I had the privilege of hosting a webinar with Sean McGinnis about how search influences customer experience. Sean is a master of many things, and one of the most knowledgeable people I know on the subject of online search; he’s the Director and General Manager of Multistate Edge, a company that helps students prepare for the multistate bar exam. Additionally, Sean blogs about SEO, Internet Marketing, Social Media, Leadership and a variety of other topics at his blog 312 Digital.
I’ve known Sean for a few months and was thrilled he agreed to co-host with me. Not surprisingly, I had a great time! Thanks to all who attended.
We covered 6 ideas around some of the new ways search will impact customer experience.
1. First Impressions
Like it or not, customers are using search for all sorts of reasons, including shopping. Need curtains? Google it. Want a technology guru? Bing them right up. If your company’s search results aren’t offering what customers need RIGHT THERE, you’re missing out on many opportunities.
2. New Rules: Social Impact
Both Google and Bing have confirmed using social signals as part of the results algorithm. This means what your friends Like on Facebook or +1 within Google has an impact on what you see. I view this as a different opportunity for companies to join the conversations within their customer communities. You better make it easy for them to be your advocates – otherwise you’re wasting your best customers.
3. Location-Based Impact
My search results from Oak Park, Illinois will be different than your search results in Dubai, even when location is not part of the search phrase I typed into that little box. Why? Because search engines are bringing in local results based on where the machine tells them you are. So those local guys might get a leg up, but it also means your organization better understand what that means to how “findable” you are.
4. Customers Search For What?
One of my favorite customer experience party tricks is to take a gander at an organization’s FAQ page and then try a search with one of the top questions – verbatim. Many times, the answer is not found by the search engines. Why? Because the page itself was built in a way that makes it impossible for the search engines to find them. The problem here is how we are all using search these days. When was the last time you actually went to a regular file and found the owner’s manual of the blender you’ve had since 2002? Most of us just Google the document and find what we’re looking for. Consider carefully what your customers are and what they might search for – then make sure they can find that easily.
5. Reputation Management
Just ask Congressman Weiner about how quickly your Google results can change for the worse. You MUST pay attention to your own results frequently, and put positive things out there in the right places (in authentic ways) to make sure a nasty blog comment doesn’t rank higher than you’d like. There are no guarantees, and some of this you can’t control, but you can at least be aware. Pretend you’re a customer and do a quick search. Do you like what you see?
Bottom Line: Search is here to stay, but it’s changing every day. Don’t ignore this critical piece of your customer experience.
Special thanks again to Sean McGinnis. Sean and I have been working together on a few other projects I’d love for you to check out:
2. Social Media Club Chicago – For those that don’t know, I serve on the board for the Chicago chapter. Sean has agreed to participate on a panel at our next event, which promises to be a great one! On June 27, we’ll tackle the subject of Search & Social with Sean, Neal Wilson, Senior Search Evangelist from Bing, and Erica Charney, Associate Director at iProspect. Attendance is limited, so please register early! Hope you can join us as we continue this conversation. (And if you’re not in Chicago, check out your own chapter of Social Media Club. It’s a great organization!)
Wow, I sure did a lot to boost Sean’s ego. Let’s not let him get TOO big a head – feel free to knock him down a peg in the comments! 😉