Catapult SEO with Your Customers’ Help: Participatory SEO on the Social SERP


Posted by Dan Malachowski, Senior Marketing Strategist

Today’s search engine results page (SERP) is increasingly incorporating social aspects—from real-time tweets, to Google Place page reviews, to user-generated video.  Recently, Google released the +1 Button, which allows searchers to “+1” results and see what their friends have +1’d.  Bing counter-attacked with Facebook-enhanced results, which highlight “Liked” results from people in the searcher’s Facebook network.  Results Liked by friends float to the top of the SERP and stand out with friends’ pictures and the Facebook “thumb” symbol.  Bing—with its Facebook partnership—is strongly positioned against Google in the social SERP battle.

As the engines strive to perfect social search, SEO is fundamentally changing.  On the social SERP, prominent visibility often depends on whether your customers are participating with your brand.  For instance, search results are perceived as more relevant—and more clickable—when searchers see that their friends have +1’d or Liked the results.  Positive reviews in Google Place pages lead to more clicks.  And customer chatter achieves visibility via real-time search.  The social SERP’s value lies in enabling participants to help their friends break through the clutter.  Searchers’ friends are increasingly controlling where results rank and whether they get clicked.  At Performics, we call this participatory search; it’s word of mouth marketing on the SERP.  Participants—through Likes, +1s, tweets and reviews—now wield great influence over your SEO efforts.  To optimize your natural listings, you need your customers’ help.  SEO thus becomes a mutual investment between your brand and your customers.  Natural search visibility depends on encouraging your participants to advocate for your brand.

Performics’ and ROI Research’s S-Net (The Impact of Social Media) Study—released on June 7th—surveyed 2,997 active social networkers and found that they are willing to advocate for brands on the social networks.  This advocacy bubbles up to the social SERP.  Social networkers are actually twice as likely to verbalize satisfaction as to verbalize disappointment. This satisfaction translates into Likes, +1s, tweets, reviews and user-generated YouTube videos that make your brand more visible in natural search.  S-Net broke out those likely to verbalize satisfaction and disappointment by vertical.  For instance, social networkers are very likely to verbalize satisfaction in the restaurant vertical, and restaurant reviews are highly prominent in natural search:

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So how do you get your customers talking?  S-Net found that 56 percent of social networkers talk about sales and specials.  The study also found that those who follow a brand on Twitter are 61 percent more likely to talk about that brand/product, while Facebook fans are 49 percent more likely to talk.  Those who follow a brand on Twitter are 59 percent more likely to recommend that brand/product, while Facebook fans are 53 percent more likely.  Thus, gaining more fans and followers aids in generating more positive chatter and recommendations for your brand, which propels your SEO performance.  Brands can gain fans (or followers) through methods like Facebook Engagement Ads.  For instance, redbox used Facebook Engagement Ads to gain 269,000 fans in just ten days.  Redbox incentivized participants to Like its brand with ad copy offering a free video rental.  Brands can also gain fans indirectly though Facebook Ads; many Facebook users are influenced to Like a brand once they see that their friends have Liked that brand.  S-Net reflects this peer influence—60 percent of social networkers are at least somewhat likely to take an action, such as Liking a brand, once a friend posts something about that brand (i.e. the Like showing in a friend’s Facebook feed).

Another way to get your customers participating—thus boosting natural search visibility—is to recognize the fundamental power shift between your brand and your customers.  This requires engaging in a two-way conversation on the social networks.  S-Net found that 53 percent of people frequently or occasionally use social networks to provide feedback to a brand.  Fifty-two percent agreed that they can influence business decisions made by brands by voicing their opinions on the social networks.  This means that brands cannot merely listen, thank participants or answer their questions.  Brands must use information provided by participants to guide business decisions.  For example, if several customers suggest a product improvement, you must take that to heart.  Brands should also interact with participants—53 percent said that they expect brands to communicate with them at least once per week.  If you’re soliciting and considering participant feedback, your customers are more likely to Like your brand, tweet about good service, provide a good review or even create a video about your brand.  Give special attention to influencers and advocates so that they’ll continue to spread the positive word to the SERP.  And be sure to include the Like and +1 buttons on your content and encourage your customers to use the buttons.

To stay relevant against sites like Facebook, the search engines will continue to layer social on search.  SEOs are especially equipped to engage participants to optimize the social SERP—they’ve always created advocates in organic link-building campaigns.  Participant marketing is now a critical component of SEO.  On the social SERP, prominent visibility depends on getting your customers to help.

S-Net (The Impact of Social Media), a report from ROI Research Inc., sponsored by Performics, used a 30-minute online survey to collect responses from 2,997 people who access at least one social network regularly.  The objective of the study was to determine how various segments of people use social networks in their daily lives, specifically with regard to the purchase process for different types of products and in relation to other media channels.

To request a complimentary copy of S-Net’s key findings, contact Addie Reed at: areed@preturn.com.

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