Social Networking Takes Point
Social networking has become more than a pastime, more than just a simple online community. These Web 2.0 properties are being increasingly used by businesses large and small. From the kitchen table start-up to international mega-corporations, social networking websites, like Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr, have evolved far beyond staying in touch with distant family and long-lost friends. They are a powerful marketing tool and a customer service conduit unlike nothing else.
What was once considered a virtual community fad and ignored by search engines is now seen by those same search engines as being very valuable. The reason for this seismic shift is both Google and Bing realized their algorithms were being gamed by marketers, search engine optimization firms and others. Now, online social networks are treated quite differently by search engines. These social properties have great importance in authority ranking signals.
In addition, local search citations have gained increasing weight in search placement measurements as Google and Bing assume most queries have local intent. It’s why when you type a term into Google or Bing, in the organic results, maps and/or directory listings with addresses appear.
Why Search Engines Changed Ranking Signals
In order to become more visible on the Internet, webmasters, search engine optimization teams, and online marketers employ a number of tactics which are well within the search engine optimization guidelines. However, those guidelines are changing because of the way people search the web.
In September of 2012, desktop search actually dropped for the first time in the history of the Internet, according to a news report by the Guardian. Mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets were the primary reason for the decrease. What’s more, prior to the Initial Public Offering of Facebook in 2012, the investor prospectus stated that upwards of 90 percent of its users accessed the social network through mobile devices.
Google decided to change the weight of their emphasis from “backlinks” more towards social media likes, shares, tweets, reddits, and 1+ (Google’s obvious favorite.) In the world of digital media the emphasis is on follows, comments, and views as well. –Forbes
Simply put, people are using their mobile devices to search the web more than they are desktop computers.
And that change in behavior among consumers has compelled both Bing and Google to tweak their formulas. The search giants have come to understand that an online social network is an audience of hundreds of millions of consumers.
Harnessing the Power of Social Networking
Social platforms rose in popularity at an astonishing rate. Though some have faded into obscurity, others are thriving. And search engines are doing their best to become an intricate part of this cyber sea change.
The enormity of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest caused the most widely used search engine to introduce their own proprietary social networking site, Google+ in June of 2011. Within just 18 months, Google+ had acquired 500 million registered users, tapping into the search portal’s far-reaching user base.
Include that with Twitter’s 1 billion plus users, Facebook’s 900,000 million plus users and Pinterest’s nearly 26 million registered users and you can easily understand why not only Google got into the social game, but businesses across the globe have opted-in with full force of building communities online.
With an audience so large and diverse, social networking has become a go-to resource for all kinds of companies. It not only benefits a site’s SEO greatly, it is a way to connect on a more personal level. And as every marketing consultant knows, the more individual a campaign is, the more effective it is.
Getting Citations for Local Search
Local search has likewise taken off in a big way. When consumers tap or speak a search query into their smartphone, Bing and Google assume its most relevant returned results ought to push local businesses to the top of those results.
To that end, the search engines have given greater weight to what’s known as citations. Unlike traditional keywords and backlinks used to optimize a site for higher organic ranking, citations, like social networking, are a natural source of credibility.
To put it bluntly, search engines trust consumer reviews and comments more than links built artificially through manual manipulation or automated software. In order to attain a higher level of visibility in the community, companies routinely use advertising. Within many ad campaigns are customer testimonials. The Internet is taking a cue from that time-honored, successful form of marketing. Google and Bing have built into their algorithms signals which pick up these consumer reviews.
For a company to compete on the Internet in organic search, it must deliver on its real world performance. The more satisfied customers a business has demonstrably through local citations, the more credibility it gains with search metrics. So, in combination with using social networking, companies are leveraging the authority local search commands because like social profiles, it cannot be effectively faked.
Link Building in 2013
With recent changes from 2011 through 2012, the biggest being Google’s Panda, Penguin and EMD or Exact Match Domain updates, search engines are clearly moving away from the practice of link building. The up-weighting of social signals and local search along with the downgrading of link distribution demonstrate the new way to optimize a site is by earning links.
Earning links can be done by using the expansive reach of social media and genuineness of local search citations. Businesses can increase their market share through these mediums. The unvarnished truth is both Google and Bing are effectively shutting down the end-runs around their ranking measurements built on manual and automated manipulation of cyber systems.
In their place are purely natural consumer behaviors which is what search engines most like to discern. From a search engine’s point of view, the best way to serve their user base is to return the most relevant, useful and reachable results. And nothing to date does that more effectively than social media and local search citations. Give the people what they want, when they ask and reap the rewards.
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