layer that transformed all Google products into features of Google+.”

In other words, Google is aiming to leverage Google + into the frame through which all our internet activity is experienced. Potentially moving people away from the traditional search experience, and into a more customized version of the web – perhaps in a way that resembles the “lifestreams” described above.

Who knows if internet usage will move in this direction as predicted, but it’s inevitable that time, the evolution of technology, and people’s ideas of how technology can be used mean our relationship to the internet is bound to change. It’s important that businesses and marketers keep an eye on those changes as they occur and adapt marketing efforts to accommodate consumer behavior.

PPC (Pay Per Click) Basics

There are two main types of search engine marketing: PPC (pay per click) and SEO (search engine optimization). I’ve already covered some of the best introductory tips and resources for SEO, but PPC marketing is another one of the best sources of ROI in marketing available, especially in the period in between implementing SEO techniques on a website and beginning to see the results.

What is PPC?

To understand PPC, you first need to understand how organic search results and paid ads differ:

Organic search results – the websites that show up in the main listing of results when you perform a search in a search engine

Paid search results – the ads you see, normally located above the organic search results and to the right of them

SEO aims to get a website listed at the top of the organic results. It’s a slower and more difficult process than getting a website noticed through paid PPC ads, but it can yield huge results in the number of relevant visitors to your site.

PPC ads are much easier method to get on the first page for a search term faster, but they have a clearer immediate cost than SEO, where most of the cost comes through the time spent optimizing a webpage and linkbuilding.

Why PPC?

PPC ads are valuable in that they appear to people who are already looking for what your company has to offer (assuming you do a good job in targeting the right keywords) and you don’t have to pay every time someone sees the ad, just each time someone clicks on it. Chances are, a person who chooses to click on a PPC ad is someone coming to your site already equipped with an interest in buying the kind of product you offer, or at least doing some preliminary research into the options available with the intention of buying later.

Therefore, in comparison to other forms of advertising, the clicks you’re paying for will in most cases be fairly solid leads.

Even better, if you find that any of the ads you’re using or keywords you’re targeting tend not to produce solid leads, you have easy access to data that helps you shift your tactics and money towards the ads and keywords that provide the best results. In other words, the longer you use PPC as a form of marketing, the better your results are likely to be.

How to Get Started with PPC Marketing?

As the most commonly used search engine, Google’s the best place to start. Create a Google Adwords account and a Google Analytics account. Google provides ample information to anyone getting started with Adwords. The Google Keyword tool is an especially valuable resource for determining the best keywords to target in your ads.

Google’s not the only search engine to consider, Yahoo and Bing also offer paid search programs that can be well worth the investment.


Helpful Resources:

I’ve collected a few links for further reading that do a good job of providing useful introductory information.

Introduction to PPC

17 Most Common PPC Mistakes

7 Steps to a Perfect Pay Per Click Campaign

If you want more information, browse this page, or do some further exploration on the websites linked to above. You’ll quickly find a surplus of information to get started with a PPC campaign.

Consumer Behavior and Search Engine Use

“86 percent of consumers say search engines are very important in the buying process.”

Inc.

The way people think about shopping has changed in recent years. More and more consumers turn to the internet first before making a purchasing decision. In the same study referenced in the Inc. article above, almost half of the respondents also turned to social media in the shopping process and another 24% visited company websites. Technology is changing consumer behavior and small businesses should take note and shift their marketing techniques accordingly.

This is likely not a surprise to most people. If you think about the most recent purchases you’ve made, perhaps with the exception of gas and groceries, it’s likely you’ve turned to Google at some point in the process. When it’s so easy to look up user reviews, perform price comparisons and make direct purchases for many items online, why wouldn’t savvy consumers turn to the internet for their shopping?

The best way to make sure that your small business doesn’t miss out on the 92% of people in the United States using search engines is to embrace online marketing. Use search engine optimization, pay per click services and more to increase your internet presence and make your business easy to find for potential customers.