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Search + Social: A Growing Relationship

barak-erez
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With the explosive growth of major social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, marketers have gained a whole new range of channels from which to broadcast their messaging, engage with customers, and drive sales opportunities.

Businesses are quickly realizing that optimizing and leveraging these social channels are only going to grow as an integral part of their marketing efforts, in addition to their existing search engine optimization (SEO) strategies.

Businesses can't afford to ignore social, namely because this is where consumers are spending most of their time. Recent research from Nielsen shows that more online users are spending their time on social media networks and blogs than on any other online channel -- 25 percent of collective time spent online.

U.S. Internet Time

Search engines are recognizing this shift in user behavior, too, and reacting accordingly. Over the past year, there has been an increasing shift in the development of social features from both Google and Bing.

Recently, both Google and Bing confirmed they use social signals from Facebook and Twitter as relevancy indicators. We're seeing a connection between search and social in terms of marketing budget spend, as well.

Second only to website optimization, marketers in a recent MarketingSherpa survey listed search and social as the top marketing tactics they plan to increase their budget for in 2011.

Search Social Media Budget

Consumers are interacting on an increasingly social level, and the online conversations they're having are directly impacting search results. In 2011, businesses must make sure they're at the intersection of search and social.

Are Search and Social Connected?

Google and Bing have confirmed that "social" is now a part of their ranking algorithm, but you can see it for yourself just by running a query search on either engine.

Bing proved ahead of the social game when they announced their incorporation of Facebook's "Like" data into search results last year.

Google also waded into the social waters, adding real-time results into SERPs in the form of relevant, recent tweets. Just last week, Google announced updates to their search results, which now incorporate three new layers of social integration including Twitter, Quora and Flickr. Not only are consumers seeing tweets, shares, "Likes," blogs, and other relevant posts from people within their inner social circles, but these results are also to be displayed higher in search queries.

Now more than ever, search is deeply aligned with social.

Nevertheless, there's a lot of skepticism around Facebook as a marketing channel, especially for B2B companies. We recently ran an analysis to try to determine whether there's a correlation between social signals and search engine rank.

Our research showed a strong correlation between search engine rank and Facebook Likes. Our research showed, for example, that pages with more Likes rank higher than pages with fewer number of Likes. In short, Facebook matters. The content you post to your company Facebook page and the Likes and comments you encourage from your fans has an impact on your rank.

Facebook Search Rank

Is It Only About Social?

One of the latest metrics we've seen from search engines that contributes to their ranking algorithms is page load speed. We're seeing clear correlation between ranking on page one, and having a faster page. So, yes, ranking isn't just about social.

Page Load Time

It's about more than just social; the search landscape and SERPs are frequently changing due to other factors. The best way for marketers to recognize these new factors and stay abreast of these changes is by measuring marketing efforts in real time and optimizing to align with theses new metrics.

As you execute your SEO campaign, keep your eye on existing metrics, as well as new ones and make sure you track what's important.

What Do I Need to Track in Real Time?

When choosing your tactics and strategy, focus on the metrics that matter and keep measuring in real time how they affect your business. Here are three tips on key indicators you should track, measure, and analyze:

Tip 1: SEO Indicators

  • Keyword Ranks: Keep an eye on how you're doing on your specific keywords on Google, Bing, internationally, locally, etc.

  • Page Scores: What do you need to do to get your pages noticed by search engines?

  • Link Opportunities: Make sure you're going after the right link opportunities and getting links to align with your keywords and page content.

Tip 2: Social Indicators

  • Track Likes, shares, and comments on Facebook, as well as retweets and followers on Twitter.

  • Make sure these are coming from users with authority and social influence.

Tip 3: Business Indicators

  • Monitor page views, visitors, conversion and revenue.

  • Tie back SEO and social indicators to business metrics and results. This will give you a full understanding of how effective your campaign is.

Search Is Paying Attention to Social, You Should Too

These are the preliminary best practices, as we know Google and Bing will be continually running new experiments. While search engines may vary their approaches to social integration, it's clear that search engines, consumers and marketers are investing more resources in social.

Stay ahead of the curve -- and your competitors -- and make sure your social media marketing efforts are in line with the social signals Google and Bing are looking at, and that you're tracking in real time.

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