As Google turns sweet 15 and turns it’s own algorithm on it’s head, many brands have been left coughing in the dust, wondering how they can catch up. For so long, links have been the mainstay, slow-and-steady course of online marketing, but Google’s penalty updates have shown us that Google is all about axing those low quality large-scale link building strategies. The only links they want to see are those that are built around high quality content; links that function as an “endorsement” of a brand by real people and mentioned to entertain, help or inform.
So where do you go when you want to find the “realest” real people on the web? Hint: it’s not on Google Search. Google Search as it exists now is static: it’s questions, and it’s results. Hummingbird is the first big step towards turning organic search into conversational search, but in the mean time, social media is where the REAL conversation is at.
In a series of separate surveys taken of youths ages 13-30, it was found that…
76% spend over an hour on Facebook every day.
66% would look up a business after learning their friend had checked in.
38% of students surveyed said they could not go more than 10 minutes without checking their digital device.
62% of youth brand and technology decisions are influenced by friends and family (and furthermore, 62% of all handset purchase decisions are influenced by peers, not advertising).
What does this mean for online marketers? If you are still wondering whether or not “going social” is a good idea, sorry, but you’re already in last place. At this point in the race, you can not ignore the influence power that social media holds.
This year at Social Media Week LA, the Google representatives described Google Plus as “the spine” that improves user experience across Google. The idea of a social platform as the nerve center of Google is a HUGE indication of just how essential social has become to search marketing.
It’s true that in the past Google has denied that social signals are a major factor in their algorithm, there is no denying that social signals DO indicate the popularity and authority of brand, and that IS what Google is looking for.
It’s possible that they are downplaying the importance of social (for now) to try and forestall an influx of fake, paid, or spammy social signals like the Guest Blogging Flood of 2012, but at the same time, social influence is harder to skew because it doesn’t just stop with one-off likes, shares, or retweets. Social influence is a combination of powerful content, audience engagement, amplification, etc.
Simply put, social networks are where your content, and thus your brand, will have it’s greatest reach. You need to be developing quality content that will inspire, inform, and empower your audience. When you do this, you will in turn attract quality followers: followers who will engage with your brand and share it with their own followers. They will endorse your brand—and hey, isn’t that what Google was looking for when it came to links? Social signals function as endorsements just like links.
However you want to put it: social is the future of search marketing. Get in the race, or get left behind.
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