Google and the changing face of social media

02 Google and the changing face of social media

(This material was recently presented at the Marketing Association‘s Certificate of Direct Marketing course)

It’s a special year for search and social: they’re getting married. 

Well, maybe that’s not true. Maybe they’ve been shacked up for a while, but search engine optimisation and social media have never been so closely intertwined.

But first, some background.

Beginnings of the SEO industry

In the beginning, there was search. It’s easy to forget now how revolutionary it was to be able to search for – and usually find – any information we wanted.

However, it was possible to game the system to get your website ranked higher. This led to the SEO industry being born, and marketers were forced to trust SEO practitioners with a very important part of their brand – their online presence and visibility.

Database of Intentions

What search gave marketers was what John Batelle calls the “database of intentions” – previously marketers could only learn from responses to communications, or surveys. Now we could see what people were going to do in the future.

Batelle has a great summary of “database of intentions”, and how it has evolved over time. 

Fields in the DBoI 3.20101 Google and the changing face of social media

As you can see, what began with search evolved into social, and a fuller, richer picture of the customer emerged.

That’s great for business, but what about the consumers? Are they able to find what they need?

Give them what they need

That’s one of Google’s top priorities, so Google has been in an arms race with “black hat” SEO operators who try to game the system.

Arguably, Google is getting closer to its goal of simply delivering you, the user, what you’re looking for. And for content developers, that should also be simpler – no extra tricks or hacks required.

Google’s recent development called “Search Plus Your World” just made social a lot more important. This post explains the details, but in a nutshell, when you search, you’ll see:

  • Public results (the type you’d see anyway)
  • Private results (things from your own Google+ or Picasa accounts, or items that have been privately shared with you)
  • Personalised results based on your search history
  • Social results from Google+ – and only Google+

(There’s some controversy over this. Google says it can’t bring in results from Facebook or Twitter, but engineers from those companies are crying foul)

What does this mean? 

  • Google+ is really important for getting seen in search results
  • It’s harder to reach total strangers; instead, personal/social connections will play a much bigger role
  • If in doubt, create content that a) tells a good story, b) gives people a reason to pass it on and share with others

Search Plus Your World is only available in some countries (not including New Zealand). If you’ve had a chance to use it, what’s your feedback? If you’re in the SEO business, what’s your view on the future of the SEO industry?



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