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social searchIf you’ve been following the trends in internet marketing for the last couple years, one of the big buzz words is social signals. I’m not a huge fan of buzzwords because I think that they are exclusive (I promise not to mention social signals at all in the rest of this article). They are like the industry insiders making up a word to describe something and then laughing at everyone else for not knowing what the buzzwords mean. As consultants who actually talk to businesses, buzzwords are death. Nobody wants to be confused, so we try to speak in English to make sure that everyone can actually understand what we are talking about – and where we have to use industry buzzwords (like social search) we make sure to define it early in the conversation so that people know what we are talking about.

Social Search – Search engine results that are affected by the amount of social activity (Google +1s, Facebook Likes, Facebook Shares, Tweets, Retweets, etc.) of that website.

Alright, now that we have that out of the way, why does social search matter? It matters because it is drastically changing search engine marketing. In the past a company could compartmentalize its online marketing efforts. There was the Search Engine Optimization part which was made up of making your website search engine friendly and building the authority of your site through links from other websites. There was also the Social Media part which was using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Linkedin (among others) to interact with customers and get reviews and recommendations. They were both important, but they were also distinct and separate. There was really no overlap.

Since there was no real overlap, many times it was an either/or choice between social media or search engine marketing. Businesses only have so much of a marketing budget so they would usually choose between the two. And, more often than not it was search engine marketing that was chosen and social media that was neglected. And then, when Google and the other search engines started looking for social media involvement as they were showing the search results, most of those businesses found their websites buried in the search results – replaced by companies that had embraced social media.

Oh, how things have changed.

Now Social Search is a pretty commonly accepted part of internet marketing. Companies are beginning to realize that they need to do both social and search marketing. Why the change? Google and the other search engines saw that many of the companies that were focused solely on showing up in the search engines were not providing quality content. The kind of content that users would find useful and share with their friends through social media.

This ends up being very good for the consumer because now they do not have to weed through nearly as many junk pages when they are looking for information about a business or product. They get to read a lot more informative articles, watch interesting videos, and see images that tell a story. As a consumer I much prefer that to the “articles” that looked like they were written by someone who had less than a stellar command of the English Language. I don’t think that I am alone in being happy not to see so many of those articles showing up in the search results!

What Should a Business Do?

For businesses who want to thrive online, there are a few tips that we can give you to help you to take advantage of the opportunity that social search gives. The opportunity to engage with your customers and see that bring  more and more prospects to your site.

1. Engage your current customers.

  • Be active on your social sites and respond when people post or Tweet.
  • Ask for likes and shares when you post content on Facebook.
  • Ask customers for reviews on sites like Yelp and Google+.

2. Provide great content!

  • Provide the kind of content that your customers will find useful and share with others.
  • Sure, this is harder and takes longer, but if you want to succeed this is the way.

3. Keep up with your search engine marketing

  • Make sure that you keep up with your search engine marketing
  • While social is an important part of search, it is still just a part

I hope these tips will help you to understand social search a little bit better and that they give you a direction to focus your internet marketing. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter. Really, we would love to hear from you!

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