If content is king then metadata is its herald.
The first two decades of the internet has been about developing content to attract traffic, then adding social elements to make a “social web” where friends and strangers advise you on where to find the content you need.
Today what we realize is that content that is not found by the appropriate audience is not useful to either the organization that produced the content or the user that never discovers it. After all, how good your content is won’t matter if the intended user never sees it!
Q: And how do users find content today? A: Either via search engines or, increasingly, via the social web as well, or a combination thereof.
Tried and True Traditional Search Still Does the Job… mostly
Search engines have become such a fabric of the Internet experience over the last decade that ranking high on search engines has become critical, not optional. for many companies’ survival. Search engine optimization or SEO kept many a CEO smiling during Web 2.0, the last decade of the World Wide Web.
Some important facts about search (from Hubspot):
- First Page of Search Results: 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results.
- Organic Search: 100% of consumers look at organic search results (natural search) on Google search results page and 60% of all organic clicks go to the top three organic search results.
- Paid Search: 91% of consumers view the top 3 paid search ads at the top of the search results (most expensive for advertisers), but only 28% view paid search ads along the right side of Google search results page
- Frequency of Search: 57% of Internet users search the web every day. (Source: Marketshare HitsLink.com, October 2010)
- Product Searches: 78% of all Internet users conduct product research online (Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, May 2010). 46% of daily searches are for information about products or services. (Source: SRI, October 2010).
- Online Search for Offline Purchase: 21% said they used a search engine yesterday to start research on a product or service purchase to be made offline (Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, May 2010).
The Rise of Social-influenced Search
However, while optimizing your metatags, adding keyword-rich content to important landing pages, and the other basic SEO techniques are still valuable, the extreme proliferation of the volume of content out there is making it harder to stand out from the crowd and be found. This is why the rise of social search is important for marketers to understand and tap into.
As social media has grown, users began to migrate some of their offline behavior of asking friends and getting expert advice to what Google calls your “public social web of content” or your social web. This led to Google experimenting with Google Social Search with the corresponding blog announcement:
Your friends and contacts are a key part of your life online. Most people on the web today make social connections and publish web content in many different ways, including blogs, status updates and tweets. This translates to a public social web of content that has special relevance to each person. Unfortunately, that information isn’t always very easy to find in one simple place. That’s why today we’re rolling out a new experiment on Google Labs called Google Social Search that helps you find more relevant public content from your broader social circle.
The importance of this is not just the availability of this data that came out in Web 2.0. Today, it is about Web 3.0 aspects of data aggregation by gathering this social search data together with the traditional search data in one place that has the virtue of making this both more usable and more discoverable at the same time.
How does this social search aggregation work? Google describes it as follows:
All the information that appears as part of Google Social Search is published publicly on the web — you can find it without Social Search if you really want to. What we’ve done is surface that content together in one single place to make your results more relevant. The way we do it is by building a social circle of your friends and contacts using the connections linked from your public Google profile, such as the people you’re following on Twitter or FriendFeed. The results are specific to you, so you need to be signed in to your Google Account to use Social Search. If you use Gmail, we’ll also include your chat buddies and contacts in your friends, family, and coworkers groups. And if you use Google Reader, we’ll include some websites from your subscriptions as part of your social search results.
How do social media help marketers improve search results? Google and Bing (which is based on Google) now highly rank social media signals in calculating search result rankings, including # and popularity of Facebook likes, blog mentions, tweets and retweets, inbound/ backlinks.
BtoB magazine in its July 2010 issue (as shown in a Hubspot presentation) reported the following specific effects of social media on search results for B2B marketers:
The moral of the story? All this means that if doing SEO of your owned social media wasn’t already at the top of your marketing “to do” list, you’d better “discover” the value of search-optimized social search… pronto!
QUESTION FOR MY READERS: How well has applying SEO principles to your social media worked for you? Please share your experiences in a comment here.