Every day, business experts around the world tell us how important SEO is. In the same breath, they tell us how not to ignore social media. And, for the most part, we think of these two as separate entities.
But as major search engines actively toy with the idea of social searching, we may need to start looking at SEO and Social Media more as a pair than as individuals.
The Big Idea Behind Social Search
The main idea behind social search is that a search engine will leverage your social networks to create custom search results for you. An oversimplified example would be if you “liked” LiveRez on Facebook, when you searched for vacation rental software in Bing, LiveRez would appear higher up in your search results.
But, the idea goes further than that. Let’s say five of your friends “liked” LiveRez and two of your friends liked one of our competitors. In that scenario, the search engine could weigh the sentiment of your friends and use it to refine how those two companies ranked in a query for vacation rental software. How much weight search engines will put on social media is hard to predict, and each individual search engine will likely find different ways to factor social media into its algorithm.
Here’s another concept: With social search, you might not only get custom results based on preferences in your social networks, but you might also get custom content. That’s right. If you search for restaurants in Boise, ID, you might bring up sidebars with comments and reviews from your friends on restaurants they’ve visited in Boise. It might also bring up what their favorites dishes are.
Of course, search engines will probably still use many of the same metrics they use now to rank websites: keyword relevance, back-links, domain age, bounce rate, time on site, etc. But, as social media becomes more prominent, we should expect to see it play a larger role in the algorithms of major search engines.
Evidence of Social Search’s Arrival
Let’s look at some evidence that supports this trend:
- According to Jennifer Van Grove of Mashable, Facebook “ ‘Likes’have become so significant that they factor into Bing’s algorithm for social search results.”
- Just last month, Fusible came across what looked to be a teaser page for a new Microsoft social search program called Tualip. This site advertised that “With Tulalip you can Find what you need and Share what you know easier than ever.” However, Microsoft promptly took down the page and replaced it with one relaying this message: “Thanks for stopping by. Socl.com is an internal design project from a team in Microsoft Research which was mistakenly published to the web. We didn’t mean to, honest.”
- Google launched its own version of social search in late 2009. More recently, it has rolled out its own social network (Google+) and created the Google +1 button (likely in an effort to rival Facebook’s “Like” button).
- In March, Search Engine Land reported that in 2004 Facebook filed a patent for social searching and that the patent was awarded this past February.
- Social Media is beginning to change the way people shop for and buy products and services, and that’s something search engines can’t ignore, as they make big bucks every year selling paid advertisements on search engine result pages.
- Furthermore, including information from social media networks will not only help search engines give users better search results but also will allow search engines to offer their advertising clients more targeted ads.
- Need more evidence? Just do a Google search for “social search,” and see what pops up.
How You Can Prepare for Social Search
The real question here should be: “How can I prepare for this?” Common sense dictates two things. First, continue with your current SEO efforts (they’re likely going to still figure heavily into search engine placements and most of them have benefits that go far beyond just SEO). Second, amp up your presence on social media (if you’re not doing this already). Make sure you add the Facebook “Like” button, a “Twitter” icon, and a “Google +1” button to your website, in addition to links to your other social media accounts. You should also create original social content that you can share digitally among your networks.
Finally, the best way to prepare is to look at the aim of social search. Social search has at its core the idea of leveraging everything it can to connect people to what they’re searching for. Information is what fuels search engines, so the more positive information you can create and share about your business, the better.
But remember, running a great business and treating your customers well will always be the most important factor in your success.
Don’t believe me? Just ask my friends. Or you could just Google it, too.
Learn More About LiveRez
LiveRez is the fastest growing vacation rental software provider for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation management, trust accounting and online marketing, with high-ranking, high-conversion dynamic websites and an extensive affiliate marketing program. The company is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).
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