Search engines are getting smarter. Gone are the days of needing a basic understanding of machine language just to find information online for nearby restaurants. Among the recent improvements, like the conversational search capability of the Google's latest update called "Hummingbird," search engines have begun to incorporate social context for more relevant search results.
In this blog, we'll look at the role that social context plays in search engine optimization, and how marketers can adjust their strategies to match the changing character of search. Let's jump into what’s being called "social search" and learn how it affects marketers.
What is Social Search?
"Social search" refers to the way search engines factor a user’s social network – also called social graph – into how results are displayed for a search query.
In social search, content is given priority that has some sort of social connection – linked to via Facebook, Twitter, or any other major social network – to the searcher.
Alternately, some forms of social search prioritize content that has been shared by social media influencers, even if those experts aren’t directly tied to you.
Examples of Social Search
Google Social Search
Google social search results from multiple networks are now mixed throughout your results based on their relevance; and content with ties to your network are displayed with a higher relevance than their counterparts. Searchers only see social search results when they are logged into Google and have their social networks connected.
Bing Social Search
In summer of 2012, Bing announced a new version of its search engine that included a new layout that closely integrates a searcher’s social network into the results displayed for a given search term.
According to Bing, the social results – which include the ability to directly ask advice from your Facebook network – "complement the standard search results without compromising them, offering you the chance to start a conversation and get advice from your friends, experts and enthusiasts right within the search experience."
Facebook Social Search
Facebook handles close to 1 billion search queries per day. Many of these searches are for individuals or company pages, but the potential exists for inquiries related to decision-making or reviews.
Social Search and Inbound Marketing
The social search playing field is evolving. But, one of the key takeaways from the early actions of Google, Bing, and Facebook is that as marketers, we need to view our search engine optimization strategy and our social media strategy as utterly intertwined. Here's how you can do just that.
- Be sure your SEO tools inform your social media tools. The best way to come out on top of social search is to have a fully integrated marketing platform or process where social media and SEO are fully linked.
- Audit your strengths. Compare your top ranking and most shared content for overlap and do more of it.
- Update your company profiles. Make sure to use your main keywords as part of your company’s online profiles.
- Make your top keywords social. Keep a list of the keywords for which you want to rank highly and create blogs and social posts that cover those keywords.
- Find and encourage your social media influencers. Knowing your social media influencers will help you expand your reach online and ultimately increase the rate at which your content gets found online.
- Nurture your influencers. Thank them for spreading the word about your content and company. Consider inviting them to a special open house or providing them sneak peeks of upcoming news or announcements.
- Don’t rule out Google+. When Google+ first entered the social media space, many marketers wondered if it was worth diverting marketing attention into yet another social network. But when the parent company of said social network is the biggest search engine in the world and starts to integrate its content into search results, it’s worth dipping a toe in the water.
- Don’t rule out Bing. Not only did Bing account for 30% of all searches the spring of 2012, Bing also has a more diverse social search offering than any other search engine. With Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Klout and Foursquare tied in, Bing may give social active companies an edge.
- Keep your Facebook pages active. Even though social search is not Facebook’s primary purpose, data from Hubspot shows a relationship between Facebook shares and link building, which is a major aspect of off-page SEO.
- Create remarkable content! Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms to improve the quality and relevancy of their search results. But this cardinal rule holds true regardless of any search engine update. Content that is relevant and can be trusted as authoritative will continue to drive both search and social media marketing.