Google Changes Challenge Your Trade Show Display Marketing!

If you don’t keep up closely with online marketing news, you may have missed not one but TWO major bombshells coming out of Google recently. Back-to-back, they’ve announced changes to their system that are going to have huge effects on your trade show marketing ventures.rental 10x20 hybrid trade show display with double sided kiosks and locking counters

Pretty much, if you do any online content marketing or SEO (search engine optimization) in support of your business or your trade show appearances, it’s time to take a look at how the playing field has changed. It’s changed overnight, and it’s not going to change back. Those who can adapt most quickly will have a leg up on their competition.

The advice here is going to hold true whether you’re looking at your overall search engine optimization strategies, or trade-show specific marketing, so let’s get into it.

Google’s Times Are A’Changing – Two Major Shifts

Let’s start with the less-bad news. On their 15 year anniversary, Google announced that they had made extensive changes to their search algorithms. Called “Hummingbird,” since Google appears to like animal-named initiatives, the new search schemes are primarily aimed at helping Google parse and “understand” natural language search queries.

Basically, more people are typing in “conversational” searches like, “What are good trade shows in my area?” rather than using older keyword-based searches. So, Google wants their system to be able to handle that. Ideally, for example, it would know a hypothetical user is in the Bay Area and would automatically include local results, even if they didn’t search for “Trade Shows In San Francisco” specifically.

Well, there’s nothing wrong there, and we’re probably all starting to use Google more conversationally as its services become more robust.

Unfortunately, the bigger change is the one that just doesn’t have much of an upshot if you’re doing SEO. Google will now be stripping all keyword referral tags from inbound links headed to your website, meaning that we simply will not be able to see what search strings people used to find us.

This data will be available on Google+ for members and for AdWords campaigns, if you’re using Google’s full suite of marketing services, but not for regular SEO.

This isn’t entirely a surprise. For years now, Google has been trying to devalue keywords, specifically to disadvantage companies using artificial techniques to boost their search engine rankings. They don’t want people flooding articles with keywords, and are now willing to take pretty drastic steps to undercut people still relying on such tactics.

It’s probably good for content on the Internet as a whole, but it’s about to make life extremely difficult for a lot of folks just trying to do SEO.

So, what can you do about it while still getting people to read about your latest trade show appearances?

Adjusting To Exposition Marketing Life In A Post-Keyword World

While every company’s strategy is going to be a little different, here’s a quick list of steps that should at least help you improve your content strategies going ahead.

1 – Toss most of your keyword strategies out the window.

Sorry, folks.kiosk with iPad holder AND monitor with dye sub printed graphics

Keywords are still going to be useful as a starting point, to get a general idea what people might be searching for, but they’re no longer the focus of the show. If you’re still trying to get a long-tailed keyword like “top trade show strategies” or “best insurance office in LA” into your article, you can’t spam it over and over.

Going forward, the watchwords are natural and organic. Google wants to promote articles that read, well, like actual articles.

2 – Think about keyword variations.

One of the best remaining techniques for using keywords is to keep using variations on them. Obviously, taken to the extreme this can look as unnatural as constant keyword spamming, or like your blogger just swallowed a thesaurus. However, within reason, using natural synonyms instead of keywords will help cement what your article is about, without tripping Google’s anti-spam filters.

So start thinking about variations on your keywords that someone might use, especially in a natural-language query, and try to include those iin your online posts, advertisements, and blog articles.

3 – Focus on more-informative content.

The status of “advertisblogs” is questionable under the new system, but they aren’t dead yet. Overtly sales-like copy should be avoided, but you can still push your products as long as it’s part of articles that are honestly trying to convey useful information as well.

If you’ve been focusing on largely self-promotional blogs, now is definitely the time to start talking about a new content strategy that works in more generally useful information, while still plugging your own products somewhere in there.

4 – Listen to visitor comments.

Right now, the reader is king. If people want to see something from your blog, or your website, it’s probably a good idea to give it to them. Since search rankings are, to a large extent, a popularity contest, you want to give people what they want. It’s as simple as that.

5 – Expand your social and networking strategies.

There’s still no better way to get a high search ranking than garnering inbound links, which is what this all adds up to. You want to be producing content that people don’t just want to read, but which they’re inspired to share and link to later.

Building networks, expanding your social media outreach, and doing more one-on-one deals like swapping guest blogs will all help push your organic inbound linking.

Be careful using having your employees use their own devices, as your mobile workforce could be risky.

You can also utilize new trade show applications, such as ones that will put your material directly onto the consumer’s phone.

And Just A Bit More Bad News For The Statistically-Minded

Finally, really more of a word of warning: It’s going to be months, at least, before anyone has deduced any new “rules” for how to reliably boost your search engine rankings under this new system. This is going to be a period of great uncertainty for companies that like hard SEO data, and who don’t want to change strategies unless they’ve got statistics backing up the move.

Unfortunately the one thing that is clear from all this is that the old strategies will not work.  Plus, only time will tell which strategies will work. Most of these new content strategies are going to be shots in the dark, and you’ll only know if they’re paying off by watching your rankings and your website metrics.

If you want to look on the bright side, that means -much like Don Draper and his Lucky Strikes- we’re on a new leveled playing field. Everyone has a new opportunity to try new things, and if you hit upon a winning strategy, you’re going to be way ahead of the game.

So don’t be afraid to experiment when you’re pushing your trade show appearances, and if your metrics drop, try something else next month.

The Only Constant Is Change

If you’re using online marketing in your trade show strategies -which you should be doing- then it means keeping up with a field where the rules change every few months.

In the meantime, we’d welcome discussion of how this is going to change your trade show marketing strategies, in our comments below!

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