Selection Set: get in it, and win it

Posted on Jul 9, 2012

What’s the first duty of a brand?

You could make a good argument for a clear vision. Or internal sign-on. Visibility. Differentiation. Customer insight.

All of those would be reasonable choices, because they’re all fundamental, and must be present to have any hope of success. So … let’s go into Double Jeopardy where the scores can really change, and see what needs to be done once we have a brand that faces competitors in the real world. One essential benchmark is to make it into a buyer’s selection set, those two or three brands deemed to be worth looking at. Valuable – but that’s just a beginning, because in every set of three, at least two must be bridesmaids.

The grand slam for considered purchases happens when you:
• get into the selection set
• are the first considered from the selection set
• close the sale before competitors are even examined.

There are practical steps you can take to improve in all parts of that trifecta. Getting into the selection set requires skillful SEO, of course. But that’s only part of the job. The second part, to be the first result examined, requires a good appearance on the search engine results page (SERP), which has a lot to do with the words that appear there, the title and description. Most websites do this badly, even though they have the power to control what those things say.

Let’s amplify this a bit, because the failure is everywhere you look. Prove it to yourself: take a look at a page of results, say, the SERP where your brand shows up vs. your competitors. Look just below each result title, and study the first few words of text. How many of these descriptions begin with the name of the company? That is, how many repeat what’s immediately above it? This pointless wheel-spinning eats up space from the strict two-line limit.

A SERP description allows 17 to 25 words, total – yet so many squander that opportunity. Most brandholders fail this test even though they can totally control what that description is – it’s written into their site’s code. Some sites fail even to include a description tag in their code, but many more have ridiculous description tags with 60 or more words, with important, differentiating terms invisibly placed beyond the 25-word-limit of what will be visible. Rule of thumb: Decide on a single keyword crucial to your brand, and get it in the first three words of that description.

So, on to the third part. If your website is lucky enough to get examined, is it possible to actually make the sale immediately? Yep. The latest research in buyer decision-making makes it clear that a website landing page that screams “you’ve come to the right place,” one that seems to satisfy all the searcher’s needs – can end the search instantly. Time is the new money. What landing page the search leads to, and how that page satisfies searchers, are vitally important factors. It’s too big an issue to brush off in a paragraph or two, so let it be summarized that your site’s effectiveness can be significantly improved with professional help. Let’s talk about it.

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