In a recent stunning article, SEOMoz highlighted that Google's search results are now being adjusted on a per-person basis depending on the searcher's social connections.
If you follow me on Twitter and then search for email marketing, Blue Sky Factory will rank higher than it would if you didn't follow me on Twitter, because I share stuff from BSF on Twitter, and Google's algorithm assumes that because we're connected, my voice as a social connection should be more influential to your search than some SEO's optimizations.
Let that sink in for a moment. That's monumental for three reasons.
1. Influencers who have large social networks are no longer just spreading word of mouth, they're now causing search engine adjustments (at least on Google and Bing) based on what they share.
2. "#1 ranking for a keyword" on Google is less meaningful now if the #1 is displaced by social sharing influence. My #1 for a search term will be significantly different than yours because we follow different people.
3. If you're marketing something, there's now a direct incentive to build your network as large as possible among your prospective customers. Size matters. By connecting with them in as many social channels as possible, you're effectively doing free retargeting advertising in organic search, since the next time they search for something related to your company's keywords, your shared items (which presumably include your company's digital properties) will rank higher with your prospects than if they were not connected with you.
So what should you be doing to take advantage of this amazing sea change in organic search and social media?
1. You absolutely, positively must connect with your customers and prospective customers as soon as possible. If you've got any kind of form on your website, asking people for their Twitter ID or Facebook name isn't optional any more. I just recently changed the form on my site to include Twitter ID, and I'm working on Facebook form integration to be rolled out soon.
2. In tip #5 here I recommended FollowerWonk.com as a way of finding people of influence in your specific industry or niche to follow. Start typing in job titles of your prospective customers and get following; those who follow back are now effectively opting into a passive retargeting program that will show your stuff to them more prominently when they search. Likewise, get to know other influencers in your space and get your content shared, liked, or retweeted by them in order for your stuff to be seen by their audiences.
3. You have a direct disincentive to share or link to your competitors now. If you share or link to their stuff, their content placement in search results will be influenced by your connection to your prospects as well. You're much better off citing them in a no-followed blog post on your own blog and sharing that.
4. If it's not obvious already, make sure you've socially shared key pieces of content for the digital properties you want to market. Make sure you're sharing at a minimum on Twitter and Google Buzz, as those two networks are indexed rapidly and aggressively.
5. While there's no direct evidence that the content around a socially shared link matters, it's still not a bad idea to give it some context, both for followers and possible contextual association. Here's an example of two tweets:
Check out my new blog post on @whatcounts: http://www.whatcounts.com/blog
Check out my new email marketing post on @whatcounts: http://www.whatcounts.com/blog
This sea change is going to have massive ripple effects throughout the social and search industries. Start making these changes effective immediately, and you'll be ahead of the curve and your competitors (unless they read my blog too).
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