Search Box Optimization (SBO): What it is; Who it’s For & How it Works to Get Endless Leads, Phone calls, & Traffic to Your Business Fast!

Search Box Optimization (SBO): What it is; Who it’s For & How it Works to Get Endless Leads, Phone calls, & Traffic to Your Business Fast!

In this article, I will dive into how Search Box Optimization (SBO) works and how it can help Small and Medium Businesses (SMB’s), consultants and professionals alike improve visibility and exposure on search engines using the Autocomplete feature in the search box to attract more customers.

What is Search Box Optimization (SBO)?

Search Box Optimization (SBO) is the process of positioning your brand or business in the drop down lists of the most ubiquitous of search boxes! Yes, imagine being ‘suggested’ by Google’s all-powerful search engine during a potential clients search query. This could be an absolute game changer for any small or medium business looking to attract more leads, phone calls, walk-in traffic and clients.

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Although Google controlled an almost unassailable 92% of all search traffic, Microsoft’s Bing search engine saw explosive growth of users traffic with the clever integration of ChatGPT into Bings search experience.  The result was a more interactive, positive & friendly user experience that saw an unprecedented decline to 85.6% of users for Google; and a rapid increase to 7.6% of users for Bing.

What is Autocomplete?

Autocomplete suggests keyword categories, places, products, services and what is trending to search users as soon as they begin to type in a search engines search box.

Google defines Autocomplete as “a feature for predicting the rest of a query a user is typing, which can improve the user search experience…. It can also improve the search response quality and thus create higher revenue by providing well-formatted queries.”

The autocomplete appears to effectively complete a user’s thoughts by finding the “right” keyword before they actually finish typing and this has proven to be extremely helpful for example with helping to prevent typing errors especially for hard-to-spell search terms; and in saving user’s time. 

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How does Googles Autocomplete Work?

According to Google, the Autocomplete is a feature within Google Search that makes it faster to complete searches that users start to type. This automated algorithmic system generates predictions that help people save time by allowing them to quickly complete a search they already intended to conduct.

As mentioned above and contrary to popular belief, the Autocomplete actually provides predictions and not suggestions to search queries by analyzing billions of data points that enable it to come up with the best predictions of relevant keywords based on the most common and or trending Google searches. The fact that Google is able to number crunch such a huge pool of data and do so seamlessly makes it appear as though the Autocomplete is suggesting rather than predicting query answers in the search box.  

An interesting statistic from Google is that 75% of search users choose their answers from the selection offered by Googles autocomplete feature because and these answers helps users save as much as 25% of the time they would has otherwise spent had they completed their search queries on their own.

Google is able to achieve such a time savings for search users with just a few keystrokes and a click of the mouse; all while skipping the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP’s) which means essentially that business owners are able to painlessly bypass their competition by appearing in the autocomplete before the SERP’s are displayed!  This is a big plus for any business owner constantly having to pay more for PPC or SEO particularly in niches that are highly competitive! 

Who Exactly is Search Box Optimization (SBO) For?

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To take full and proper advantage of SBO will depend on whether or not your business is positioned to demonstrate the authority, expertise and social proof potential clients demand so that they are comfortably enough to know, like and trust your business and take the decision to become customers and ultimately loyal clients because you provided a solution for a problem that they were actively looking to solve. 

Why Use SBO?

As a Digital Marketing Specialist, it is my experience and opinion that SBO provides the best bang for your buck because of the following simple reasons:

  1. It is Cost Effective
  2. It gives your business an unfair Competitive Advantage
  3. It provides your business with unparalleled Exclusivity in either local or national search.
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How to Maximize the Benefits of SBO

That being said, you and your business can prepare to take full advantage of all the benefits of SBO by simply focusing on three (3) key areas of Local SEO. These areas briefly include:

1.   Conducting Keyword Research to optimize for Autocomplete. You do this by finding out what keywords and phrases your potential clients use to search for your business, products or services. Simply ask the question: “What keywords are my potential customers using to find my business in search?” A great place to start however is to ask your clients what keywords they used to find you online? Another often underutilized resource is your monthly Google Business Profile (GBP) report emailed to you that rans the top most used keywords to search for your business listing.

2.   Creating High Quality Content that adds value by addressing your target audience’s needs immediately with highly relevant, informative, and engaging content with a clear call to action directing users to the next action step you would like them to take like “Call Now.”

3.   Focus on Local SEO first because this is the lowest hanging fruit as far as your business visibility online is concerned. Mae sure to claim, optimize and verify your free Google Business Profile (GBP) listing and your free Bing Places business listing from Microsoft. Next, make sure all your social platforms are also optimizing for local search with all the relevant information such as correct and uniform business name address and phone numbers. Also register on relevant industry or niche specific online directories and then use location-specific keywords in your content and meta tags, and register on listing or directory services such as Yelp or Yellow Pages to name just two.

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Is SBO is a Black Hat technique

Now, this is the 800 pound gorilla in the room because most people who you share what SBO is for whatever reason automatically assume it must be a black hat method, so let’s address this head on!

The quick search online for SBO uncovered very few articles or discussion threads that discussed SBO. Most were a few years old and generally said one of two things:

1.      That SBO is a black hat scam technique that is illegal and further, that it can’t possibly work because if it did, then why is it that when you type ‘search box optimization’ into googles search box, the term does not appear as one of the autocomplete suggestions in the search box?  The fact that it doesn’t proves therefore that SBO does not work!

2.      Most of the more in-depth pieces discuss search box optimization as it relates to optimizing an individual ecommerce or business website search box in order to help website visitors find what they are looking for faster and easier on a website.

I will address the first point by taking a look back through history at any of the major technological revolutions that changed the way we interact and work. What we find is that there was always resistance, ridicule, laughter even violent opposition before acceptance.

Whether this was the arrival of Ford’s motor car in the early 1900’s followed by legislation in New York mandating flaggers to walk Infront of any car because they were deemed dangerous; the internet in the early 1990’s followed by ecommerce which were both heavily ridiculed as fads that would never work; to the arrival of smart phones with Steve Jobs iPhone in 2007; and social media that exploded as a result of smart phones. More recently the arrival of cryptocurrency saw the battle play out as the old established centralized behemoth industries fight tooth and nail to hang on.

Most recently with ChatGPT bursting onto the scene in late 2022 AI is now at the centre of alot of conversations and history again repeats itself as the naysayers collectively say, “it’s a scam and it won’t work.”

The difference this time around is that with AI and ChatGPT, SBO no longer seems as far fetched as it did just a year or two ago and change is happening at an exponential rate! 


So, if you are a business owner, consultant or professional in a highly competitive niche, and you have a digital marketing budget; but are worried about the diminishing returns in terms of leads, phone calls or clients you have been getting lately, especially with heightened competition and changing consumer habits due to the economy among others; then it may be worthwhile taking a closer look at SBO and how it just might be the solution to your current challenges, frustrations or problems attracting your perfect leads and clients; and beating the pants off your competition at a fraction of the cost of traditional SEO or PPC marketing!