In my last blog post I explained how Google have developed their search offering to include a social aspect with the introduction of Google Plus. This means that the things your friends like on Google+ have as much weight in search engine results as traditional SEO tactics of the website you are searching for. But how do you optimise for Social Search if you are a website?
This represents a particularly difficult challenge in markets that are regulated, because marketing of the product may have to be done separately from marketing of the benefits of the product depending on the locale. So finance companies can’t push their own Payment Protection Insurance whilst also talking about fluctuations in the market and pharmaceutical companies can’t push their drugs whilst also talking about working out whether you’ve got an illness.
So how can you as a company get people who may have diabetes to connect to other people who have diabetes in a way that the ones who promote your products can be connected to those that don’t? How can you as a company get people who use your trading platform ‘betting’ on the foreign exchange market to connect to people who are just investigating what forex is?
1. Make it easier for people to link to your content with a descriptive url
Anyone who is on Google+ can post links to any content they like. Whilst legally you might not want to encourage them to do this, you can make it a lot easier. This doesn’t just mean sticking +1 signs on the bottom of each page (remember that a +1 sign means that you are allowing Google to see what content your user is viewing, put a cookie on the user’s computer and hence tie this up with other content that user sees across the web. This, therefore, needs to be in line with the consent you have from your users).
Instead, encourage people to talk about and share your content by not making it seem like a taboo subject. Make sure your urls are friendly and things that they’d like other people to see:
www.commoduk.net/123.php – Not Friendly
2. Make use of the title of the page
Give your content a decent title. This is a golden rule for search engine optimisation, but it is also true for many types of marketing. Most of your users are going to share things using the title of the page as the anchor text of the link and many CMSs will use it automatically as the title tag – it will encourage people to click through.
The same applies to the title as to the url – users won’t share if it is seen as sensitive. Think “what would my friend think about me if I shared a page with this title”?
3. Make a Google+ page
Unlike Facebook pages, Google Plus pages don’t have the option of people commenting directly on the page, so you don’t need to do any clean up or moderating. They can however comment on your posts, so these will need to be carefully controlled and moderated transparently.
A Google+ page gives people the option of a user liking the website and makes it easier for others to find your presence with an about page that talks about what the site does. Put some description in the about section about the website, but leave the contact blank if you like (if it’s not on the site, it’s not on the Google+ page), but put in related links (consider what is related from the user’s point of view, not necessarily your company’s).
The other benefit of a Google+ page is the list of people who have included it in their circles (if they make it public), increasing its visibility to others who may also be interested in its content.
4. Promote those who are active
There is nothing better than talking up someone who is active on Google+ on your website. Interview them as part of the process of creating content for your site and include links to their profiles. Provide some context, e.g. ask them how they dealt with the stigma of being associated with banking, how they got around the social aspect, etc. This will give those who are looking to go onto Google+ a starting point, one that is hand selected by you for the purpose.
Make sure they appear genuine. Do this by making sure they are genuine. There is nothing that will get your legal team up in arms more than an offhand comment by fellow Google+ users suggesting that you are paying the person to do this on your company’s behalf. And, more importantly, there is nothing worse from a user perspective than finding out that someone you respected is a shell for a company when you thought they were genuine.
5. Make sure there is a landing page for hidden content
If you have a tool that people can use or the content is hidden behind a barrier because they need some sort of clearance to see it, there is nothing better than a landing page detailing what is behind the barrier. This is a perfect page for users to link to and like. A home page with ‘login’ and ‘register’ is all well and good for those who know about the content, but useless for those who have come through search and know nothing.
Describe what is behind the barrier, what steps are needed to get behind the barrier, why it is behind a barrier if necessary and why they should use the tool/sign up process. Insurance companies have been doing this for years on their websites – for example on esure’s car insurance page – there are clear product descriptions about what you get when you join, the time it takes to get a quote, how you can manage your service online, etc
Finally, when considering any of these five steps, you should also be considering the real question; what is the impact of this going to be on your business? 30% of the visits to my blog whencanistop.com this year have come from ‘social search’ but then it is an internet marketing blog and many industries are not quite so technically minded or involved in Google+. That said, the growing importance of social search should not be underestimated; the tactics suggested above need minimum effort and will ensure you are one step ahead of your competitors as social search’s influence grows.
Remember the key is that you want others to share your content with each other, not you sharing it with them, and that you want others to engage with like-minded people, not with you. If you can get them to do this, it will improve your website’s visibility in the search engine rankings, and increase the number of good quality visits to your site.