Browser Optimization Means Search 101

Here’s this week’s MediaPost column:

Everything you need to know about the future of search engine marketing you learned in the 1990s.

Image representing Google Chrome as depicted in CrunchBaseThat’s an overstatement, of course, but the basics of SEO and SEM —
the very first things you probably learned  — now are more important
than they’ve been in years for bringing people back to your Web site.
It’s all thanks to the new browser wars among Firefox 3, Google Chrome,
and Microsoft Internet Explorer 8, all of which are generally evolving
in the same direction. All three, for instance, support searching from
the address bar, where you normally enter a Web site URL. Chrome
encourages this the most, as it doesn’t even have a search box, but the
same feature is on all the browsers. The searches all are conducted
through the default search engine you select (IE8, for example, doesn’t
hold you to Live Search).

More importantly, these address bars all offer suggestions as you
type. Generally, these are based on which sites you’ve previously
visited, how often and/or recently you’ve visited them, and potentially
some other factors. Firefox sticks to your browsing history, but Google
will sometimes recommend other sites it deems relevant, while Microsoft
occasionally recommends a page from one of its properties. The history
is what marketers and publishers have the most control over, so that’s
where the focus needs to be.

The opportunity here is retention. If someone has visited your site
before, however they found it, you want to increase the odds that
they’ll come to you directly rather than search again and potentially
check out competitors. Ideally, you want to be found through search
once, and then save the consumer the need from ever running that kind
of search again.

Mozilla Firefox IconFor starters, you should optimize page titles. All three browsers
rely on them. For instance, I ran a search that I tried when planning
my honeymoon: “travel India.” I clicked one aa landing
page entitled, “Private Guided Travel in India & Nepal: India,
U.A.E., Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, d, leading me to Bhutan.” I searched again and
clicked on another ad where the landing page simply had the tour
operator’s name. Now, whenever I start typing “travel India” in the
address bar, that first tour site comes up, and it will also come up if
I start typing queries relating to any of countries listed in the
title. The site for the other operator never comes up. The same effect
shows up across all three browsers.Internet Explorer 4

Another important factor is the filename. I went to my blog and clicked on a photo of Usher
from the Service Nation event in New York a couple weeks ago. The
filename is usher_at_service_nation_nyc.jpg. Now, when I type “Usher”
in my Firefox address bar, it leads me right to that image. With IE8,
it actually goes to the blog post where that image lives rather than
the image alone, even though I hadn’t actually visited that post in IE.
Chrome doesn’t bring up the file in its suggestions at all, but that
will most likely change over time. These browsers have a way of looking
more alike, even as they stake out their own identities.

Reviewing these optimization basics won’t likely cause a huge
difference overnight. As I mentioned in my end of summer roundup, it
will take some time to learn how much these new browsers encourage
direct navigation. Yet it’s somewhat reassuring that you probably
already know the tactics that will put you in the best position with
the new browsers, and they’ll provide other benefits for your landing
pages whether you’re focused on SEO or paid search. While it may be
frustrating needing to focus on a new round of browser wars, they can
make you feel smarter for having learned all the tricks already.

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