Why It’s Important to Have a Google Strategy – And Where to Start Yours [Google Tuesdays]

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I was invited to give a talk recently by Deborah Ager for a group of Search and Marketing professionals in Virginia. At first I was planning on doing the same talk I usually give, one I’ve been giving for years about why my companies embrace what we call Search Engine Simplicity.

Something told me that this was the wrong talk for this crowd when I was on my way there, further validated when I spoke to some of the people in the group before hand.

So instead I spoke completely off the top of my head on two things:

1- The importance of  pondering what Google is going to do NEXT rather than NOW, and preparing for that eventuality, and,

2- What we will all do if Google suddenly ceases to exist (or, more likely, no longer be relevant to our businesses – remember when Yahoo was a search company?) .

After talking to people following the event, I realized that I’m overdue for this year’s Google Strategy Session for 2012. We’re doing it workshop style this year due to my lateness – and also because I want to travel to Africa to see my ailing father. (He’s better but he can’t fly as we’d hoped, so I want to go to him.)

Which of course led me to create this blog post about why looking beyond the fix-it tactics are so important: if you start thinking strategically, you can often avoid the issue of having to fix something altogether.

But strategy is more than being prepared for the changes happening now or even six weeks from now.

Is What Google is Doing Now Unimportant?

Google LoungeIn a word, no. It’s very important – how will you know how to present your company to Google if you don’t know what Google finds acceptable these days?

At the same time, that’s more of a tactical mindset – that only tells you what to tweak right now. Google’s current status is a weather report. You can look outside and tell it’s sunny.

So can you look at the top search publications – and a few that aren’t at the top, or aren’t in search – and tell what Google’s doing right now, or has done recently. For Example, in non-search publications you have:

And all of these things have relevance today even though they aren’t directly about Google or Google search. But not just in that public perception often affects what a public company does. It’s also particularly helpful when current trends and hints of future actions come from the horse’s mouth.

Google Tells Us (at least part of) What It’s Doing

Sometimes you can even get answers straight from Google. They’ve freely announced recent plans to change or adjust, including:

All of those signals about the current status of Google are important and to be duly noted, both the official stories that lean on fact and the editorial opinions that are based on observations – even if the conclusions they draw border on hyperbole.

Sometimes that hyperbole becomes fact in the future. Or it may give you a clues for what not to do. More significant is the ability to build yourself a kind of almanac to Google’s future moves, so you can start preparing your company today.

It didn’t take rocket science to predict that Google results would be heavily integrated with video and other multimedia. Though there were doubters in the beginning, you don’t have to be a genius to realize that narrow topic or niche specific blogging is one of the fastest ways to gain favor with – and steady traffic from – Google web search as well as many of its other properties.

True, change didn’t used to happen this fast even on the web. So thinking about the future of Google was left to search experts. But it does now, and if you’re a business owner, or thinking about launching a startup that in any way could rely on Google for exposure, it’s time to integrate, at minimum, a yearly look at what current trends in Google could turn into next year.

The combination of what Google is doing today and mapping of current trends to guess what it might do tomorrow, is a good place to start the basis of your Google Strategy. Otherwise, if you start with next steps such as content and keyword optimization, you could create the wrong type of content, or fail to optimize the right documents for keywords.

What will Google Do Tomorrow?

Google for Non-Profits Glass Water Bottle & Bag

As we examined earlier, Google has had a major shift in the way the public perceives it.

And it’s no accident that there were a series of both minor and major shifts in what the company’s public aims and issues were driving this. If we look at those trends, we can make guesses about what the next trends will be. They may not always be precise – who saw Google+ coming when Twitter just started out? However, even wrong guesses can help us plot the direction a trend is going, which is more important than being exactly right about predicting a future climate.

IE – it’s more important to realize that search and social were going to merge back in 2009/2010 than it would be to predict whether the catalyst would be Google+, the former integration of Twitter into Google search results, or what some saw as a potential partnership between Google and Facebook prior to Facebook’s relationship with Microsoft.

And we should make those guesses – or find an expert we trust and follow theirs – despite the potential risk of not quite hitting the mark.

Sometimes you’ll be a bit off base, we all are. I made a huge proclamation on Google HotPot – the only other time Google made me out to be such a big liar was with Google Wave.

Both times I was off the mark but saw the shift before the product change. Google HotPot was folded into Google Places – it didn’t disappear, it just folded into another product. Google Wave.

The point is – even without an exactly correct prediction, even when my speculation was off – which really only pulled my average of correct guesses to 93% – there was enough value and education in those decisions to have made them worthwhile.

Making those predictions led to deeper exploration into Google Places, which paid off big for people who were quick enough to hop on the Google Boost  and subsequent flat ad rates through Google Tags before that program was discontinued and partly re-introduced later as AdWords Express. Not to mention businesses that got a head start on Google Places before it became popular.

And the mis-step with Google Wave gave great future insight into knowing whether a Google launch of a product feature would be successful.

Last year, I had a search strategy meeting about this same thing, where Google was going next, and how to be prepared for this shift.  I talked about how much more heavily Google would be looking at Realtime, Local and Mobile. And 90% of what I predicted is unfolding as I expected, though not exactly as speculated.

Next time: How Do We React – Better Yet, How Do We Move Proactively?

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     @Dollieofgu1a @Tinu @dc2fla @luatphamduy @mickyroo @shonali  what a good article and strategy suggestion!

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     @socialmediatric  @Dollieofgu1a  @dc2fla  @luatphamduy  @mickyroo  @shonali Thanks, glad you found it helpful. 

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