Gone are the days that your website guru and your social media guru didn’t know each other and could operate without even knowing what the other one was up to. The gap between search engine optimization and social media has been closing for several years with Google Social Search in 2009 and a series of upgrades and expansions to what we see today with Flickr photos dominating image searches, Facebook comments coming up in search results list and various social profiles being featured in the search engine list.
Search engines aren’t just favoring socially savvy posts, personalizing the results based on social cues from Twitter, Facebook and bookmarking sites like Stumble! in order to provide you with more customized results. For example, if you are a foodie and are constantly gabbing about different food trends, snapping pics of what you’re about to devour and swapping recipes, search engines might prioritize what they put in the results list based on these actions. Their theory, the more they know you, the better they can serve you. Other people have other theories about profiling, but until we catch a glimpse of the Terminator, most people are probably going to go with the flow.
Search engines don’t just utilize what you like or interact with, but what your network has interacted with. You’d be much more likely to click on a search result if you knew that a friend of yours had already reviewed it or interacted with the company. For example, if a prospective client in your community did a search for information on hair salons and they saw that their friend had interacted with your salon on social media they would most likely pursue your information before a completely unknown salon.
This is really a good thing for consumers as they have a serious lack of trust when it comes to brand product pages. According to Leslie Resier from IBM, 70 percent of what people under 40 are reading was written by someone they know. This shows the growth of social networking credibility and the continued decline of traditional marketing mechanisms.
Just because you say your awesome, doesn’t mean that they will believe you. So if you aren’t offering some sort of social media credibility (Yelp reviews, star ratings, forums, etc.) you could see visitors on your site leave to go find the real info elsewhere. They’re looking for an endorsement from their peers, and preferably peers that they trust. And they’re too lazy to call around and ask, they want to see it in front of them on their laptop screens.
To really win at the social search game, you have to think of not only creating great content, but sharing great content and co-creating great content. This is about socializing, just like at a party. If you can get everyone talking about it, you know you’ve got a good thing and you’re raising awareness about the concept. This is easily done with search engines when you look at multimedia content like videos, photos, podcasts and even blogs with some or all of the above. Why do people invest so much time in creating this type of content? Because it gets shared more than simple posts on your social accounts and it has your brand’s stamp on it.
It also gets more love from the search engines. Have you ever done a search for something and found a lot of images up top? Or perhaps video links within the top results? This is because they get more rank than brand websites. And the more interaction those items get, the higher up the list they get. For example, a YouTube video with more hits, more comments, more favorites and/or a higher rating, will look like a better, more relevant, match in the eyes of Google.
So what do you do about this?
- Make sure the link for your website is on every social media profile you have.
- Ensure that all of your online content has the option to ‘share’ so that viewers can pass along the good word at any time.
- Make sure your content is worth sharing! A standard page about your team may not be worth sharing, but if you post something about one of your stylists just returning from NY Fashion Week, that might be a bit more share-worthy for the people that see that stylist. Who doesn’t want to go to the same stylists that all the fashion moguls rely on? This typically goes hand in hand with creating content, which takes some time, but will benefit you both on the social networking side as well as the search engine optimization.
- Jump in the conversations and post authentic, relevant, and transparent comments on the walls, blogs, microblogs and forums of others. This doesn’t mean antagonizing the competition, but research where people are going to find answers to their hair and beauty questions and then add to it. You may even hire or assign someone to be your brand advocate, to talk favorably about your brand and incorporate links back to the website.
- Don’t forget your SEO tactics when creating your content online. Use precise keywords in your content and post tags; always include metadata (at least 30 words); ensure your target keywords are in your page title without duplicating; and get as many links as you can in as many places you can without turning into a spammer!
- Focus on boosting your social engagement and building an experience around your brand. The more tightly knit your client base, the more engaged they’ll be in your brand and more likely to share your content and become a brand advocate. And this is someone talking you up that you don’t have to pay like that advertising rep that keeps calling…