Social Search: Changing the Game on Search Engine Rankings
Social media affects much of what is seen online today. Sites such as Digg, Twitter, YouTube and others are becoming part of how media and content are viewed. Sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Second Life and LinkedIn are creating relationships in cyberspace that can affect offline relationships as well.
The concept of “social search” is providing the means for users to influence search results, either for themselves or for others. Sites such as del.icio.us and Yahoo! Bookmarks enable visitors to create their own sharable bookmarks and tag Web sites with keywords. The tags that are used are based on the user’s perception of the site. Similar to product review sites, users influence other users by sharing their opinions.
Search engine optimizers are able to adjust the content on Web pages to favor one keyword over another, build Web sites that focus on primary keywords and phrases through architecture, and use meta tags to inform the search engines as to what a Web page is about. The ultimate goal is to have the site positioned for the keywords and phrases that marketers expect will result in their targeted customers finding the site.
While this process is still required, outside influences have started to erode positioning. Google’s universal search (search results that include Web sites, blogs, video, music, books and other indexed content) already is affecting positioning of many sites on its search engine. When a search on Google yields listings that include many media types, companies might find that they have lost top positioning, in many cases, hurting traffic that is generated from search engines.
User-generated content such as blogs and wikis also influence search results. Blogs, which often appear in the top search results, are naturally search-engine-friendly; content owners often write using keywords associated with links to Web sites. Since links coming into a Web site with keywords associated with them have become part of many search engines’ algorithms, blogs have become part of another component of natural search now being influenced by users rather than marketers.