There’s no doubt that search engines like Google have become smarter. Gone are the days when link-building schemes and keyword spamming have brought websites to the top of search results. Although yes, there are still quite a few of those types of web pages out there, their number has certainly diminished since Google’s latest updates.
But is search really where businesses and digital marketers should focus? Could a link-less future really be possible? If so, how will people find content?
Content Discovery as a Journey
Content is King – but could there be such a thing as too much of it?
In an article by Content Strategist Blaise Lucey, he discusses how brands and digital marketers are creating MORE stuff – but receives little engagement for it. It’s not just text-based content that’s not getting a lot of love. Surprisingly, even with their perceived popularity, visual-based platforms like Instagram also saw a drop in user engagement, according to Forrester research. Lucey refers to this issue as “engagement crisis”.
He further explains that this is due to the fact that today’s online users don’t behave in the way marketers expect – or want – them to. For instance: although there’s an increase in visitor traffic to your business blog page, you may want to dig deeper as to how people engage with your content. How long are they staying? Have they clicked on any call to actions? Did they share the content on social media? Are they commenting? If there’s little to no activity, then your content is not doing you any good.
These days, it’s not enough for people to know that you have content; what’s even more important is how users interact with it. Similar to how search has evolved, folks today are finding new and better ways to discover stuff they actually care about – and it may not be from the channels you’re expecting. Here are several examples:
- A mom goes on Pinterest to find ideas for a kid’s birthday party. She Pins a certain image with a blog link. After reading it, she decides to click on the affiliate links where she learns about a local store offering party needs.
- A college student scrolls through his Facebook feed on his mobile and finds an interesting video shared by a friend. He liked it so much he decides to find the company who produced the video on Google.
- A startup executive reads an article from one of her email subscriptions. She was so impressed that she includes the link as a source on one of her blog posts.
The so-called journey of content discovery is no longer linear. It can jump from one stage to another, or totally skip a step. Online users don’t need to scour through tons of content they don’t want. Instead, they can simply use several services (like mobile apps) to get exactly what they need.
In a study done by global web content management expert SDL Solutions, they found that millennials love customized content and services. Personalized music streams like Spotify for instance, are favored by 71 percent of millennials than non-customized channels like local radio.
Paving the Way for Content Discovery
The concept of content discovery is nothing new. In fact, digital marketers have been mentioning it as early as 2012 and 2013. Today, even social media giants like Facebook have amped up their game to catch on.
In 2015 for example, Facebook added a new feature that lets users prioritize which posts they can see first on their feeds. Users can choose up to 30 accounts they want constant updates from. The feature makes catching up to your favorite friends or brands a breeze, as you don’t need to search through tons of links. This kind of customization has helped the social media platform retain its crown amidst the controversies it has incurred.
But personalization doesn’t need to stop on social media. Flipora (now Rover), is a popular content discovery tool that you install on your web browser.
Unlike social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Flipora analyzes your web activity and recommends content based on data of your actual interests. Connecting the service to your social media accounts will help you find top content shared by your friends.
But content discovery is bigger on mobile devices. According to ComScore, smartphone usage has increased by 394 percent from 2010 to 2014, with 21 percent of millennials no longer using desktop to access the Web. This makes content delivery services like Curiyo highly popular.
Curiyo, which has a browser extension as well as apps for Android and iOS devices, lets users view content from top sources like Wikipedia, Twitter and Reddit, customized according to their preferences.
This avoids the problem of having to sift through tons of websites before finding what you really want. Available in 15 languages, the app can also be integrated in blogs so that publishers need not worry about a user ever leaving their site to find further information.
The Future of Search
So does this mean that online marketers shouldn’t invest on search anymore? Not really.
Content discovery is huge – but it’s not ready to replace search (yet). Until an almost-perfect service is able to seamlessly react to every user query without having to go to a search engine, then content will continue to rank on search results. However, what digital marketers need to pay more attention to is high-quality, personalized content. More than just an entertaining video or a 1,000-word essay, they should focus on catering to their target market’s needs even if it’s only implied.
In short: be there when the user needs you – but don’t be pushy. Patiently wait for the right moment until they’re ready to be pulled in.