In early November, Google announced an update to their algorithm that verified that the search engine would use social media to deliver search results that are both relevant and recent. The implications of this announcement should not be underestimated, with Google noting that the algorithm change will impact 35% of searches, which equates to about one result per page. The purpose of this blog is to make further sense of social media’s implication plus analyze and identify specific opportunities for us to take advantage of social media’s influence on search from a practical marketing perspective.
Three Major Signals
Google identified three major signals that will help the engine find “fresh content quickly on an enormous scale.” These are:
- Recent events and/or hot topics
- Regularly recurring events
- Frequent updates
Recent and Hot Topics
Displaying search results that take real-time information into account demonstrates search’s place in today’s daily life. People are using search to find everything and anything, including the latest updates and news headlines. By adding in recent events, Google has solidified itself as the go-to search engine, providing end users with valuable information as opposed to static results.
Sample Recent Events Search Results: Delivering real-time information
Social Implication: Blogs will play the leading role in real-time information. Multimedia, including images and videos, will also play a prominent part. Key areas of opportunity include identifying and highlighting keywords in headlines and embedded on images.
Regularly Recurring Events
Events that happen on a regular, recurring basis will be hugely impacted. Annual events, such as conferences, and quarterly events, such as an earnings report for a brand, will now be displayed with the most recent gaining coveted top results positions. Searches no longer have to be paired with a time qualifier to have quality results displayed. For example, running a query for Veterans Day on Veterans Day returns information in the top position that is time sensitive, reflecting Google’s efforts to provide fresh information. Stale, more stagnant results, such as the history of Veterans Day, still appear, just lower in the results, shedding insight into that fact that Google continues to need that information, but is using time as a factor in position.
Sample Recent Events Search Results: Delivering fresher results
Social Implication: Online media, including blogs, play an important role here, as well. The basic principles of SEO continue to hold true when translated into social tactics: proper keyword, linking and tagging are vital to success.
This is arguably the biggest change with the most impact. Google ambiguously defined this category as “…searches for information that [change] often, but isn’t really a hot topic or a recurring event.” In other words, it’s the “miscellaneous” group. Searches with qualitative terms such as “best” or “reviews” are the prime examples of these types of searches. For example, “bars bhoenix” will return search results that incorporate fresh results, because in the here-today-gone-tomorrow world of restaurants and clubs, the newest venues matter most. Of note to use is the prominent display of user reviews in the sample search for “bars phoenix”. There is a local search implication at play here, which to us simply underscores the importance of a solid online user reviews strategy for every brand.
Social Implication: Blogs will take a back seat to user reviews in the category. While a user rating does not seem to impact SEO, with reviews prominently displayed, the argument can be made that a higher user rating will attract more clicks than higher search results. Using the above search for “bars phoenix” as an example, you’ll notice that Bikini Lounge has a higher ranking (4 stars) than Seamus McCaffrey’s Irish Pub (3.5 stars) but is in the second position. The argument could be made that the reason Seamus McCaffrey’s Irish Pub holds the first spot is due to the combined factor of total ranking (3.5 stars) plus the amount of reviews.
What We Think
Increased Integration between SEO and Social Media: Integrating SEO and Social Media is a winning proposition for brands. By using strategic, keyword-rich social content, SEO efforts are aided while also growing a brand’s social visibility. With the advent of social media changing online interactions and user behavior, it makes sense that search engines are listening to and using real-time social signals to deliver better results. Planning for and using SEO Best Practices within Social Media is vital. As Google continues to refine its algorithm, smart brands need to integrate SEO with social initiatives to leverage any and all opportunities.
Increased Value of Online Reputation Management: In today’s digital world, online reviews play a pivotal role in decision making. As Google continues to display more and more reviews, the importance of an online reputation management strategy cannot be emphasized enough. Smart brands can use this to their advantage and leap ahead of their competitors by planning for and executing a solid online review strategy.
These developments are hot off the press, so information and these recommendations likely will continue to evolve. We will continue to monitor developments to identify additional implications and opportunities to help move your business forward.