Overflow from the Bing/Google session, sitting outside the presentation room, listening the presentation over a speaker.

The first day of the annual South by Southwest Interactive festival is complete. The theme of the sessions that I sat in today was search. Everyone is looking to optimize their brands and companies for search, whether that be on major search engines like Google and Bing, or on Facebook considering the launch of its new Graph Search. You can see in the photo here, the How to Rank Better in Google & Bing was so packed that people sat on the floor outside the room and listened the presentation projected through a speaker set outside the door. And the Marketing Implications of Facebook’s Graph Search was completely full, too.

In both sessions, the conversation really boiled down to content, not surprisingly. The more relevant, fresh and frequent the content is to your audience, the more likely your brand and company is to show in search results.

Facebook’s Graph Search

Facebook’s Graph Search is currently in beta, so there are not many users that have turned it on or are using it for search. The idea is that  Facebook can become a search engine for its users to find products, services and general recommendations for what they are seeking based on the things their friends have “Liked” or talked about on Facebook. This could be really useful if people thought of Facebook as a search engine, which they don’t yet. However, Facebook is integrated with Bing, so if a user has linked the two services, Bing searches in that user’s network will show Facebook friend results based on what they “Like” or have talked about. This is exactly what Google is doing (or trying to do) with Google+.  But Facebook has the built-in social audience, so Google+ has a big hill to climb on that front; and Google pretty much owns search, so Bing has that mountain to climb. Either way, the trend is apparent: search and social are going to be linked to increase relevancy for the consumer.

What does this mean for marketers? It means that fan bases need to be real fans, not fans that “Like” a page just to enter a contest or get discounts. It means that content needs to be engaging so that fans are liking, commenting and sharing it. And it means that posts need to be frequent so that loyal fans have many opportunities to engage with the brand.

Search Engine Rankings

I was one of the people sitting on the floor outside the room for this session, unfortunately. But I still caught a few great nuggets and most of it came from the Q&A at the end of the session. There was a lot of talk about keywords and weaving these throughout the content. The panelists gave two great pieces of advice that I am taking away:

  • When creating your keyword and phrase list, don’t aim for the top of the list, the place that everyone else is competing for, as well. Instead, think about your niche and shift to the side of those words a bit to really differentiate yourself.
  • News releases are not considered content, even when they are laden with the keywords and phrases. Don’t think that you are keeping your website fresh with new content by posting news releases.

The Bottom Line

Content on your digital channels is so, so, so important: keep it frequent, timely, relevant and engaging. That is no small task.