Search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns have moved far beyond simply optimizing <title> tags, page content, and generating incoming links.
Now that Google “universal”
or “blended” search
has become widespread
on almost every search
query, a standard organic
listing is competing with
images, video, news, local,
paid and real-time search.
Now we can add social search results to the mix. These new
sets of results not only deliver content that might have otherwise
gone unnoticed, but also have the potential to push other,
organic listings off the visible page. That means social media
optimization (SMO) is now in direct competition with SEO.
However, don’t be discouraged. The good news is that it’s
often much easier to get top rankings for a blended or social
search category than a highly competitive organic listing.
That is, of course, if you understand how to optimize for
Google Social Search.
Understanding Google Social Search
It’s important to differentiate Social Search from Google’s realtime
search results. Real-time results are labeled “Latest
results for ...” and include a scrolling results box for some
queries. Alternatively, Google Social Search is labeled “Results
from people in your social circle for ...” and results
appear with an accompanying image (or avatar) from your
Think of Social Search as Google “Trust” Search. By personally
choosing to “follow” certain friends and websites
online, Google assumes that information
from these sources is important, relevant
and trusted by you and uses these contacts
to form your social graph. Then, particular
queries will return results from those in
your circle — their blog posts, Twitter updates,
etc. Google feels this can add yet
another layer to search results and improve
your overall search experience.
How does Google Determine
Relevancy for Social Search?
Google claims to use a normal ranking algorithm
when determining what websites
to display first in Social Search results. So, page content, number of incoming links, and incoming
link quality and authority are the primary ranking factors.
However, expect this to change as Google continues to test
and tweak Social Search results and puts more emphasis
on the Direct and Secondary connections within your
Optimizing for Google Social Search
First and foremost, you must have a Google Profile that includes
information about you, and links to websites you
want to promote. This should include links to your primary
website and its weblog, and social profile URL’s including
Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr,
Picasa, FriendFeed, Yelp, etc. In short, any active social network
profile should be included. While some networks and
their content will not be indexed by Google (such as Facebook),
linking those profiles to your Google profile (and
vice-versa) will offer a better chance of connecting with
people through Google and, ultimately, be found in Social
Establish Connections within Gmail and Google Chat
While time consuming, it is worth gathering as many Gmail
and/or Google Chat contacts as possible, as it will increase
your exposure in Social Search. Unfortunately, contacts
from other networks are not as easily imported. You can’t
add Twitter followers easily — they must be added one-byone.
But you can import contacts from a CSV file, for example.
Remember, not only will your contacts see you in
their Social Search results, but you have the potential to be
seen by the connections-of-your-connections or friends-offriends.
In short, your reach will grow exponentially as you
Keep Content Relevant and High-Quality
Aggressively pursuing new contacts is important to Social
Search success. However, you want to stay relevant and
post quality content. Posting low-quality, keyword-stuffed
content will result in the same fate as usual — low conversion
rates. Or, in this case, you might find yourself
banned from your contacts’ Social Search results. Remember,
these results are targeted to friends and trusted
contacts. So, you want to appear as genuine and trustworthy
Social Search is Here to Stay
With the explosion of Facebook and Twitter
you can no longer ignore the enormous potential
in being social. Google wants its
share of the social pie, so don’t expect them
to remain idle while Facebook and Twitter
try to eat into their search market share.
However, it is important to keep in mind
that Google will continue to test and tweak
results. Not every query will result in Social
Search results, and you can expect many
changes on the results pages and to the social
ranking algorithm in the future. In the
interim, get ahead of the game by optimizing
your Google Profile for Social Search
while competition is fairly low. It will benefit
your overall social media and SEO efforts.
:: by Dante Monteverde, SEO Corner Columnist at Website Magazine ::