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Optimizing for Social Search

The dawn of a new search marketing era is upon us, marked by the rising glow emanating from Twitter deals between Microsoft’s Bing and soon after, Google. Providing real-time search results from social media outlets is a game changing addition to how people search and find information online and puts more pressure on the delicate interaction between brands and fans. Let’s see what this new era will look like and how your brand can take advantage of it.

The latest news in the integration of social media updates and organic search results is from Google with their Social Search. This is currently an experiment featured in Google Labs, but it scheduled to move to a full release after the holiday season. Google Social Search, still in beta, claims to “help you find relevant public web content from people in your social circle when you’re signed into your Google Account.” Your social circle is composed of your Gmail and Google Talk contacts as well as people you are connected with on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Picasa, FriendFeed, or whatever else you choose to add to your Google Profile. Even results from your extended social circle, or public connections of your connections, can appear in your search results, since Google finds it likely that you will know your friend’s friends or at least find them relevant. All this information is added to the bottom of your regular universal search results and creates a truly personalized search of the web for pertinent information on your query. For example, if you perform a Google search for “Happy Hour Austin,” a collection of opinions and musings from your friends’ Twitter and Facebook updates on the topic will all conveniently be presented in the search results.

Why should you take this new social search seriously? The biggest influence on purchase decisions comes from friends and the word of mouth they generate. Search engines are now making it easier to consult your friends before going out to eat, reading a book, or taking a vacation. This new landscape requires an approach that goes beyond traditional SEO. Marketers, more than ever, must be proactive in online social environments in order to positively impact their natural search rankings.

What can you do to be featured in social search results? Be active! Befriend more users on your current social networking sites and then engage in a conversation. Share entertaining and informative information targeted towards your growing audience(s) and try to include your researched keywords in your posts. By optimizing your social network updates with keywords from your on-page SEO and those with the highest search volumes each month, your updates are more likely to appear on social search results. If negative feedback comes up, respond directly to it and offer solutions. It is one of the best ways to combat and prevent negative press. Be transparent and don’t torture your friends and followers with spam. It’s not all about you or your brand anymore, so act like someone who deserves a fan. Finally, reward your social networking connections with exclusive product or service deals and contests. It’s a great way to generate positive brand buzz, attract new customers, and build brand loyalty.

The search marketing landscape has changed once again. By now you should know better than to fight the new, after all, “that Twitter fad” certainly hasn’t died out yet. In conclusion, embracing change and adapting is how your brand will weather the new climate. Start finding the time to be a presence online and revisit that Facebook fan page you built six months ago and forgot about. By the time Google Social Search has a full rollout, you’ll be ready and easy to find.

Here is a video with Matt Cutts on How Google Social Search Works:

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