Getting found in Google has become both deceptively simple and infuriatingly complex.
Google has made a tremendous push recently toward “quality content” as the driving factor behind good search rankings, which sounds great on paper.
All I have to do is create quality content? Awesome! Been doing that for years, glad Google finally caught up with me.
And yet so many of us produce quality content – whether blog posts, videos, infographics or other resources of value to our customers – without seeing the search results we would like.
The disconnect happens because Google is ultimately a machine. If there were a guy sitting down reading our stuff, he would undoubtedly grin and pat us on the back for a job well done.
But what does a machine know about “great”?
That’s where the frustrating part comes in because there are still very practical and mundane reasons for some sites doing well and others doing poorly. Some of those reasons still include things like keywords in the right places and title tags that matter, not to mention subjects our audience is searching for.
And among those reasons are social signals – that is, the sum of all of our efforts on social networks – which is also deceptively simple and infuriatingly complex. Building a strong social presence is no small – or immediate – task, but it can be done and if you truly want to boost your presence in search then it must be done.
Here are a few ways that social signals matter and how they can not only build relationships and drive business by themselves, but also help you get found in search results.
Profiles Are Popping Up Like Daisies
Next time you perform a search for a company, person, product or service, I want you to pay attention to what pops up in your search results.
Turns out search results aren’t just for websites anymore. In any given set of results you may see a Facebok page, Google Plus page, Twitter profile, LinkedIn Profile, you name it.
That’s great news for you because it means that you don’t have to rely only on one website (yours), but instead you can capitalize on the many sites where you’ve staked a claim.
Your website is still your home base but all of your social networks are outposts that can funnel people back to your website.
Of course, that means you’ll need a pretty robust social presence. Businesses with an online presence that ends at a website are at a disadvantage in the new search paradigm because Google tends to show only a single page per domain. In other words, your site won’t show up in search results at number one and number two and number six… but with the right social presence you can dominate the entire top ten, with everything from your Pinterest photos to your status updates.
Start by getting your business on as many social networks as you can. If that sounds like a lot of work, well, all marketing is work, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming and you don’t have to feel like you’re spreading yourself too thin. With smart planning you can cover a lot more ground than you think.
If you want more on the topic, read this bit about integrating your marketing. Or this one about social marketing in 30 minutes a day.
Once you’ve got your pages set up, be sure to complete your profiles and do it with an eye toward optimization and consistency.
That means including keywords in your profiles, or hashtags where appropriate. It means being clear and concise in your descriptions so that when your profiles do pop up, searchers will feel compelled to click.
Try this trick: start with a primary bio of yourself and company. Make sure it’s focused on what you can do for your customers and that it includes the keywords you want to be found for. Then cut it up into snippets for the various networks based on the tone you want to take and the character limits of each.
The more complete, focused, clear and consistent your social profiles – and the more of them you have – the better your chances at being found in Google.
The Power Of Reviews
Another thing you may notice in search results is the volume of reviews that pop up, from sites like Yelp to Angie’s List to Google itself.
That could be you!
What’s more helpful and relevant to a person searching for a product or service than a review from someone who has already bought and tried it? Of course, reviews cover more than just a product or service and can reflect customer service, the experience people have with a business and other highly emotional subjects.
That means you need to be diligent in monitoring reviews and mitigating any bad ones that pop up. A well-managed bad review can be better than ten good reviews.
When dealing with review sites it’s important not to bombard them with a sudden outpouring of praise about your company. That ends up looking spammy or at least “fixed”.
So while it’s a great idea to ask your customers to rate your business and service, try to avoid a mass mailing asking for reviews that may result in a spurt today and then none for six months.
Start by making sure you’ve claimed your business listing on sites like Google and Bing. That will give you the ability to manage reviews, post updates, add photos and modify your map listing.
Then proactively work on getting reviews in a slow, strategic way. Be sure to monitor and respond!
It’s Still A Popularity Contest… Sort Of
Matt Cutts, Google’s spokesperson on all things search, recently put out a webmaster video that has been interpreted to mean that social signals do not, in fact, impact search rankings.
The problem with Matt Cutts videos is that he is carefully non-specific about a lot of what he says. And in this particular video, what he says is that the number of fans or followers you have is (probably) not a factor when it comes to SEO.
Here’s my advice: let go of the idea that getting a million billion followers will boost your search results or your credibility for that matter. That’s not the kind of popularity you want and Google knows full well that followers can be bought pretty cheaply.
Instead, consider the fact that whether or not your followers are actually engaged may have an effect. The more likes, shares, tweets and pins you get, the better you look. Brownie points if you can get those shares from influential people.
The better you look, the more Google thinks that you are, in fact, producing something of quality. This is where true popularity starts to play a role.
More shares correlates with quality. And as a super triple chocolate chunk brownie bonus, more shares also provides the social proof that prompts other people to think you’re producing something of quality. That makes them more likely to share it…. which makes you look better… which gets more shares… and makes it more likely that people will link to you.
And when it comes to getting found in Google those links are at the heart of popularity.
So first you do, in fact, have to create good stuff for people to share. Then you have to get it out there by sharing and promoting it yourself and by building your social relationships – not the number, but the quality.
Straight From The Horse’s… Er, Google’s… Mouth
In a stroke of luck, I received an email from Google Webmaster Tools just this past week that ties in perfectly with the topic here.
No reading between the lines with this one, it’s plain as day:
Linking a Google+ page to a website not only helps build relationships with friends and followers, but also makes a page eligible to show up on the right-hand side of search for relevant queries which may make the page more discoverable.
Your posts on Google’s social network can show up in search – not only in search but in a pretty good spot in search results, which is often only reserved for paying advertisers.
If you were wondering whether to get on Google Plus, if it was right for your business or if it matters, that’s about all you need to know.
If you want to be found in Google search, up your odds by posting good content on Google Plus.
Search Results: Now For More Than Just Your Website
You may hear a lot about SEO and boosting rankings and getting found in Google. Mostly it’s in the context of what you can do to improve your site so Google will like it and list it in a better position.
But the days of focusing strictly on your website – even if you’ve got a fantastic one and a blog full of fantastic content – are over.
There’s more that goes into getting your business found on Google and right now one of the big players in the game is social.
And it’s to your benefit. No longer do you have to obsess strictly about whether you’ve used one too many or one too few keywords on your website. You can use a multitude of sites, from Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn, Pinterest and more. All of those can funnel people to your website by being found in search results.
And better yet, all of those have the potential to build your real fan base and get you customers, too.
Got any questions about social marketing or how it can help you get found? Let me know in the comments.