Lately, you might have noticed Google’s aggressive and frequent product announcements. With so much going on at Google during the past few weeks such as Google’s Penguin algorithm update, the Google Plus iPhone and Android app redesign, Google’s Knowledge Graph, Google acquiring Motorola Mobility, Google Maps being replaced by Google Plus Local and Google Shopping; it’s become so very hard to keep pace with the changes (or future changes) that are bound to affect SEO and SEM strategies in the near or distant future. Therefore, I thought I’d take a step back and use the Queen’s Jubilee weekend to gauge how all of this will shape your future SEM strategy. Google has always maintained that search is at the heart of everything they do. So it’s safe to assume that all of their major updates, will in some way have an impact on search.
All posts in Social SEO
After a relatively long wait, Google announced today that they have launched an update to their Google Plus iPhone app. As I type this post, my phone seems to be taking its own time in downloading the update which gives me the impression that this particular update is a fairly significant one. In fact, Google seem to almost want the Google plus app to be part of your normal day to day experience by stressing that “we’re not interested in a mobile or social experience that’s just smaller. We’re embracing the sensor-rich smartphone (with its touchable screen and high-density display), and transforming Google+ into something more intimate, and more expressive”.
The most significant line in their announcement to me, was their justification for the iPhone app upgrade, “today’s new iPhone app is an important step in this direction—toward a simpler, more beautiful Google”. I’m not sure about you, but I feel this is probably the biggest hint Google has publicly dropped of their efforts in moving toward a more ’social’ and a more ‘mobile-centric’ strategy for their future.
Last week my colleague Shaad Hamid and I were invited to the Business School at Oxford Brookes University to talk about the rise of Social Media and what it means for businesses.
Here are the slides from our presentation:
Top Take Aways
- Social Media is no longer restricted by region, demographic or age. We are witnessing a global, cultural phenomenon. Social media has universal appeal and is emerging as a primary communication channel.
- Mobile phones are fuelling the rise in Social Media use. They allow users to be constantly connected and offer real-time interaction so users no longer have to wait till they get home to update their statuses. The two mediums are complimentary as they represent the two most popular ways to stay in touch with friends.
- The rise of social media has changed the landscape for marketing and advertising as consumers now have a voice. Where before there was a monologue between brands and consumers with brands dictating the agenda, there is now a dialogue.
- Why should brands use social media? To build brand awareness, create great customer service, conduct market or competitor research, advertise or reach more consumers. However the most valuable activity on social media is building a community and creating brand advocacy.
- Only 14% of consumers trust brand advertisements while 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations.
- Building positive brand advocacy with users of social media is something that competitors cannot easily replicate.
- The biggest challenge for companies trying to implement a social media strategy is figuring out the logistics – setting guidelines and controlling the ‘information supply chain’.
- Social Media is a function of marketing and the marketing strategy must be in line with the overall business strategy.
- Like any marketing function it must be measurable otherwise it’s not worth doing. Every social media strategy must have KPIs for each channel. Set goals and measure performance against them.
New Facebook Page Developments
The ‘new’ timeline layout that Facebook users have recently had to get used to is now being rolled out to Facebook Pages too. Along with new real-time Facebook insights, brands really have an opportunity to develop their Facebook marketing strategy and create added value for users. The new timeline for brands will automatically update to all pages on 30th March 2012. Some innovative brands have already adopted this new layout and are beginning to utilise it to their advantage. I’m going to present some ideas on how you as a brand can take advantage of the new features on your Facebook page.
Let’s look at the new features:
Brands now have more than a thumbnail image to express their identity. The large cover photo is the first thing that people will see on your page, so it is essential that it represents the brand values. It can’t contain information that references purchases, prices, liking the page, contact information or contain a call to action. Use a strong image that clearly depicts what the brand is about. Harley Davidson have done a great job with their cover photo: it clearly represents their brand, their iconic bikes and the open road. Another good example is Starbucks Coffee.
The recent integration of social and search at Google marks a huge change in how information on the internet will be presented to us. When a logged in user now performs a search, they will be given two types of search results: the anonymous search results that we are all used to and personal search results, which are generated from information shared within that user’s network of Google+ circles. This new platform presents a major marketing opportunity for brands and it requires a developed strategy just like other social media platforms. It would be daft for brands to consider Google+ as just another fad, and, in the same breadth that brands define strategies for Facebook and Twitter, the same now needs to be done for Google+.
