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Getting traffic to your website nowadays requires a lot more than getting your pages in to the top 3 search results on Bing, Yahoo and Google.  An increasing number of ‘searches’ are made without typing a single word, or in some cases without users even knowing.  Are customers finding your content without searching?  Or do they see your competitors instead?

This mini series will explain 5 different ways your customers are finding information without typing a single search keyword, and without visiting a search engine homepage…

Method 1: Check in services

Foursquare has established itself as a major player in the location based services check in arena.  Whilst we are still waiting for Facebook to implement location check ins on your mobile app to make it easier for some of their 500 million active (‘active’ meaning users who have accessed FB in the past 30 days), Foursquare has shown that there is a demand for hyper-local and fresh information about topics from the a hottest curry house in town through to the best place to spot rare animals.

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Traditional search engine optimisation has effectively NO relevance when it comes to the information displayed to users checking in.  What’s important now is how many people are checking in to your business, how often and what they are saying about it.  Rewards your Foursquare ‘mayors’, encourage them to evangelise, monitor what people are saying about your business and give them reason to share ‘tips’ with the network of location services users.

Oh…and keep a close eye on Facebook – when they move in to this market, it is going to be HUGE!

Foursquare is by no means the only player in this market.  Gowalla and Scvngr are also notable for their number of users and original spin on the core model respectively.

It’s not all about location

Whilst geo based check ins have been the catalyst for this model, check ins are not limited to locations.  GetGlue is just one of the spin off services which allows users to check in to a number of different areas including TV shows they are watching, music they are listening to and books they are reading.

GetGlue will even show you which wine people are checking in to the most!…

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It appears that ‘Sutter Home White Zinfandel ‘08’ is a popular wine for people using GetGlue.  I can even take a look at who is responsible for the check ins to make decision on whether to trust their judgement or not…

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Summary…

The increasing popularity of check in services suggests that rewards and recognition such as badges and kudos, as well the desire to share (or show off) information about current activities, is enough of a driver for people to check in regularly and create a valuable public knowledge bank of information.

The information available within the check in services is WAY more personal, local and fresh than information from the top results in a search engine. 

Success for businesses in this market relies on engaging the community, giving people reasons to talk about it and monitoring what is being said about your business and that of your competitors.

Have you offered your Foursquare mayor a free cup of coffee yet? Smile

Author: Chris Moore is a program manager from Microsoft working on Search Engine Optimisation.  Follow him on Twitter