Google: Should we be social for the sake of it?

15Jun11

Just as a quick disclaimer –I’m not an SEO expert. But I AM a content writer, so I keep my ear to the ground when it comes to SEO. And what I’ve learnt in the last few weeks has made wonder – does Google still have a place for the unsociable among us?

Social, social, social

Facebook LolcatApparently, it’s no great secret that Google is using social signals in their search algorithm far more than they used to.

These ‘social signals’ include links from Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. Google also assess the ‘authority’ of the users posting the links in much the same way they rank the authority of a website; giving more weight to links that come from those users with higher authority.

What does this mean?

In short – if you’re not taking part in the social sphere, you’re not maximising your potential to bring in natural search traffic. At least, that’s the impression I get.

Well, what’s wrong with that?

To me – this move by Google has moved the goalposts for online businesses (yet again), leading to on-site optimisation becoming an even smaller piece of an ever-growing puzzle.  

In theory, I’m not against social media signals helping to rank websites. But it seems to present a few problems.

  • Social networks may become saturated with companies who don’t really want or need to be there.
  • The value of companies taking part in social media per se will be become diluted – it becomes increasingly difficult to offer anything unique.
  • The biggest brands are just going to get bigger and bigger, thanks to enormous customer bases and bottomless marketing budgets.

I’ve always been taught that being ‘social for the sake of it’ is a bad thing – but do we have a choice anymore if we need to maximise our rankings?

But I don’t have anything to say.

This brings me to my final point. What if your company is not a good fit for social? What if the product or service you sell, simply isn’t very interesting? After all, we all need to buy washing up liquid, but we don’t necessarily *care* about it, or want to engage with the people who make it.

How much do these companies stand to lose by not moving into the social sphere? If Fairy Liquid isn’t tweeting, will they start losing rankings and be overtaken by…Cif? (Is that a brand? You can tell I don’t do the washing up much.)

Should we still be giving the advice that if your brand hasn’t got anything useful/good/funny/interesting to say – you shouldn’t say it at all? Or is it too dangerous for brands, (even the chronically dull ones), not to be going social?

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3 Responses to “Google: Should we be social for the sake of it?”

  1. 1 James Chatman

    Kudos to you for writing a great article.

    “How much do these companies stand to lose by not moving into the social sphere?”

    How many people do you know that search for washing up detergent online? I don’t think I know ANYONE who does that? So in answer to your question, a washing up brand doesn’t really stand to lose much if it doesn’t generate much search traffic.

    Should we still be giving the advice that if your brand hasn’t got anything useful/good/funny/interesting to say – you shouldn’t say it at all?

    ABSOLUTELY. If you never have anything interesting to say, people won’t listen to you. A way to get around this problem is to create captivating content to engage your social followers.

    At the end of the day, a brand’s internet marketing efforts should be shaped around clear and measurable business goals. The brands that fail to abide by this are the ones that stand to lose the most.

    • Hi James, thanks for your comment.

      You’re right, I don’t know anyone who searches for washing up detergent – so maybe mine was actually a bad example. I think what I was trying to describe, was a company whose success may rely on their success online (traffic being a major part of that), but who still don’t have an interesting subject to talk about.

      Let me try another example, like an online insurance broker. As a consumer, I NEED insurance, but I really don’t want to read about it (beyond the essentials). But this online broker needs good search rankings to compete with hundreds of other, similar online brokers. If Google is using social signals to rank – this may lead the insurance company to move into social media. And therein (for me) lies the challenge; how does an online insurance broker go about creating engaging and captivating content that their users want to read and interact with?

      This is what I’m concerned about – brands who rely on an online presence but who are essentially ‘dull’, moving into social media despite having very little of interest to talk about. Otherwise I agree with you – if you haven’t got anything interesting to say, you probably shouldn’t say anything at all.

      • “therein (for me) lies the challenge; how does an online insurance broker go about creating engaging and captivating content that their users want to read and interact with?”

        The first step is to know your audience. Which segments are most likely to be active in social media? Which segment is the most lucrative? When you know answers to such questions, you can start to formulate a content strategy. I can think of organic few content ideas:

        *Informative eBook which helps consumers decide whether they need insurance and if so, what type of cover
        *Informative video which covers the same topic as the eBook
        *blog posts that tell inspirational stories of people who are grateful that they took out insurance

        On its own, the above mentioned content is not captivating enough to maintain interest from an audience. Therefore, it needs to be mixed in with externally produced engaging content that is relevant to your target audience (e.g. link to relevant YouTube videos and interesting articles).


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