I remember once explaining SEO to a client. I was elaborating on the significance of link building and its importance to a hotel’s online marketing success. I explained, “Writing meta-content is a good start to SEO because it tells the search engines what your web pages are about, but the search engines are always skeptical about how much they should trust your site. After all, anyone can write their meta-content so as to appear relevant for certain search terms. The key is getting the search engines to trust your website. And the best way a search engine can determine that level of trust, is by looking at how other sites feel about yours. The more times another relevant and reputable site refers your link, or in this case lists it on their site, the more trustworthy search engines will consider your site and, consequently, the better your site will rank.”
My client’s response to this explanation: “So it’s like dating then?”
That caught me off guard, as that was the first time I’ve ever heard that analogy. After taking a moment to process it, I responded “Well, yes, that’s one way to think about it.” And really, it is.
Match-Maker, Match-Maker, Make Me a Match
You can think of search engines as modern-day match makers. On-page SEO and meta-content can be very similar to filling out a dating profile. Plus, when users go to Google, they are asking to be matched with a site that fits their search criteria. That sounds like online match-making to me.
I recently heard a statistic from an online dating site that “one in five couples nowadays have met online.” If that many people are looking for a relationship online, just think about what else people try to find online. In Sept 2010, PC Mag released research saying “58 percent of people research a product online before making any purchase.” That means, even if you don’t have an online presence, over half your customers expect you to be present, and over half the market share for your product can first be captured online.
Continuing with the dating analogy, let’s get back to the importance of what others have to say about you. This aspect of match-making is something Google got right and those dating sites can learn from. Google is consistently tweaking and modifying their algorithm (their matchmaking formulas) to send their users to the most trustworthy (or “compatible”) site within that person’s search criteria. Search engines do this by keeping track of all the links that point back to your website and evaluating their relevancy and compatibility with your own content. Google theorizes that any site that would send their users to yours is a vote of confidence that Google should also trust your site. The more popular, well-groomed, “up-standing” the site that links to yours, the greater the vote of confidence for your website withinGoogle.
The importance of building links has long been known as important in the SEO world. The stronger your site’s in-bound link-building campaign, the more Google trusts you – and the higher they rank you. However, the skepticism on Google’s part to your true character doesn’t stop with just links anymore; in regards to your local listing, reviews count for a lot also. And most importantly, Google rewards honesty and is always looking to catch you in a lie. The more consistent you are with any information you give out such as phone number, business address, and business name the better.
Google wants to match their users to an honest site, with plenty of friends, recommendations from others, and, of course, a site that meets the searchers’ criteria. In the past, Google rankings had always been described as “one part relevancy and one part popularity,” but as time goes on, and Google begins to flex their match-making genius, I’m willing to stand behind the idea that “popularity” will become a much more complex term and soon be replaced with “trustworthiness.”
What does that shift mean? Whether you use an online marketing agency or a resource at your hotel, it is important to not overlook the importance of link building when it comes to the search engine optimization of your online marketing campaign. Beyond that, this shift also means an even greater need to dedicate resources towards monitoring your content online - not just on your own website, and not just on your link partners, but having someone manage your business’ local listings, directories, travel/review sites, and let’s not forget social media.
In this era, the importance of online search is apparent in every industry. Whether it’s to find a date or to book a hotel room, in a consumer’s mind, websites are the least intrusive and easiest way to shop for what they want. Google, above all other sites, wants online searchers to continue to find the process painless, and they will continue to personalize match-making for each user. If an online marketer wants to try and keep up with these changes the best thing they can do is not only dedicate the time and effort to keeping your website attractive to search engines – but keep the opinions of your product attractive to your consumers (and their reviews) as well.