Social Media Affecting Search Engine Results

Last night, I led a discussion on the future impact of Google and Bing announcing that social media is now considered part of the search engine results algorithm. There are excellent articles from Search Engine Land and SeoMoz that explore the topic.

Here is an interview with Matt Cutts, the “Google Guy” when it comes to Search Engines. Most people know that Matt is pretty understated on this stuff, so I think it has more influence than he is currently leading on about it:

You can view the mind map outline that I used in the presentation:

Social Media Mindmap Presentation - Click to View

Section 1 – Examine SE Algorithm

  • It is generally considered that search engines consider 200+ pieces of information when returning SE results
  • Most people think that about 10 parts of the algorithm are really important
  • Last year, we saw the rise of Universal search where SE tried to anticipate the solution to your query and began to integrate web, news, video, shopping, Twitter Feeds and other “non-website specific” results
  • Social Media is now being considered part of the SE Results. This means that website owners have to stop thinking about wanting to get into social media. Search Engines just made it imperative to get into social media.

Section 2 – What is Social Media?

Section 3 – Why Social is Potentially Better?

  • Facebook is the only company that Google fears – why is this?
  • Search Engines return “Information” based around their ranking algorithm
  • Social provides a perspective or an opinion on information from a network of trusted friends
  • When you layer perspective on top of information, you get “insight.” Ultimately, every searcher is really looking for insight – not just information.
  • Social creates a scary combination of information and perspective in one place. Is this why Facebook just raised $500M to create its own search engine?
  • While anything that has the ability to make money will be “gamed”, social media is a harder place to game the system.
  • Relationships must be authentic
  • Power is in the hands of the consumer: stop delivering relevant, interesting, timely and credible information and you will lose the relationship. It’s not just a numbers game…it is a quality of interactions game.

Personal hypothesis: In time, social media will replace links as the major ranking factor in the SE results

Section 4 – How Social Could Replace Links

  • Much akin to PageRank, Search Engines will generate a “substructure” algorithm to measure the influence and strength of social media outlets
  • This could be a potential PageRank replacement
  • Things that might be considered: fans, % of fans interacting for each post, number of comments per post, tone of conversation (positive/negative), number of followers vs following, # of tweets, # of retweets (measure influence and voice)
  • Information would have the metric of Insight applied coming from Users not just information from Machines
  • Facebook is a closed platform with privacy controls and therefore can only crawl “public pages” therefore, you should integrate Facebook onto your own site to make those insights available to Google where possible
  • Bing has an exclusive partnership with Facebook which creates a unique advantage to return potentially “better” more “insightful” results based around your friends
  • Keep your eye on Bing and Facebook in 2011!

Section 5 – Next Steps for Websites

  • The beauty of the web is that we can see very linear paths of ad spends to conversion – the transaction. Unlike tradition media that is difficult – if not impossible – to accurately measure, the web provides that clarity.
  • Marketers must change their mindset and wrap their arms around this thought: From Transaction to Transformation
  • Social Media is about a transformative relationship – a conversation as opposed to the peddler of product – it is about being top of mind when the purchase is ready to be made.
  • Social Media is not always linear in nature. Just because you are ready to sell, doesn’t mean that “interested” customer is ready to buy.
  • Deliver valuable, credible information and you’ll at least be in the ballgame when the time comes for a purchase decision. It’s called Goodwill and adheres to the Theory of Reciprocity
  • Depending on your business, you need to establish accounts that are relevant to your customers and where the conversation is occurring
  • Consider using tools like Hootsuite to manage your social media accounts all in one place. It’s a great time saver!
  • Integrate social media into Site. Give customers the ability to share with friends the product they just purchased, a great article you wrote, the ability to Tweet directly from your page and to “Like” your business. Developing lasting relationships changes the mindset from transaction to transformation.
  • Start Talking! Establish yourself as a Thought Leader with valuable insight. How are you adding to the conversation?
  • Get in Front of the Curve. Social is here. It will get stronger. Don’t get left behind.

My Perspective: Social Media does not live alone in a vacuum. I see Social Media as an extension of your content plan and the conversations you would normally have with your customers anyway. It is difficult for me to imagine someone solely managing Facebook and Twitter accounts without also managing the content that is on the website (and, yes, I know it is happening and people are paying great money to do it!). The potential exists to have a strategic disjoint between web content, tone, personality, etc. if this occurs by dividing these entities. Instead, I see Social Media as marketing extensions to push out and leverage your overall content/marketing plan – not something “over there” to be managed by “those people.” Tight integration will ultimately provide better accountability, insight and results.

Section 6 – Success in Social

  • Like any aspect of your business, you should have metrics that are relevant to your business. Here are some examples of ways to track your social media metrics. If you are not measuring the results of your efforts, you cannot refine and ensure you are meeting your goals.
  • Remember, Social Media may not be Linear to $$. Perhaps you should consider other methods (attributes) to value your work. For instance, if a Social Media campaign results in 50 new friends and 50 email sign ups, but no sales how would you value the campaign? If we only value it against traditional linear metrics, it will come up short. But, if we twist our head a little bit and think about ways in which it WILL contribute, we can better evaluate the impact.
  • Always be on the lookout to cultivate followers and conversations – but only with relevant customers. For instance, I’m sure that some people may have “Liked” my Soccer Classroom page or Twitter profile from my presentation – but really unless you’re a soccer coach or player, it won’t matter to you or me. I can’t deliver you interesting information.
  • Opportunities during the checkout process or the after care of the product…product feedback…packing slips…how else do you touch your customer?
  • Tag your Social Posts to track Interactions back to the site – this way you can measure your Social Media interactions

Section 7 – Opportunities for Agencies

  • Opportunity to provide value to your existing website customers on this emerging trend
  • Potential to “re-sell” the integration of Social into Existing Client’s sites
  • New Sites: Demonstrate Your Firm as “Leading Edge”
  • Establish the ability to manage Social Media. Think about the math here: If you had 10 clients that paid you $400/month to manage their social media ($4k revenue) and could hire a new college graduate for $3k per month, you could easily add an extra $12K to the bottom line. Can you leverage that up?
  • And, yes, I know that I just said I don’t believe that social media should be separated out…but it is currently, so that is a market reality and opportunity. And, secondly, if you can explain this premise clearly of tying content together, you have an opportunity to generate additional revenue…just a thought.

Additional Article Resources:
Social Media Mastery, Creating Lifelong Customers, Facebook Marketing 101 Crash Course

Where do you see this all going?

Random Quote

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”

— Goethe

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