Craig Smith is the founder and CEO of Trinity Insight, a leading eCommerce consulting agency that provides multivariate testing.
Social Media & SEO
Recently, major developments have taken place within search algorithms to weigh social signals as ranking factors. Social signals present additional cues which can be leveraged by search engines, and these elements have been incorporated as secondary datapoints to be utilized when engines decide which pages to rank at the top of the results.
The reason for this shift is pretty clear. Search engines have been dealing with the problem of link spam in link manipulation for years now. Outside of on-site HTML, search algorithms really do not have many other factors to weigh.
The secondary link market caused search results to rank that were less than ideal for Google. The engines know that the competitive advantage they have is primarily attributed to query relevance.
Relevance is the key to everything that happens within Google’s business. If Google doesn’t give you, as a user, a phenomenal experience by providing accurate and quality solutions to the questions you pose within the search engine, you will simply use another engine and click on their paid listings.
Because AdWords (i.e. Paid Search) makes up over 90% of Google’s revenue this is clearly something that they protect as their number one strategic initiative, keeping their listings more relevant than any other search engine on the market.
Spammers and manipulated links are the number one threat to Google’s relevancy. For so many competitive listings, there are sites that are clearly built on scraped content, that have been manufactured solely for the purpose of generating affiliate revenue, and that have achieved top search engine rankings through link manipulation techniques.
Many of these sites were eliminated from the search engine results with the panda update that took place earlier in 2011, but still, many sites that present a less than ideal user experience are frequently at the top of Google’s search engine results.
In my opinion, Google realized that they had to add additional variables to their internal ranking algorithms to ensure that relevancy not only improves, but also that the additional garbage content that exists on the web is eliminated. The social web that exists in a high percentage of overall internet traffic, provides exactly what Google needs to supplement their existing page rank algorithm.
Facebook and Twitter are the two principle components of what I am calling the social web. The social web is the interconnection between humans that serves as a filter for content.
Because humans pass content that is of value, and that also provides connections on an emotional level, or for some type of learning experience, search engines can take these user actions of sharing and incorporate these “signals” into the link driven ranking algorithms that exist today.
What Should You Do?
So what are you to do as a marketer? Well, the first plan of attack should be to isolate the influencers that exist within the social web for your marketplace. Document the publishers, the URLs, and the specific Facebook pages or groups that have high levels of interactivity, and three occasions for the search terms they were targeting.
Next it’s time to look at your content. What content do you have on your domain that is of high value? What content do you have that will help answer questions or comments within prospects’ minds in your market? Document these pieces of content as these are the two types that you will be seeding in Facebook and Twitter.
If you don’t have content that is of high value, then you need to create it. Your SEO success will not proceed without your site being a leader in targeted copy that is geared for your prospects.
Conducting a proper keyword research effort, will help you understand what you need to write about. Schedule a marketing campaign and content distribution strategy that touches upon all of these categories and subcategories.
Lastly, after your content has been created, it’s time to engage. An analyst or representative of the organization will need to interact in social communities that are discussing the topical areas you are targeting within your SEO efforts.
You will want to present your content as solutions to questions within the social setting. The key is not being a salesman of any kind, but rather, a trusted individual that helps provide perspectives and insights to solving problems that users have. Don’t optimize anchor text, just present URLs as solutions to user questions.
By interacting in these discussions and communities not only will your brand receive increased exposure for prospects in your market, but Google and other search engines will see your content as a trusted resource as you are helping provide solutions to web users. This is exactly what Google wants you to do and your search engine rankings will benefit.
Best of luck within your SEO efforts!
Image Credit: Matt Hamm