Social Signals – The New Search Engine Optimization

harness-social-mediaWe are all familiar with the idiom that word of mouth is generally thought to be the best form of advertising. People are more likely to shop in a store that has been recommended by a friend over any other form of marketing. However, up until recently internet search engines have not fully capitalized on this phenomenon. Now, search engines like Google use Social Signals as a part of their algorithm to determine how high your website will rank in search results. If you are looking to do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your business website, you have to make sure your site is generating positive social signals.

United Breaks Guitars – The Power of Online Word of Mouth

On March 31, 2008, musician Dave Carroll was on a United flight destined from Halifax to Omaha, Nebraska. While the plane was on the tarmac, Dave saw the luggage handlers tossing guitar cases to the ground while they finished loading the other luggage, supposedly keeping the guitars separate to have the luggage bay loaded more efficiently. Concerned, Dave checked his guitar upon retrieving it in Omaha. Indeed, his $3,500 Taylor guitar had suffered a broken neck. When he tried to make a claim for the amount, United refused, saying that Carroll had not submitted the claim within the allotted 24 hour period.

Dave Carroll decided he would play the part of Academy award-winning documentarian Michael Moore. He created a music video that he published to YouTube on July 6, 2008 entitled “United Breaks Guitars”. Ironic to the United allotted claim period, within 24 hours his video had 150,000 views. By July 9, that number had increased to 500,000. On the same day, United’s stock dropped 10%, costing stockholders around $180 million in value.

Social Signals Impact On Search Engine Optimization and your Business

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, Flickr – the list of social sites online are now endless. People are connecting with others and figuratively shaking hands with one another around the globe. Strangers that have never met each other physically (though they may be neighbours) are talking, and much of it is about what they have experienced at a restaurant nearby, or the hotel they stayed at while visiting North America from Europe, or the dentist who stayed late one night to help a concerned parent when their child broke a tooth, or… you get the picture.

This online community is a gold mine to search engines. You’ve undoubtedly seen symbols like Google’s “+1” and the “Like Us On Facebook!” plea on websites. When a website (maybe yours) is linked to a positive review on Facebook or Google+, the value of that review is much higher than what can be garnered by a search engine crawling your site. When looking to rank a site, it is now important that a site that has many positive comments, reviews, and mentions on social media sites will see themselves higher in the search engine rankings than a site without.

What does this mean to the average business like yours? Simply this – managing social signals has become a necessity for you and your website’s search engine optimization. Whether you try to keep it in-house through hiring someone to manage these social signals or subcontracting it out to another company, it is imperative for business to listen and appeal to the online community. If not, someone else might sing a song on YouTube called “Bob’s Diner Spit In My Soup” or, even worse, there might be no discussion about Bob’s Diner at all. And Bob may find himself out of business.

James Blackburn is president of Canada West Internet Marketing based out of Edmonton, AB.