I’ve never encouraged a "Google First" or "Google Only" mentality for search marketers to follow. This is where you focus only on Google, figuring the other major search engines don’t matter. Instead, I’ve said that all the search engines are important traffic channels to pursue. Don’t forget the search engines beyond Google! But over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself more and more thinking that if you want to go beyond Google as a search marketer, the other search engines that matter first are the "social media search engines." After them come the other major general purpose search engines like Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask.
Yesterday’s post from Michael Arrington on TechCrunch traffic sources really drove it home for me. Google’s organic traffic — search driven traffic – is his top source. After that, it’s not Yahoo or Microsoft or Ask sending visitors. No, the leading sources are from social media search engines like Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit. Heck, even Techmeme out distances the major general purpose search engines (my recent Q&A With Gabe Rivera, Creator Of Techmeme article covers Techmeme more). Yahoo does show up in 10th place, but that’s for My Yahoo feed-driven traffic, not search traffic.
Why’s TechCrunch doing so well on Google and not the other major search engines? It could be that TechCrunch is optimized best for Google and missing out on the other major search players. But c’mon. Search marketers know that the major search engines don’t have that many differences in how they rank pages. Yes, maybe if you load your URLs up with keywords you might do a bit better at Microsoft Live.com. Perhaps if you do paid inclusion, you might see more traffic flowing from Yahoo. But a page that does well with Google generally should have as good of chance as doing well with the others.
Another caveat is that TechCrunch is probably getting Google News and Google Blog Search traffic mixed in with the overall "organic" figures (see this recent stats post I did about Search Engine Land traffic sources to understand this more). Sure, including those sources as part of Google searches overall could help make Google seem an even bigger resource. But the reality is that many sites constantly report that Google is by far search traffic leader.
Rich Skrenta’s post Google’s true search market share is 70% back in December was a great call to renew attention about this fact. My own post after his, Google By Far The Leader, If You Look At Site Owner Traffic Stats, provides some further perspective. Overall, it’s hard not to feel that the other major search engines aren’t major traffic drivers despite the shares of searches they generate. Certainly that stats (daily; monthly) I’ve been doing for Search Engine Land keep reflecting this.
That brings me back to the other major search engines aspect. Over the years, I’d say don’t ignore them — don’t build just for Google. But that really meant to build good pages that should please all the major search engines at once. Do this, and maybe you don’t do well across the board. But you might get a good "portfolio" of search terms where you rank well in one place for a search while a different term at another place sends you traffic.
Not everyone likes that advice. Some want across the board rankings for all search engines, so they go the route of setting up custom pages for each search engine, maybe new domains and so on. I’ve always felt that was overkill. But even more now, I think search marketers need to go the social media optimization route first, then consider how to do better on the other major search engines if they aren’t ranking there.
Social media optimization? That’s the term coined (to my knowledge) by Rohit Bhargavat last year to describe tapping into the various social media search engines that are out there.
Social media search engines? I’ve struggled with this, since I haven’t really considered Digg, Reddit, Netscape and gang as search engines.
To me, search engines are places where people search, they express an active desire, usually through a keyword search. People don’t go to Digg because they’re looking for something. Instead, they want to discover things, to see what’s new, be entertained. That’s not search.
Well, it might not be search, but it’s a kissing cousin, closely related. Google News isn’t necessarily search. Yes, you can keyword search there. But you can also browse. And that browsing behavior is a search. It’s an alternative to typing in "what’s new today in news." So in thinking about this recently, I’ve shifted over more strongly into viewing discovery as a search behavior, seeing the social media outlets as social media search engines.
Search marketers should tap into search engines — and that includes the social media search engines. Neil Patel’s Forget ABCs – The Social Media Alphabet Is DNRS from Search Engine Land yesterday is an excellent introduction to some of these players, for those not up on social media search engines and social media optimization. We’re going to continue doing articles like these and looks at social media players because they crucial and deserve the attention.
The social media engines smaller vertical search engines that search marketers can think "oh, I’m not up on Digg. I might look into it later." Instead, they’re rapidly becoming major search engines you need to think of before those of the traditional players. They are traffic powerhouses you can’t ignore.
In addition, tapping into these players helps you indirectly. Even if you don’t linkbait to get on them, that they may help bring in some of the trusted links that Eric Ward’s Are You In The Circle Of Link Trust? column at Search Engine Land talked about yesterday.