I consult a lot of small to medium sized businesses on ‘Social Media/Communications’. I’m not a self professed ‘social media guru’, it’s certainly not everything I do, but it does form a lot of the marketing/customer service/networking activity that I carry out for my own businesses. This post is about something I call ‘your social footprint’. The concept of the social footprint relates directly to Google and how I’ve witnessed huge changes in their SERPS (Search Engine Result Pages) over the last couple of years.
Let’s go back a few years to 2006/7. Companies would come to us fascinated by search engine optimisation (SEO) and how important they considered being on the front page of Google for a few keyphrases, in fact, let me re-phrase that, they still come to us fascinated by search engine optimisation and being on the front page of Google BUT, and here’s the important thing, Google is a very different place to how it was two or three years ago. We now find ourselves explaining to clients that although search engine optimisation is very important still, it’s no longer the be all and end all.
A couple of years ago, searching on any key phrase gave you 10 ‘natural results’ that had been indexed by Google’s spiders, as well as the paid advertising (PPC) – many of the large SM sites had not been going that long so were not indexed that well. If you do the same search now, you’ll find that a huge proportion of the front page results are now social media sites, meaning if you want to compete in the SERPS and do not have a social footprint, then you’re going to find it very hard. Here are a couple of examples to demonstrate my point:
Here is my name ‘Googled’ – Alastair Banks – Here are the results (at the time of writing of course). I’ve highlighted the results that contain an element of ‘social’
No1 & 2 – My Blog (Social Media)
No 3 & 4 – Websites relating to other people with my name (Non Social Media)
No 5 – My LinkedIn account (Social Media)
No 6 – My Twitter Account (Social Media)
No 7 – My Company – Optix Solutions Blog (Social Media)
No 8 – Another person’s Facebook profile (Social Media)
No 9 & 10 – Non Social Media sites
So on that search term, 60% of the results were SM sites – The fact is that if I wasn’t so active on these sites, there is a good chance someone else would have taken those spots – you gotta be in it to win it J
Let’s look at another example – A client of mine deals in Sony camera equipment. Here is a new piece of equipment from the Sony camp – A Sony HXR-NX5E – Let’s take a look at the SERPS for that phrase (again highlighting SM sites):
No1 – Shopping Results (You could argue these are social for the ability to review & rate)
No 2 & 3 – Sony’s own site – you’d kind of expect that
No 4 & 5 – Video from YouTube and Vimeo (Social Media)
No 6 – Sales Site
No 7 – A blog (Social Media)
No 8 – A community site for filmmakers (Social Media)
No 9 – A sales site
No 10 – Sony make it back in here again but with a blog J (Social Media)
So in this very real example, again 60% of the results are ‘social sites’ – This is why you’ll see my client becoming very active in the social world from this point onwards.
Given further maturity of the main social sites over the next few years, I believe we’ll start seeing 60-70% of the top 10 results in Google displaying SM based websites regularly. If you add a powerful brand you’re trying to sell in there, (like Sony in the example above) that’s another position gone, so there are far fewer positions to fight over and why agencies which used to simply carry out SEO or PPC for clients are now having to adapt into the social world for their clients. If you’re new to business or starting up, don’t get too carried away with just SEO, it’s vital you consider your strategy for social media sites as well.
Is your social footprint good enough or do you need to work on it? Do these changes to the SERPs worry you or do you think it’s a good thing that Google is becoming more socially aware?