As Google shifts towards question answering, improving your online reputation to be an industry expert can lead to more customers.
Google’s Challenge and Shift To Answer Questions
In a recently published video, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, listed some top SEO mistakes. Of the several mentioned (including not having a crawlable site, too much focus on link building, lack of title and description tags, and not using webmaster tools), the most interesting one is what text to include on your site’s page. He suggests posing a question rather than making statements.
For example, instead of, “tennis game rules,” use, “what are the rules of tennis?” Why? Because it’s a more natural way for people to search.
This is interesting because it reveals Google’s challenge as well as their goal: how to answer searchers questions more directly.
Answers Mean Trust, Leading to Clients
Sites such as Quora and Yahoo! Answers have gained popularity as a result of user’s desire to post questions. Google’s attempt at contextual searching helps. Being the perceived expert in your field builds trust, which in turn brings customers because they want to deal with experts who know their problem and how to solve it.
By putting good content online and specifically by answering potential clients questions naturally draws inquires, site traffic and closed deals.
But this brings up another question if answers are the new focus in search. Which answers do you trust or what ones are best for you?
Build A Good Online Reputation to Build Trust
A big part of this dovetails to online reputation management (online reputation management is everything about you online, essentially the “brand” of you). An answer from the perceived expert could be most useful and trusted. But how does one become the go-to industry “answer expert”?
Building or boosting your online reputation by engaging with your audience is key, as well as creating excellent content in the form of blog posts, videos, presentations and whitepapers.
As Google continues to work out how to answer questions more directly, start working on becoming the expert in your field. Here are some suggestions.
Read current blog posts or articles by trusted sources.
Become familiar with leaders in your industry, if you are not already. See what posts are interesting, noteworthy, original and have a different slant on a topic. Read their blog posts, become a Twitter follower of theirs, and track their presentations or other material. The idea is not to copy their content but to emulate their approach. One way to discover industry leaders is to join LinkedIn Groups (see my blog post on how to select the best ones, “Finding the right LinkedIn Group Means Business)), and see who is active and what they are writing about. Check back daily or weekly to see what they’ve discussed or posted.
This will also help you become familiar with your industry and to know what questions might being asked but are not formally answered.
Narrow and know your niche.
Next, pick a niche or aspect of your industry. Not everyone can be an expert in all things so narrow your focus. It might be a particular region of the country or city (or neighborhood); a smaller part of a business; or just something you are obsessed with. For example, if you are a lawyer in private practice inNew York, maybe you could be an expert on real estate deals with beneficial tax implications. Or if you are in pharmaceutical sales for the West Coast, discuss ways in making effective cold calls that lead to face-to-face meetings. Or if you are an art dealer, perhaps make your focus on emerging artists from theUK to watch out for.
Write a list of questions.
After you’ve got a solid idea of what others are saying, make a list of questions. Start with common ones that your client usually ask. Expand this to include additional questions that the industry experts are asking. Also read between the lines to ascertain additional questions that clients have not really articulated or are afraid to ask. After you make this list, prioritize them according to what you think are the most important for your audience.
Provide written answers
Write answers. These could be brief, general sketches or very detailed. You might be worried about giving away too much information. If this feels like an issue to you, try to find a balance between presenting good information and leading out the details. But remember, you are the seasoned expert, so the more useful information you can provide, the most helpful and trustworthy you will appear.
Search for questions and analyze results.
Once you have a list of questions, search for yourself online and see the results. Start with Google by just entering your question (such as, “how to repair my online reputation?”). Are there many answers? Do they address your question? Who are the industry leaders that are answering them? Would you trust them? How up-to-date or newsworthy are they answers? Most importantly, what questions are not being answered? Check other sites such as LinkedIn or Quora. Compare these to your list. If your questions have many excellent answers, you might want to alter your answer or move on to the next one. If your question is not adequately answered online, then this might be a good opportunity for you provide an answer.
Optimize for Search Engines
Search engine optimization or SEO is very important because it helps get you found by Google, Bing and Yahoo. The main component of SEO, for our purposes, is to focus on keyword search terms. These are words or phrases that Google will pick up and list in search results. It’s important to know what are the best and most effective search terms and this usually requires analysis or help from a professional. For example, if I wanted to write about, “What is the best financial investment,” the phrase might be way to general or get thousands of request per month making it almost impossible for my post to come up on the first page. Instead, after analyzing the terms, a better and more effective phrase might be, “What are the best financial investments for recent college graduates,” or, “What are the best financial investments in Chelsea, NYC.”
Post your answers online, in question form, to LinkedIn, Facebook, Blog posts
Post your question and answer online. Good places include are your own blog, as well as LinkedIn and Facebook. Start with the heading as a question, such as “How Can I Remove Negative Reviews from Yelp,” or “What are the best Financial Advisors in Chelsea.”
Create YouTube video answer.
A very powerful way to answer a question is to create a YouTube video. Video is extremely helpful because it’s ranked highly by Google. Even for very competitive terms, you might jump to the first page because Google likes video and images (they own YouTube, if you didn’t know). The other advantage is a video gives viewers a chance to see what you look like, providing an additional level of trust. Do you have to create a professional, perfect looking video? No. One of the best, most convincing YouTube answers I saw was made from a sales person’s car just before attending a sales meeting! It doesn’t have to be perfect, just competent. Start with asking the question, and then provide a clear answer.
Answer similar or related questions.
LinkedIn, Quora, provide great opportunities to answer a range of related or existing questions. Answering them show that you are in expert in your field or area, and help drive traffic back to your site. Take about thirty minutes a day looking for and answering these questions.
Create Google Alert
You can easily be notified when ever a key phrase or question is posted by creating a Google Alert. Its free and easy to set up. Then, when a question is posted, you can respond immediately instead of wasting time by searching for questions on various sites.