Just when you thought your strategy was defined in SEO, the time has come for us to once again get ready for significant change in how we approach SEO as search marketers. With the recent announcements from Google, the future of search is indeed social in nature.
The weighting of social signals, particularly those from Google Plus sources, will be a major factor that can be used to serve more relevant information to its users. After all, this is how Google will continue to serve its mission “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Why This Is So Important To Your B2B Search Program
The pervasive use of Social Networks and the value of the information inherent within a social network have made social ranking signals an imperative to search engines’ ranking algorithms. The search engines are always striving to provide more accurate and relevant search results.
This will be especially valuable to B2B SEO campaigns considering long sales cycles and complex buying behavior. The B2B lifecycle is comprised of multiple touch points across stakeholder groups and is seldom a linear funnel.
Because of this, it’s important that whatever the needs of the buyer, you are being found when a search is underway. Since this often means stretching your budgets down the long tail, it has often been a challenge to the oft under resourced B2B search campaign. However, with the evolution of social signals informing the SERP’s, there is an opportunity for increased efficiency in B2B search.
With the community at large acting as a form of human filter on what is most important, there is an opportunity to sculpt the relevance of your business to your potential customers. To see this in more detail, check out this post on the subject from Dan Cristo, the Director of SEO Innovation at Catalyst Online.
Increasing Your SERP Position In 60 Seconds
To demonstrate the impact and value of the social signals, I have some screen shots of how this is currently working. It’s important to keep in mind that this is meant to show you the impact of personalized search results on a SERP.
This will highlight the ways and means in which personalized results are influencing SEO. This has become a vital concept to note with Google’s recent announcements on privacy.
In this first screen, you will see how if I type the term “b2b” in an impersonalized SERP, I receive the usual retinue of potentially relevant assets to my query.
Now, if you are like me and tend to stay signed into one browser, you will see now if I type the term “b2b” the nature of some of those rankings has changed to include information that my search behavior and community has deemed relevant.
Specifically, you can see how an eMarketer study highlighting b2b search behavior (73% use search engines) suddenly showed up in my rankings. Naturally, this is a highly relevant bit of information in my realm consulting B2B marketers, and by itself is intriguing enough for its personalization.
However, if I engage with the content and share it, you can see what happens to the content in my SERP. Google has deemed this to be highly relevant to me and has used my ‘signal’ to serve me content I have chosen as highly relevant.
This presents B2B search marketers with a chance to gain first mover advantages in social SEO and inform a strategy for short and long term growth.
Every business has a community of partners, advocates and vendors, and each of these sources becomes an opportunity to influence ranking for searchers who are interested in the subject’s your business is engaged in professionally.
Not only is this a tremendous outlet for social sharing and social marketing, but when also included in a forward thinking SEO campaign can help drive traffic from personalized search.
Preparing For Social SEO
To begin preparing for Social SEO, the first step is to understand current goals and objectives of your business. Since differentiation and authority is crucial to set you apart from your competitors, a good place to begin is thinking about where you have a right to influence.
From here, you can begin to audit your assets and identify where you want to steward authority. Blending an SEO-informed social media presence with socially sharable SEO content will enable your campaign to focus on greater “discoverability” of owned content.
Some key low hanging fruit benefits might include:
Increased Referral Traffic: The likelihood of increased consumer click-throughs to branded content is increased as organic search traffic increases.
Access to Activated Consumers: According to GroupM Search, 58% of consumers start their purchase journey with search. Since social media is already a vital tool for in the awareness and consideration phases, this provides companies with increased social visibility in organic search with greater opportunity to educate activated buyers about the brand and its products & services.
Enable Competitive Advantage: Companies with multiple social channels & assets, including social media channels, blogs, videos & other social content can own greater real estate of first page organic results for key brand terms. This generates increased brand recognition for the brand and decreased space for competitors to rank for branded terms.
Reputation Management: the more owned content that appears in a branded search result allows the brand to manage the type of brand-related content searchers are viewing. By optimizing social media presence to align with consumer search behaviors, brands can push negative or competitive listings down in the SERPs with additional rankings via social media.
Given the early stage of Social SEO, B2B marketers should move quickly to gain the initiative. Social SEO presents a valuable opportunity for to earn authority as a key variable in SEO rankings. With 100 Million users of Google+, it’s clear that the majority of rankings will be highly personalized within 12-18 months.
As of January, there is estimated to be 34% of referral visits from Google signed in users (Oct ‘11 – Jan ‘12). This presents a window of opportunity to develop an SEO strategy that focuses on optimizing social signals to improve organic rankings.
As traditional SEO becomes more deeply informed by social ranking factors, the value in understanding the impact to your SEO results will be paramount in determining the optimal strategy to succeed in organic search in the future. As the search engines evolve the focus of their algorithm on social signals, it will become essential for any brand looking to differentiate in the competitive landscape.