At the Pro SEO conference in Boston last week, Rand Fishkin discussed the recent changes and updates to Google's search results -- in particular, how search results in Google are being affected by users' social circles.
How can you get started building your social circle and using social media to help your SEO results? Here's my three-step guide for beginners.
Step one: claim your social profiles. While many companies still haven't been ready to dip their toes into the social media fray, it's important for everyone to (at minimum) claim their brand names. I liken the social media profile reservation process for brands to that of the domain land grabs you used to see in the early days of the web. If you don't claim your social media profile now, someone else might, and then you're stuck trying to get it back. So even if you aren't fully ready to tweet or update Facebook regularly, claim your profile anyways!
How do social profiles matter for SEO? Do a search for almost any major brand such as Starbucks, Eddie Bauer, and Target on Google, and what do they all have in common? Each set of Web search results displays both the company's Facebook fan page and its Twitter page in the top-ten results. Many social media pages naturally rank well in Google's search results, allowing brands to better control their message in the top ten results. As a former public relations practitioner, I encourage all brands to reserve those profiles immediately, because the profiles allow them to affect how much third-party information, be it positive or negative, appears in the top-ten search results.
Some of the social media profiles I encourage brands to reserve include:
While I also think that Quora is important, Quora doesn't currently allow brands to reserve indentities on its platform. So any Quora account you create will have to be associated with an individual in your company.
Step two: connect the profiles. Once you've created all of the social profiles and reserved your brand name(s) on each, how does Google know to associate your brand profile page with a brand name search in Google? The answer lies in Google Profiles.
While Google does receive a flood of information from the aforementioned social media properties, a Google Profile helps Google associate which IDs on a social media platform (or profile) are connected to a particular Google account and helps Google to define your social circle.
In one case, I recently had a client switch their Twitter ID to a new one. However, Google didn't readily understand that the brand was now tweeting from a new ID, and therefore, the new Twitter ID didn't immediately begin ranking in the top-ten search results for the brand name search, even though the brand name and the new Twitter ID were the same keyword term. Once the Google Profile was updated to associate the new Twitter ID with the brand, though, the new Twitter ID began immediately ranking higher in Google search results and replacing the old Twitter ID in the results for the brand search.
To create your company's Google Profile:
1. You first need to create a company Google ID. A common misconception is that a Gmail address is required to register a Google account, and this is not true. You can use any email address to create your company's Google account.
2. Next, fill out all of the information you can in the profile. Add as many social profile links as you have and even add the links of social media profiles of your employees. For an example, check out my company's Google Profile here. Notice how we've added all of the social profiles we have to the profile, helping Google identify us easier. The result shows in a Google web search for my company's brand, which yields four social media profiles in the brand search.
Step three: engage with others in social media. Finally, your social circle grows when you follow others and others follow you. While the "following" terminology differs from platform to platform (be it "liking" or "following," etc.), those following you and those you follow become a part of your Google social circle. After you've told Google via the Google Profile what your social media profile IDs are, Google can then make the connection with who the followers of those profiles are -- and thus connect them with the social circle.
If you're logged in to Google and do any search, you're likely to see social circles in action today. Beneath some searches, you'll see comments in light gray such as "+1'ed this" or "shared this," along with the name and avatar of someone you might be connected with via social media. Fishkin even believes that social circle may be a much more important ranking factor in Google's future algorithms.
There you have it. Three easy steps to get your social SEO mojo working. There's certainly more to being effective with social and SEO than just three steps, but these steps should get you started down the right path.