Social media marketing is the process whereby a website owner promotes their website across the huge list of social websites on the web. The more popular examples include Digg, Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon and MySpace, but they are not the only ones to be considered.
Social media marketing has a direct effect on search engine rankings and engines are using social voting systems and bookmarking trends to determine quality sites. Let’s look at some examples of how social media is influencing the ranking of search results.
Local Search Results
We’ve previously blogged about the benefits and opportunities Google universal search has opened for small business, but let’s look at a concrete example of how it’s influencing search ranking for small businesses.
Say I was searching for an Italian restaurant in New York. I enter the search “Italian new york” and am presented with the Google OneBox displaying top restaurants in the New York area.
If you look at these results you will notice that businesses with the most user reviews and ratings are ranking above those who do not have as many social media votes. It’s a similar story when searching on Yahoo!:
As you can see, restaurants with top user ratings and the most reviews are ranking above those who don’t have as many votes.
How Social Measurements Can Impact Search Results
From the examples above, it might seem obvious that social media ratings have a direct impact on ranking, but let’s look at some of the other ways social media is impacting search results.
- Number of Votes – This is a great way for search engines to determine the quality of a site. If users are voting for it, it’s obviously providing value.
- Comments - Similar to the number of votes, the number of comments and reviews can be used to assess the quality of a website or business.
- Bookmarking - Social bookmarking services can help search engines index content faster and find pages which are non existent from the navigation of a website.
- Categorization – Saving websites to different category’s can help search engines to understand the subject of a website.
What Does This Mean For Small Business?
For the small business owner the message is simple: embrace social media elements wherever possible and encourage customers to get involved. If a local restaurant owner can provide happy customers an incentive to review his business online, he could very well be ranking on the first page of Google. If a local camera shop writes a great review of a new camera, bookmarking and submission to social news sites could see a huge traffic rush to the business.
If you’ve had success embracing social media marketing for your business or have any thoughts on the issue, share them via our blog comments!