Social Media's New Impact: Google+, Online Business and Organic Search Results
The impact of social media on a company’s online search visibility is no longer measured only in “likes”; it is determined by how well those signals of interest translate to better organic search results and more successful online business transactions.
Once upon a time, the way to measure social media impact and success involved little more than watching the number of Twitter followers or a Facebook fan count as it increased.
Gone are the days of whimsy and wonder. As part of their organic search results delivery, search engines now weigh all of your likes, retweets, comments, and shared content nearly as heavily as other SEO factors, including on-page optimization and link building.
In fact, according to eMarketer, by 2013 social media’s influence on driving business via the web is expected to surpass SEO.
More than ever before, your online community is playing an integral role in how well your business ranks in organic search results.
Don’t have a community yet? It’s time to get started.
Why Google+ Is Your Best Bet for Better Search Engine Rankings
Google+ is inherently linked to the search results on Google.com, so that means a well-built Google+ business page offers a greater chance of ranking higher in organic search results.
While Facebook and Twitter activity will still have an impact on your social media performance (and, therefore, rankings), they do not offer this key integration.
Additionally, Google+ has many of the features you are already familiar with, such as the +1 (“like”), hashtags (Twitter-style), and Events (much like event setup in Facebook but with a better design).
So here we have familiarity and better search engine results on your side. Google+ is clearly a must.
Best Practices for Google+ and Your Business
Complete Your Profile – Leave no stone unturned here: complete the “About” section on your profile, include a link to your website and blog, and don’t forget keyword hyperlinks in the Introduction section.
Add Users to Your Circles – Google+ goes a step further than other social media platforms. It not only allows you to add another business’s page to your circles (much like following on Twitter), but also enables you to separate those users into circles that make sense for you (clients, vendors, staff, etc). If you like, you can even choose to publish a post to one specific circle. If you are just beginning your Google+ page, you can have employees, clients and vendors add your page to their circles. Then whomever is in their circles can follow you. Talk about instant promotion.
Put a Google+ Badge on Your Website – Give your website visitors direct access to your page by including a badge on your site pages.
Publish Content Regularly – Post relevant content that will engage your users. You can share industry news, posts from your blog, promote upcoming events or other interesting information.
Use Hashtags – When you use hashtags, you can increase the visibility of your content, by topic, in search engines.
Get Verified – Once you reach about 1,000 users, Google says you are eligible for page verification, which gives your page more authority and credibility. Since you have already provided a link to your website on your Google+page and you’ve placed the Google+ badge on your website, you can submit a page verification request form.
Incorporate a Vanity URL – At this time, you cannot request a vanity URL, but you will be notified via your profile page once you are eligible. If you get a notification, jump on it.
Include Social Media Links – Whether in your recommended links section or in your profile, be sure to share links to your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. so that search engines will connect your company information on all social media platforms.
Features and Benefits of Google+
+1 - Similar to the Facebook “like” button, the +1 allows users to show they like your content and share it online. Users logged into Google accounts will find your content higher on their search results if one of their Google+ connections has already liked your content.
Circles – With Google+ circles, you can segment your users into specific groups and post only to whom you want to see that information. For example, say you want to post details about a brand-new product. Your employees probably don’t need to know about it again, but existing customers or business partners would have an interest.
Content – Share relevant information with your users (again, using the Circles that make sense). Users can easily interact with a +1, share or comment, and increase your content’s ranking in organic search.
Events – Google+ enables you to invite users to in-person conferences, online webinars, and other business-related events, increasing the visibility of your business across the web.
Hangouts – Host a live video chat and even repurpose the content on YouTube.
What to Look for in Organic Search Visibility as a Result of Social Media
As Google continues to integrate elements of Google+ into search engine results, it is getting better at connecting a company’s information with their social media profiles. When this happens, often a brand’s social media profiles rank very high in organic search results for their own brand name.
Example of search for “RSO Consulting”:
Even when logged out of a Google account, which eliminates the personalization of search results, RSO Consulting social media profiles account for three of the top seven organic search results for the term “RSO Consulting.”
The proof is in the pudding (or, in this case, on the page): Google places a great amount of emphasis on social media in its search engine rankings.
Social Media Metrics and What to Measure
As a business owner, it’s important that you be able to measure the effectiveness of the time and effort you put into your social media marketing.
Thankfully, the first metric is staring you right in the face – the size of your online community. If you use Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other major social media channels, you can see the actual count of followers, fans, connections, etc. right on your front pages. All you have to do is keep track of how these numbers are increasing on a weekly or monthly basis, and you can use something as simple as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to do so.
The second metric you should analyze is referral traffic – the number of times your website receives unique visits from links that are shared through your social networks. Google Analytics is a tool that can help you tremendously.
Another area where Google Analytics can help you is monthly impressions, an important metric that reveals the amount of times your brand receives a mention on various social media platforms.
Other Social Media That May Have a Positive Effect
While the benefits of Google+ will continue to expand and largely affect SEO efforts, it’s important to maintain a presence on other social media networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. As we saw in the earlier illustration, those profiles will do a great job of supporting your company in organic search results.
Clearly, if you’re not using social media and you want to continue performing well in search engines, you must create room for social media in your marketing plan and budget.