While it is apparent that Google+ is not yet fully developed, it would appear a good time for brands to set up their Google+ page, start uploading regular content and playing about with the different features on Google+. What should you as a brand be doing now?
1. Grow Your Circles
You’ve probably heard by now that Google announced the roll out of social search yesterday, dubbed ‘Search, Plus Your World’. There has been vast speculation about Google’s motives, with the most credible of which suggesting it’s to do with…
- Gaining market share in the social network market.
- To improve the quality of search results through increased trustworthiness and personalisation (research by Nielsen suggests that 42% of people trust search results, but 90% trust recommendations from friends).
In reality, all of the above will contribute to why Google’s launched social search. However, in this post I don’t want to talk about the politics – I’ll leave that to the tabloids. I want to talk about how this is inevitably going to impact our jobs as SEOs.
What’s Google’s Game Plan With ‘Search, Plus Your World’?
To really understand the impact, we need to realise what Google’s game plan with social search is. I’ll point out now that I’m not an expert or an insider in any way, but this is where I think Google might be going with Search, Plus Your World and Google+.
- Google is creating a ‘map’ similar to Facebook’s Open Graph that connects people with their content, websites and readers to understand who produces what content, what happens with that content and how people react. This is where the rel=”author” and rel=”publisher” tags play a big part (I wrote a post about this on Social Media Explorer).
- Google will then learn contextual information about readers and content producers taken from their Google account activity (e.g. what YouTube videos they watch and searches they make when signed in) and use this data in combination with existing ranking factors and G+ sharing data to better place content in search results.
If I’m right, then I can see a shift in prominence in the SERPs to content producers with an active audience, but only in niches where communities exist.
For example, in the social media niche, sites such as Mashable, Social Media Explorer and Social Media Today will receive extra prominence in SERPs because they have an audience containing not only the ‘influencers’ but also the remaining mass of social media enthusiasts who share their content. The social media sites that don’t have an active audience or community will lose prominence.
In niches where there is no community (think ‘septic tank maintenance’ or ‘zinc coating of ships’) social search won’t change anything, at all. That is unless a company creates an active audience from scratch – for example, how Compare The Market arguably created an active audience in the insurance niche using Aleksandr Orlov.
As I never wrote a ‘2012 predictions’ post, here are five things I think this shift towards social search will make us think about more as online marketers.
By now I’m quite weary of the manifold failed attempts by Google to enter the social media arena. We had:
- Google Answers
- Google Bookmarks
- Google SearchWiki
- Google SideWiki
- Google Wave
- Google Buzz
to name just the most known failed or abandoned Google social media services. As with most of the previous offerings, last week’s Google +1 started in a clumsy beta or rather alpha version. I didn’t even want to test it at first, but then all the search and SEO publications frantically reported about it so I felt compelled to give it a try.
I encountered many difficulties, and it took me two hours just to “get it”.
Google +1 is way too complicated right now and it was quite buggy when I tried it over recent days. The Google +1 page itself redirected me to 404 pages in German (I’m in Germany) despite browser and Google preferences.
When Google +1 finally worked for me, I tried to use it extensively but to no avail. Nobody has noticed my +1s it seems, and I barely see any by others.
Still, everybody is writing about it and the list of resources is already huge. Furthermore, there are high profile people in the SEO industry who actually suggest we jump into it. So to provide a more objective resource, I decided to compile the links and to enable you to make your own choices.
As it’s a Friday afternoon and we’re all winding down for the weekend, I thought it would be an appropriate time to reveal a lighthearted tale involving keyword density, penguins, and Sambuca that I recently admitted to the SEOptimise team – something terribly shameful…
A story of why keyword density is in fact not dead.
A few friends and I were playing the infamous ‘Happy Feet drinking game’ whereby each player is assigned a frequently mentioned word that whenever they hear whilst watching the film Happy Feet has to drink a shot. I was assigned the word ‘fish’ (which I wrongly assumed wouldn’t be mentioned very much).
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