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Social Annotations in Search: Now Your Social Network = Rankings

Posted by randfish

For years, the best way to gain rankings in search results was to have:

  1. Accessible pages featuring
  2. Quality content
  3. Targeting the right keywords
  4. In a way that naturally earned external links

But this changes things:

Cupcake Madness SERPs

The cupcake post from Everywhereist normally wouldn't rank there. In fact, unless you follow Geraldine on Twitter, chances are you won't see much of her site in even semi-competitive results. Here's a screenshot of a logged-out view.

Cupcake Madness SERPs Logged Out

Not only is Google annotating the listing with a photo, creating social proof and certainly increasing click-through-rate, they're also biasing to put these results on page 1 that might normally rank in utter obscurity. This isn't just true for obscure, random searches either, nor is it exclusive to Twitter.

Web Analytics SERPs

"Web analytics" is a highly competitive query, and though they try, KISS Metrics and Market Motive aren't normally ranking page 1 for everyone... but they are for me thanks to my connections to Neil on Quora and John on Facebook.

This should be giving everyone in search marketing a huge "ah ha" moment. As Google scales this out, concentrates on getting more people claiming their profiles and using logged-in accounts to search (supposedly this number was ~20% in March of 2010), the reach of your social network and the sharing you do to those networks will have a substantive, possibly massive, effect on your search traffic. The socialization of search is more than just Tweeted URLs or Facebook Likes or LinkedIn Shares having a positive first/second-order impact on generic rankings, it's about influencing your social graph to see the content you share in their search results.

Rand's Google Social Content

You can see how you're connected in Google by visiting this page (while logged into your Google account)

Suddenly, a huge social reach is a competitive advantage in SEO. If you're doing SEO today, I think it's no longer possible to ignore the growth of your social connections as a big part of your SEO strategy. Honestly, I expect in 18 months, Twitter followers, Facebook connections, LinkedIn account size and engagement across these won't just be social metrics; they'll be KPIs for our SEO, too.

p.s. I don't mean to suggest these features in Google are new - they've been around a while. But Google's aggressiveness with showing and the user happiness and CTR that predicts, likely means this is here to stay, and will be a part of Google's strategy for a long time. Bing's doing this too with Facebook, and in a much more directly integrated way.

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