Findability: SEO Insight


How SMBs Can Capitalize on the Search-Social Marriage

by: | April 26, 2012

In previous posts on social media and SEO for small businesses, I discussed how the two are becoming increasingly interconnected. As a result, SMBs need to understand how to leverage the power of both to improve their likelihood of success at either.

To see why this is important, consider how Google’s search results have changed. Over the past few years, the search giant has continued to emphasize personalization, changed the appearance of the search engine results page and began actively incorporating social signals into the results. As the screenshot below shows, gone are the days of the search engine results (SERPs) being a simple text list of those sites Google deemed to be most relevant for your search; now the SERPs can include images, videos, recommendations from friends and more.

For years, the mantra for SEO has been content, content, content. The evolution of search engines over the past few years extends that idea a step further; now, it’s also important to have good content that’s shared by others.

For instance, in the Google SERPs screenshot above, the link to Search Engine Land that was +1’d by five of my friends appears only because I’m logged in to my Google account. If I log out, that link is no longer on the first page.

This means that appearing near the top of the results is no longer a ‘simple’ matter of doing SEO right, but sometimes of getting social right, too.

How SMBs Can Capitalize on the Search-Social Marriage

Small business owners hoping to leverage this increasingly important relationship can start by understanding a few basic things:

  • It’s not about how many friends or followers you have; it’s about how many of them actively engage with you online. Greater engagement with your content means more likelihood that your links will appear in the search results of the friends of your friends.
  • People share content for a variety of reasons, but rarely it is because they want to make you look good. Create content that makes your friends look smart or generous if they share it.
  • Help your followers share your content easily and effectively. Most of your followers probably don’t understand SEO and probably wouldn’t really care if they did, but you can help your own case by providing easy (as few clicks as possible) avenues for people to share and by using keywords to describe your content.
  • Don’t use social solely as an SEO strategy. Social has separate value in and of itself as a way to engage with and serve your audience, so don’t make the mistake of only focusing on optimization.
  • Don’t do SEO without thinking about social. At this point, it’s practically a waste of time to not incorporate social into your SEO efforts.

Let’s take a look at how this might work for an actual small business, using a local pool service as an example. This fictional pool service operator is savvy enough to have a blog to which she regularly posts useful (optimized) information for pool owners, along with an occasional special offer. And, let’s suppose further, that the business owner amplifies the reach of her blog posts by including easy options for readers to share the content on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
A particularly timely article on how to adjust the chemical balance in a pool during pollen season is read by 50 people, five of whom share it on Google+. Now, when those five people’s friends search for information on pool care they might just see a little icon of someone they know next to the pool service’s article on pollen care. Given that we’re influenced by visuals and more likely to trust information from friends, this can have a significant impact.

Since the interrelationship between search and social is likely to only grow stronger, it’s important for businesses to begin to utilize both in a way that maximizes their effectiveness.Marketing Zeus

Posted in: B2C, Campaign Development, E-Commerce, Facebook, Findability: SEO Insight, Optimization, Social Networks, Twitter

About the Writer:

Rob Croll is Program Director for the Internet Marketing Bachelor and Master degrees at Full Sail University. He also owns a consulting firm that works with small businesses and nonprofits. Rob has been included on Social Media Marketing Magazine's list of Top 100 Marketing Professors on Twitter and has had numerous articles published both online and in print. He has a BS in Finance and an MFA in Media Design. Follow Rob on Twitter @rcroll.

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