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:
- Create widgets or other viral ideas that make it easy for people to share your brand with others. Lawrence from Rate it All recently gave a great speech at Pubcon about widgets on the viral marketing panel.
- Here is roughly the speech I did on link baiting at Pubcon.
- Via Danny, Jon Kleinberg recently spoke at Yahoo! about social networks.
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.
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