By now, you have heard all the internet marketing and search engine optimization (SEO ) lingo. You know about “keywords” and “meta-tags”; you might even understand “pagerank” or “link authority.” You have become somewhat familiar with where your practice website ranks on the major search engines and how your competition is doing. You know you need to be at the top of the search engines - this is where your patients find you. When it comes to SEO , you consider yourself an old pro.
Social media, on the other hand, is new and different. Relevance and authority is based on conversation and real world evaluation. You set up a Facebook page because you were told you needed it, and you did the same with Twitter. You heard that they might be useful in the future, but that’s in the future.
Google, the undeniable leader in all things search, has spoken. The future is now. SEO and social are now intertwined into a unified online searching experience.
"We’re transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships." Google blog, January 10th, 2012
Social /Search on Google is all about personalizing search results to include results from your own network. So, how does Google know who’s in your network? Social media and Google+.
It’s a common held theory that people conduct business with those that they know, like, and trust. If I want an opinion on the best doctor in my city, am I more willing to be influenced by a random opinion of some person that I don’t know or by a person who I actually know, like, and trust? Google is betting on the latter. If you don’t have a social media presence online, Google uses that as a signal. You have no social network. If you have no social network, you are not part of anyone else’s social network. In the eyes of Google’s new Social Search, you are as close to irrelevant as you can be.
On the other hand, if you have an extensive social media presence online, Google uses that as a signal. Your website, your social media references, your reviews, your stream of activity will all show up in the search results when people connected to you through social media channels search for relevant content.
In other words, your content will show up in organic search results much more frequently when you have a strong social media presence. To a certain extent, Google is trying to determine the connection between entities, industries and the topics people are searching for. If you choose to ignore social media, it’s ultimately a decision that will affect your search engine rankings.
What Can Your Practice Do?
First and foremost, you have to accept the fact that social media is now an important factor in SEO . Although Google doesn’t share its exact search algorithm with the public, SEO thought leaders, as well as testing and experiments, show that social signals play a part in search engine ranking.
So, what can your practice do to stay ahead of the curve?
The quality of your online content is extremely important. When you look at social media in its most basic form, it’s simply people sharing content with other people. The tools may change over time, but it’s still about sharing something helpful, something informative, something entertaining or something interesting.
If you want your content to be shared across the web (and trust me, you do), then you need to create something worth sharing. Whether it’s a link to a great article or a picture or a video, make sure you create content that people in your target market or your network will care about.
Ever heard of Facebook? Of course you have. It’s the 800 lb gorilla of the social media world. They’re closing in on 1 billion users. Yes, that’s 1 billion with a “b.”
Facebook is a great social media resource because of the massive number of users as well as the built-in sharing properties.
When you share content on Facebook, your entire network sees it. If someone else shares your content on Facebook, their network sees it. If someone from their network shares it, everyone in their network sees it, and so on and so on.
Facebook is also a great place to advertise because you can target your market based on numerous factors such as age, location, interests, groups, etc.
Many people use Facebook to run contests. It’s a great way to encourage people to share your content and increase your network.
Twitter is a social network and a microblogging service. Most people know that you can use Twitter to share links, content, pictures and videos in 140 characters or less.
But Twitter is also a great way to better understand your market and connect with it. In fact, most social media resources are goldmines of information.
You can use different services to track what users are saying about your industry, your practice or any topic you want to monitor. You can respond to the tweets if it makes sense, or you can use the information to compose better, more relevant tweets.
Twitter is a great way to build your social network, improve your social ranking signals and better understand your potential customers.
Google+ is the new kid on the block when it comes to social media. It’s Google’s answer to Facebook.
One of the big differences between Google+ and Facebook is that Google+ easily allows you to build your own networks within Google+ and keep them separate. Facebook, too, has this function, but it’s a lot easier with Google+.
For example, many people have different social groups. You might have coworkers and you have family members and you have good friends. You don’t always want to share all content with all groups. Google+ allows you to share easily with all groups or individual groups.
But, more importantly, Google is integrating the social information from Google+ into their search algorithm. If you
have a Google+ business page, it will help your rankings. If you have an optimized Google+ business page, it will help you more. If you actively use Google+ to share and expand your network, it will help your organic rankings even more so.
"The bottom line is that Google+ is becoming an extremely important part of SEO, and if you adopt it at this point in the game, you’ll be miles ahead of your competition."
YouTube is actually the second largest search engine. More people search for content on YouTube than they do on Yahoo! or Bing.
It’s a video hosting site that can increase your reach online. Some people like to read content. Others like to watch videos. You don’t have to choose. If you create written content, you can always turn that content into a video and post it on YouTube.
The benefit of posting videos on YouTube is that you can tap into an entirely different audience, and it increases the chances that your content will appear in organic search results for relevant content.
Plus, you can use that video on Facebook, you can share it through Twitter, you can post it on Google+ and you can embed it on your own website if that fits in with your internet marketing strategy.
Your Own Website
One purpose of social media is to connect with more people and increase awareness for your business. But, it’s also important to give people the opportunity to share your content and connect with you. You do that by integrating social media into your website.
Social sharing is an important factor for organic search results. If
hundreds of people are sharing your content on Twitter, or liking your content through Facebook, or +1’ing your content on Google+, that’s a signal to Google that the content is high quality and, therefore, it’s more likely to show up at the top of search results.
SEO is all about getting your content to show up as high as possible in search results. Social factors are an important part of that, and it’s important to integrate your social media channels into your website and encourage people to share your content.
When done properly, social media integration will help improve your social media and SEO impact.
Why Be Social?
The short answer: It’s in our nature; we’re social creatures. We want to get feedback and opinions of others, especially those we know, like, and trust. We want to share. Everyone is a critic and everyone has an opinion.
That’s another reason to be social- -to manage your reputation online.
“You can’t control what other people say about you, but you can encourage people who have positive opinions to share them online.”
Reputation management is an important part of the social media world. You can’t eliminate bad reviews but you can drown them out with good reviews. Unfortunately, a person who has had a bad experience is much more likely to write a review than a person who has had a good experience. It’s important to formulate a plan that encourages people that have had good experiences to share their opinions online.
Google+ Vs. Facebook
Google loves information. They believe that the more information they have, the better results they can provide
and the more ads they can serve (which means more money for Google).
Facebook has a ton of information. Google wants it. But, Facebook is a closed system – to an extent. That’s one of the reasons Google created Google+. They want social information. They want to know more about people. They want to use that information to provide better search results and more focused advertisements.
Google has been throwing its weight around to get people to use Google+; they are committed to it. It’s becoming an important part of organic search rankings. They want people to use their social network.
“You might say that this is the ‘Clash of the Titans’.”
Don’t worry; you don’t have to choose sides. You can use both to grow your business. Play your social media cards right and you just might dominate the search engine rankings.
As Google said in its announcement on January 10th...
"Search is simply better with your world in it, and as Google, we’re just getting started."
Are we all ready?