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Nathan Safran

Social Network Visibility in the SERPs for Personal Brand Searches [Study]

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Earlier this year, in "Social Search Result Rankings for Top 500 Tech Writers", we analyzed how social networks appear in the search results for 500 of the world’s top tech writers’ names.

In looking to understand how the social networks appear in the search engines for personal brand searches, we selected a group presumed to be most active across the major social networks.

We entered the top 500 tech writer names from technology evangelist Robert Scoble’s curated Twitter list into Searchlight, Conductor’s technology platform [Disclosure: I work for Conductor]. We then analyzed the frequency the networks appeared on page 1 of the search results for the writers’ name.

Given Google’s continuous feature evolution and heavy promotion of Google+ over the last several months, we took another look at what, if anything, has changed in the SERPs since January when it comes to social networks visibility in personal branding.

The Rich Get Richer

likelihood-of-social-network-appearing-on-page-1-of-search-results

Facebook experienced the largest percentage growth of writers names appearing on page 1, increasing by 10 to 62 percent, but only 9 percent of all Page 1 appearances were in high visibility (1-3) ranking positions.

While Twitter was left with not much room for growth with 91 percent of writers appearing on Page 1, by June of 2012, Twitter appeared on Page 1 of the SERPs for nearly all of our writers (95 percent).

Most significantly, Twitter already had the largest percentage (62 percent) of Page 1 results in high visibility (1-3) ranking positions (more than double that of second-place LinkedIn).

In the six months between our analyses, Twitter had the biggest growth in Page 1 appearances in high ranking positions. Put another way, Twitter is now almost always on Page 1 and at the top of Page 1 when Googling the top tech writers in the world.

When it came to changes in Google+ visibility, Google’s social network grew by the smallest percentage of all networks, increasing by 3 to 36 percent. (Caveat: Our analysis was performed as a ‘non logged-in’ user.) And, when Google+ did appear on Page 1, it wasn't at the top of the page – it was the only network that saw position 1-3 appearance actually decrease, from 5 percent to a mere 4 percent.

On the plus side for Google (see what I did there?) our data suggests that those who have posited Google indiscriminately ranks Google+ for personal brand searches over other social networks are incorrect (at least as far as our sample group goes).

SERP Visibility is a Reflection of User Activity

social-media-user-activity

In reviewing the data, we were curious to find out how closely correlated social network visibility in the SERPs was with our tech writers’ social activity on their network. Put another way – is the reason Twitter dominates visibility for personal brand searches for our group while Google+ barely moved the needle over the last six months at least partially correlated with the group’s differing activity levels on the networks?

To find out, we took a random sample of 50 from our 500 writers and looked at their activity across Twitter and Google+ from May to June. In acknowledging that users use the social networks in different ways, we defined “high activity” as greater than 4 posts per month on Google+ and greater than 16 posts per month on Twitter.

We found 89 percent of writers had little or no activity on Google+, while 71 percent had high activity on Twitter, suggesting the social network’s visibility for our group is closely correlated with activity.

Overall, our findings suggest that the world’s top tech writers are using Twitter regularly while not yet leveraging Google+, and the social network visibility in the SERPs for their names likely reflects their usage patterns.

Conclusion

It will be interesting to see what, if any, social network usage shifts as Google continues to promote and develop Google+. In the meanwhile, our list of the 500 most influential tech writers are developing personal branding in the SERPs through Twitter, and to a lesser extent, LinkedIn and Facebook.


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