The recent Hummingbird update to Google’s algorithm is likely to raise the importance social media plays in your website’s future rankings. Our guest blogger this month is Jonathan Bruce, Director of Ident Creative a web development agency based in Liverpool. Jonathan explains why social media is not only good marketing, it is something you will need to get smarter at.
A recent article in the Guardian suggested that search engine optimisation (SEO) is dead and social media optimisation is the way forward. Judge the article for yourself, but much of what is said is lazy journalism based on flawed research to create an eye-catching headline. It does however highlight the relationship between social media and search engine optimisation.
There is no doubt more and more people are using social media rather than search engines to find information, but isn’t this a reflection of the way we behave? It annoys me when people think that somehow the Internet and social media have re-written the marketing rule book. They haven’t. 20 years ago if I wanted a plumber I may have turned to Yellow Pages or the local paper to find one, now I go to Google. I may even ask a few friends or family members to see if they recommended a good plumber, now I can ask via Facebook and Twitter. The point is, my problem is still the same and how I evaluate it is the same: do they have a nice ad? Do people say good things about them? Are they members of an association? Are they local?
From a business perspective the aim is to get your social media and SEO working together, not to pick one or the other as a key marketing tool.
What do we mean by social media?
Social media covers a wide spectrum from Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn to Pinterest, Instagram and let us not forget, YouTube, blogging and Vimeo. They are all platforms for us to share what we want to say whether it’s via 140 characters, pictures, videos or a more in-depth article.
How does social media help my search engine rankings?
Think about it this way. Imagine you see an article in the local paper by our plumber friend offering useful tips to help protect your pipes this winter. Then you hear a friend say what a great job this plumber did when he fixed their boiler. Then you’re chatting to a builder and they say they always use this guy because he can be relied upon.
You’re going to think very highly of this plumber and move him up to the top of your list in the event your boiler breaks down.
Transfer this concept to the Internet. Our plumber writes an article offering tips on how to protect your home against the cold this winter. He posts the link on his Facebook site and Tweets it to his followers, he may even produce a short two minute video which is added to Youtube and his website.
Some of his followers like the article and share it with their friends. He asks his builder contacts to add the article to their websites or blogs and some do. He then sends it to Heating & Plumbing Monthly and the local papers and some add it to their websites. The readers like this and share the article with their circle of friends and family.
The search engines see this activity and the authority of this plumber is clearly important and interesting to people. He is being mentioned on Twitter, people are linking to his website, his Facebook posts are being shared and people are watching his video. As a result, like you, the search engines will move this plumber higher up their search results. Websites that are being mentioned via social media will command more authority and this is further highlighted by Google’s latest algorithm update.
The future of social media optimisation
The latest update in Google’s mysterious algorithm, called Hummingbird, gives us an idea of how Google is looking to integrate social media and ranking. Social Media Today produced a good article summarising the impact of Google’s latest update. Importantly social media is likely to play an even bigger role as the search engines look for social signals to find relevant content. Be warned though, they are likely to use a lack of interaction as a signal that your content is not valued and therefore you may risk receiving negative ranking.
This brings us back to the principles of good marketing. Creating good, relevant, interesting content that engages people is always more likely to attract your customers’ attention. They are then more likely to tell friends and family. Take this as your lead when it comes to social media and remember the old adage that if you have nothing useful to say then say don’t say anything at all.
Jonathan Bruce is a director of Ident Creative in Liverpool.