Learn and employ SEO best practices to keep pace with technology
The recent launch of Google’s Social Search beta highlighted a recent trend: Consumers and businesses want insight into the opinions of their social networks before making decisions.
The new Google search does this by narrowing results to members of a user’s social network, including GChat buddies, Twitter followers and people connected to their close contacts. For example, as the Google support page for the new search explains, if you search for a keyword like “restaurants,” the results will show restaurant reviews by your friends and other contacts in your social circle.
This development could have multiple consequences for your business. For starters, it’s now much easier for your customers and potential customers to get “trusted” information on your brand and its associated keywords through search results.
According to an October 2009 survey by Brand Reputation, 84 percent of consumers said they were more likely, compared with a year ago, to check online for reviews prior to making a purchase. Now that consumers’ primary source of information can also show social media data, people are even more likely to be affected by what their friends and networks say about your brand.
In this shifting search landscape, it’s essential to follow and implement SEO best practices that work with your social media initiatives. The following tips should help when developing your company’s social search strategies.
1. Pay attention to what people are saying online about your company. Begin by identifying keywords your brand or your competitors are associated with, and the conversations around these keywords. Online comments—whether Facebook updates, tweets or blogs—are what your customers see and trust. You can’t know what customers (or detractors) think of you unless you listen and pay attention to them. Additional insight can be found in server logs and the data in free analytics programs, such as Google Analytics.
2. Be prepared to react. Monitoring social buzz on your company is great, but what happens when that buzz is bad? You need a crisis management plan in place for moments when online sentiment is against you. Better yet, get a crisis management team on your side that is well versed in social search, so it can quickly and effectively turn the tide for your brand. 
3. If you have an action plan or team in place, use it. Although PR crises are obviously top priority, no question or comment is too small for a company with the resources to respond. If your company receives the same question or concern from multiple online users, set the issue straight using the same medium where the negative comment was found, and thank your engaged consumers for pointing it out.
By thanking your community for sharing content and information, the members are likely to feel more appreciated and, in turn, more likely to defend your company in the event of an unfortunate or inaccurate post, listing or tweet. Even a quick “thank you” for positive commentary could be worth the effort if it turns a pleased customer into an active word-of-mouth promoter.
4. Take a proactive approach to the new sociability of search. Give the corporation a more personal touch by setting up a Twitter feed or by having individual executives set up multiple social profiles, and then use these social networks to push out relevant, useful information about your products and services. The more content published, the better your company’s social search results.
Bonus: If you push out positive information, negative comments are less likely to show up at the top of search results on your company’s name. Building a barricade of positive entities through an online crisis management team prepares you for times of brand distress.
5. Don’t underestimate the influential power of social media networks—or how much this power will grow in the future. A report published by comScore, GroupM and M80 this month showed that 65 percent of Internet users reported searching brand terms after being exposed to a mix of paid search and social media that werer directly influenced by the brand.
The bottom line is that search is the standard among consumers. Social media is growing fast, and the two are becoming more and more intertwined. Using these channels to spread brand messages and monitoring them to gauge public sentiment are essential in this market.
Blake Cahill is senior vice president of marketing for Visible Technologies, a Seattle-based leading provider of social media monitoring and engagement solutions.
SOURCE: Ragan.com


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