Search and Social: Google Panda 2.2 Binds the Two Together

by Keri Honea on August 4, 2011

Google’s latest search engine update, lovingly called Panda 2.2, has been in full force for a couple of months now, but I bet few, if any of you have noticed as the new algorithm is estimated to take up to four months to show any changes in rankings. Why is this? Well, it’s because, as I alluded to in my post about Google+, Google is merging social media results with search engine results.

And what does this mean?

First and foremost, it means that social media is not going anywhere. ANYWHERE. So if you have a brand or product or service that you want to market and you want to have people easily find you in search engines, you better be active on at least two out of the three major social media networks–Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. So if there’s anyone in your company who still thinks that social media is a fad that is going nowhere, think again. It’s time to either hire in-house social media managers (or community managers, as what seems to be the latest trend in social media job titles) or outsource your social media management.

Secondly, this means that what your customers and potential customers are saying about you in social media (and local search directories like Yelp and CitySearch) is very important.

Google’s goal with this update is to make a more user-centric experience when it comes to search. They don’t want companies that figure out the master key in search to rank high in search results; they want companies that have proven, positive experiences with customers to rank in the top ten. In other words, you may have the science of Google search down. You may have the right meta tags, the right amount of keywords littered across your content, and the right number of high quality backlinks. But, if you have poor reviews or no reviews online, and some customers have started ranted about their bad experiences on Facebook, you will not win that No. 1 search engine rank for your keywords.

The same is true if no one is talking about you at all. If you aren’t on two of the big three, you aren’t stimulating conversation, and you aren’t listed on local search directories so that people can’t review you, you will be left off the top Google search ranks.

If you’re an extremely niche company that sells extremely niche products/services, then maybe this won’t bother you as much because you’ll always rank up there. You’ve had high ranks without even trying. However, most of us aren’t like that. Most of us have competition, and most of the time, that competition is steep.

For instance, one of our clients is a dentist in Frisco, TX. As you can imagine, there are a lot of dentists in Frisco, and most of them have websites with fantastic search engine optimization. Competition for the keywords “Frisco dentist” is fierce. I am very thankful that I started his practice on social media networking back when he first became a client, because we have already started that conversation with his patients, we have accumulated positive reviews, and we keep his blog going strong with original content. Even though I’m not really supposed to see definitive results of the new social media algorithm for a few months due to the time it takes for Google to accumulate all of that information, I have already seen not only our client climb the ranks even higher, but also a lot of our competition dropping down the ladder. Instead of individual clinics being listed in the top ten, I see local directory listing sites, such as CitySearch and Yellow Pages.

The writing is in the search engine rankings, my friends, and Google has already said that they will apply similar social media algorithms when it comes to Adwords ad placements. Social media is no longer a nice extra luxury, similar to how websites were in the mid-90s. It’s a necessity, just like how websites are now. If you aren’t in, you’re definitely out, as cheesy as that sounds.

Of course, although social media is one of the biggest factors for the new Panda algorithm, it’s not the only factor. Website factors such as page speed, bounce rate, and diversity of traffic are also part of the equation. We will go over that in future posts, but if you can’t wait, then be sure to read Brittany Horton’s post on how to improve your website speed for a start.

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