Findability precedes usability. In the alphabet and on the Web. You can’t use what you can’t find. – Ambient Findability by Peter Morville
I was wondering about marketing today – about the process of making others aware of what you do.
Social media, in particular, is interesting – because you see a lot happening but you don’t see what happens next.
For example, we all know people who seem to post on a regular basis – it seems underpinned by a strategy.
And that’s what you’ll learn if you go to a seminar – that you’ve got to be on there, got to be posting, got to be active if you want to be found.
Now, how many times have you done business with someone you didn’t know but connected with on social media?
I can’t really think of any examples personally, but your business may be different.
Where do people normally do business then?
Well, let’s start with “normal” businesses, the ones you find in shops – or actually, in a market.
When you go to a town market you’ll probably find that similar shops are clustered near each other.
Fruit and veg sellers, for example, are in one place. Fish and meat in another. And clothing somewhere else.
Why would you want to be situated next door to someone selling the same thing you are?
The reason is that customers can find you – if they see fruit shops and head in that direction – the chances are that they want fruit.
If you’re there, then you might get a bit of that footfall but if you’ve over in the clothes section, while you’re unique, people are there to buy clothes and not fruit.
If you ran around the market and tapped random people on the shoulder asking if they want fruit – then some will.
So that’s another strategy you could use.
And if you look at the Internet, both these strategies are used all the time.
The first, being near other people who sell the same thing, is what you call SEO where the idea is to be in the mix of results when people search for something.
And the second is outbound marketing – ranging from cold calling to spam, and taking in advertising along the way – as you try and interrupt people and get them to pay attention to what you have to say.
Now, if you want to be found by Google, what you need is to get better at creating stuff people like and that they link to – because of how important the principle of citations are to the way Google looks at things – along with clever ways of recognising the meaning of what’s written on pages.
And that takes time, one assumes – time to create useful stuff that is ranked highly.
But really, that depends on whether you want to get across one coherent message or if you’re comfortable with lots of micro-messages.
Peter Morville, in his book Intertwingled: Information changes everything talks about how you organise information.
You can do it top down, with a hierarchy, like a list of services.
You can do in clusters, or categories, like you might find in a retail store – shoes here and shirts there.
Or you can do it with tags, something that describes what you have.
Morville describes how Netflix uses tags to create microgenres, stitching several together to create something you’d never think of searching for, but still describes what you want to see.
His example is “Cult Evil Kid Horror Movies”, which could be well described by the picture I’ve drawn on the right.
While a straightforward feel-good film is perhaps the one on the left.
When you start thinking about being findable, then, what matters is perhaps not the strategy you use but what you do.
If you do something that’s straightforward to describe, then SEO your way to success – if you know what people search for when they’re looking for your services then you can construct pages that are designed to get to the top of Google.
If it’s not, then you have two choices – either work on your outbound strategy, go and find customers and build your referral approach.
Which is where social media comes in really – it’s a form of outbound where you have to catch someone’s attention through all the noise rather than waiting for them to come to you.
But if you really want to be found – despite not being able to say what you do in three words or less – then you might want to build several pages that stress different facets of what you do – create microgenres and develop pages that will rank with long form content and the kind of stuff Google loves.
The thing about getting found is spending some time working on ways that people can get to you – but that also work for you to set up and manage without running out of energy.
Because if you don’t, they won’t.