Using SEO to Market a Search Engine or Platform

SEO Question: I recently set up a local search site, and was wondering if it made sense to use SEO to market it?

Answer: There are many types of ideas where using SEO to market them will not make much sense. I think you probably have one of them. If you have a platform website which aggregates information and displays it in a way that adds enough value that other search engines would want to index your results then you should look into duplicate content and other related issues, to ensure you are unique enough on a per page level, but generally if you are marketing a platform which has limited content I think you are better off looking into viral marketing instead of SEO.

Things worth looking at:

Things to consider:

  • Ideas spread through communities. Make it easy for a certain group of people or community to share your idea / product / service / offering / etc. If you can connect with their sense of identity that is great. For example, for a local product try to hit up the local media or other sources of power.

  • Read and track sites and communities you want exposure from. Become part of the conversation there. See what types of ideas make the Digg home page. See what type of search sites librarians are talking about right now.
  • If you can talk about search in a way that is interesting to novice SEOs and yet still provide relevant search results at the same time many people will want to read what you have to say. Quintura recently got mentioned by many SEOs because they offer a search service that acts as an interesting SEO tool.
  • Look how easy Google makes it for people to talk about them - from passionate people with health problems, to those fighting against inequality, and for the environment, right on through to people aligned with educational systems and other powerful longstanding institutions.

    All those links from the last paragraph were announcements in the last week! If you are doing things that make people identify with you and feature you as content you don't have to buy too many ads. Google is the perfect case study for how to market a search engine.

Why SEO could potentially be useful to you:
Search is a link rich topic. Many librarians and other trusted sources freely link to search sites. If you can add enough value to make other engines want to index your pages, and can get enough high quality links, then your site should be able to get a bunch of exposure quickly. Just look at how many Technorati tag pages rank well in Google and other search engines.

You need people to care and share to build a platform:
But generally, people participate on platforms because there is some value they can get from there that they can't find elsewhere. That, and giving people a reason to talk about it, are the best ways to optimize your rankings in other engines.

Published: December 6, 2006 by Aaron Wall in Q & A


December 6, 2006 - 7:52pm

Had a similar problem running SEO for a client that operated a large healthcare search engine.

Fortunately they had acquired a huge catalog of unique content from a previous .COM bust. Until we got that content updated and online it was pretty much impossible to get them ranked for anything worthwhile.

December 6, 2006 - 9:42pm

I've actually launched a website that is similar to what you are talking about here Aaron - the Madtown Lounge ( For example, I've got dynamic web pages that display various pieces of information (events, map, five closest venues, etc.) for each venue in a given city - and that content populates the appropriate Title tags, Meta descriptions, Header tags, etc. I've had great success here in Madison thus far, as I frequently outrank the website of the venue itself. Now it is just a matter of getting the venue data for more cities in there... slowly but surely.

As for viral marketing, I'll have to read up on that. I haven't spent hardly any time researching - my development consumes most of my "spare" time!


As an aside Aaron, feel free to see how accurate my SF area venue listing is! They won't rank in Google yet - I'm sure they aren't even indexed yet. I added them recently.

Local Searcher
December 8, 2006 - 5:05am

If you are running a local search site and you are not thinking about SEO you are going to leave a ton of traffic on the table. As someone who ran a local search site we were able to grow traffic from 0 to over 2 million uniques/month solely on SEO. The trick with having non-unique content (like local business listings) is that if you can add unique content to them, like customer reviews, you are able to compete with the big guys in SEO. My guess is this is true for any vertical where most of the content is generic and it's hard for any one player to get unique stuff around any one particular listing.

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