The Rewards Of Being Social

The following post was my March 3, 2011, contribution to the Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG) Blend site. The MENG Blend is a blogging initiative featuring bloggers from multiple marketing disciplines and industries. I blog on online marketing and social media.

Non-digital marketers tend to leave search engine optimization (SE0) issues to the digital marketers. If you have been maintaining a 20,000-foot view of how search engines drive Website traffic and attention, you may have missed a few recent developments that could influence your understanding of social media and what it could mean to your work.

The notion of optimizing for search engine results is being broadened beyond Web page code and  keyword-conscious content creation. Increasingly, your appearance in search engine results will also be a function of your social participation.

You and your firm have every right to take your time and set your own pace in terms of your participation in social networks. But if you’re favoring a slow pace or if you’ve concluded that social media is just not for you or your company, you should know that such a position will have consequences.

Social Circle As The Ultimate Clique

Google, in its continuous drive to deliver results that are relevant to searchers, is giving significant weight to social participation. For elaboration, we’ve embedded two videos below. The first is from January 2010. It’s an explanation by Google that the searcher who has established a Google Profile, including links to his accounts on various social networks, can expect his search results when logged into a Google account to include results from people within his network. When we showed the effect of this on our blog last year, the social circle results were displayed at the bottom of the search page.

As the new video below describes, the recent update goes further in three ways:

  • Previously Google segregated the social circle results; now they are integrated within the standard search results.
  • Search results include notes for links that the searcher’s connections have shared on Twitter and other sites. The appearance of the favicon that the searcher is likely to recognize from his social networking activity along with the link provide a quasi-endorsement for that search result.
  • Google offers the searcher more control over how and which social accounts are connected.

How many people—how many of your clients and prospects—use or are likely to use Google Profiles, the linchpin in Social Search? Don’t know. But what is known is that you and your firm are passing on a visibility opportunity with those who do (likely influencers) if you don’t have a social profile of your own.

A Tweet Can Drive Search Results

In fact, a single tweet sent by an influential social account can have a mighty impact, according to a case study documented by the SEOMoz site in mid-February.

We call this to your attention both as an illustration of what you may be missing out on and of what your more social competitors may be benefitting from.

Here are the details: An SEOMoz Twitter account (no slouch itself, by the way) tweeted about the availability of a beginner’s SEO guide. That tweet was re-tweeted (forwarded) by many but notably by the SmashingMagazine Twitter account (@SmashingMag) which stimulated significant re-tweeting. That’s to be expected.

What wasn’t expected was the immediate rise to Google’s page 1 of search results of the SEOMoz beginner’s guide—not the tweet, mind you, the content itself. You’ll want to read the full case study but here are a few of SEOMoz’ conclusions:

  • A high quantity of tweets from “real” Twitter users can have a substantial impact on search rankings in the short term, with some residual effect over the long term.
  • Authoritative Twitter accounts lend their authority to pages they tweet (both Google and Bing consider the authority of Twitter accounts).
  • This was reported and discovered by an SEO site because they pay close attention to what moves search engine rankings. But all effective social accounts are assumed to be benefiting from the search engines’ recognition that social activity can be a signal of relevant, authoritative content.

If your business relies on people finding you and your solutions through search engines, opting out of social media or dragging your heels about exploring it may be to your detriment.