Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Social and Search?


This was originally a for a guest post on http://www.narvi.co.uk/ but it never made it live so here it is:

I have been using the web since about 1995 and since then a lot has changed. I created my first website in 1999 while at university and it was found by about 2 people apart from the people i told as i didn't understand about search engines. Between 2000 and 2007 search engines played the biggest part in the discovery of new content, that and email. But since 2007 social has slowly been building up and up until last year it exploded. I remember searching Google on the first day of the F1 championships, only to see a twitter stream right there in the centre of the results providing real time updates from around the web on what was happening. Or organising a holiday over Facebook with friends from across the country. The social web allows interaction and discovery on-line in ways not possible 10 or even 5 years ago.

So what does this mean and what are the possible relationships between search and social, should you think of them as being married walking hand in hand?

Well to start with having the best social strategy in the world and a poor site is going to get you no where as you need to be able to be found via multiple channels and the best way to ensure independence is to have your own site. Search engines are not going to be disappearing over night and still provide the majority of traffic to most sites. If your analytics package is showing people are not engaged with your website content are people going to be flocking to your Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn page? Consider doing some basic Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) or Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and try to get an understanding who, where and when visitors come to you site. Once armed with some insight you can begin your social campaign!

Along with social comes brand, this is becoming more important with search and a lot of the recent changes in Google’s algorithms have favoured strong brands. How do search engines get a good idea of brand awareness? Social signals both Bing and Google have stated that they use services such as Twitter updates and Facebook likes / shares to gain understanding. Recently Google has furthered its attempt at social by introducing the +1 button which allows someone to +1 a search result at present and eventually +1 a web page via a button in the same way as a like / tweet. This will further enhance the social data Google presents to people and make “gaming” the rankings a little harder.

So do i think search and social are closely linked? The short answer is yes. The sites you like and share both on-line and off plant seeds in other peoples minds who then search for them. Social networks allow viral content to spread as well as provide targeted discovery of content through friends, business contacts and acquaintances interests. This in turn is used by search engines to help build a better picture of the web and the content to return in a search query.

Do you need to be on every social platform? No. You need to pick the right ones for your audience and ensure the content you share adds to your brand and existing on-line portfolio. You also need to be prepared to communicate with the people that follow you. Social is about understanding your audience and working with them to enhance knowledge and experience on and offline.

Having the right social strategy will provide you with a great opportunity not just in the social networks but also the search results and is something i would make sure was on my digital marketing list of activities.

Further Reading:

+1 Info :
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/1s-right-recommendations-right-when-you.html
http://www.seomoz.org/blog/google-1-and-the-rise-of-social-seo

Search and Social signals :
http://searchengineland.com/what-social-signals-do-google-bing-really-count-55389

Understating social networks :
http://www.slideshare.net/padday/the-real-life-social-network-v2

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