My searches are about more than just the words I’m typing. There’s meaning, context, and the relationship between items to consider. But it takes a repository like Wikipedia to understand that. However, with Google’s latest update to search results pages, the search giant is taking another step toward not only showing me results, but understanding those results. Search is becoming more human, and, as Google puts it, the Knowledge Graph is about “things, not strings.”
Here’s where it gets good. The recent launch of Google’s Knowledge Graph isn’t just good news for searchers. Businesses can take the information that Google offers in the Knowledge Graph and use it to inform content planning and even advertising campaigns.
Take a search for “Dallas” as an example. If I type “Dallas” into Google, the information I really want might be the population of the Texas city. On the other hand, I could be after the name of the actor who played the character Bobby Ewing on the TV drama. (I’ll admit, Patrick Duffy isn’t always top of mind.) Before the Knowledge Graph, Google didn’t know the difference between these two pieces of information, and it didn’t care. If I wanted to get really specific in my search results, I had to type “Dallas population,” maybe with quotes, maybe without. Or I had to type “Bobby Ewing Dallas actor” or something similar.
On the new results page, Google understands that I’m not just looking for information about the word “Dallas.” I’m probably looking for something deeper. Using information from Google Maps, Wikipedia, and other sources, the Knowledge Graph pulls a snapshot of information about what I’m most likely looking for. In this case, it’s a map of Dallas and stats like elevation, weather, and population. With billions of searches per day, Google can predict what information I’m probably seeking based on the queries of everyone who searched before me. And just in case I’m looking for Bobby Ewing, the Knowledge Graph also suggests that as an option so I can filter my search results just to the TV show.
Believe it or not, this has value for businesses, not just trivia junkies. If I’m managing social media for my veterinary practice, I want my blogs and tweets to be relevant. I want to provide information that people are looking for. Before I write a blog about Dalmatians, a quick Google search will check the Knowledge Graph and tell me what people most want to know. Are Dalmatians hypoallergenic? How long do they live? How big do they get? Now I have three content topics based on what my audience actually wants to know, not on what I think they want to know.
But sure, it’s good for trivia too.
We always knew search engines would eventually incorporate more social network buzz in their results – an evolution in search that businesses need to know about and leverage.
We just thought it would be Google, not Bing, leading the way.
But late this week, Microsoft’s latecomer to the search market announced that it would soon be launching a new, improved version of Bing that sticks a social “sidebar” on the right-hand side of search results. “Whether it’s making a purchase, deciding on a vacation destination, choosing a great restaurant, or figuring out which movie to see this weekend, the new Bing focuses on bringing friends, experts and enthusiasts into your search experience,” says a post on the Bing blog. (BTW, saying “Bing blog” three times real fast gets our vote for the Tongue-Twister of the Week).
The Sidebar does that by including relevant information to your search queries from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Quora – and in what has to be a direct dig at the current search engine leader, Google+. You know what Google search results turn up right now when you click on its “social” tab? Google+. And that’s it. That clanging sound you hear is Microsoft throwing down a big search engine optimization-friendly gauntlet in Google’s direction.
Yes, Bing is making other changes, boosting its algorithms to provide more relevant web results and introducing Snapshot, the center third of its results page that puts related information like maps, reviews and e-commerce links out front. Bing says this will make it easy for users to take the next step after searching, such as booking flights, buying products, etc. But let’s be clear; integrating social network results into regular Bing results is a giant step for Microsoft and the search industry. It also should be obvious now to businesses that they have to monitor their online reputations, put their best social content out there, and start optimizing that content if they’re not doing so already.
The new Bing may not make a widely-used verb out of its product name a la Google. But it should still push businesses to take some positive action regarding their social media profiles. We can expect Google to fire back with its own improved version of social search, but businesses shouldn’t wait until the Google-Bing cold war reaches that level.
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Make no mistake: despite Facebook’s tremendous reach, Twitter’s arrival as a major social media player and Bing’s slow-but-steady growth, Google is still the alpha dog in the digital media kennel with nearly 70 percent of the market. If you’re a business owner and you’re now using social media/content marketing to find leads, talk to customers and build your brand, then you are aware of the impact your blog posts, Facebook updates and YouTube videos can have on your Google search result rankings.
That’s why digital marketers focusing on search engine optimization perked up their ears last week when Google search changes were announced. Google is working up some new algorithmic magic to change up the way it presents search page results. And if those SEO experts are saying this could be the biggest search makeover in years, then small/midsize business owners need to pay attention too.
At issue is the way Google’s technologies will hunt down keywords and other relevant information when someone plugs in words or phrases in the search box. The news first got out when Google’s search guru Matt Cutts told audiences at last week’s South by Southwest Interactive Conference that his company would soon target sites that over-optimize – that is, load up too many keywords that can affect the organic, natural aspects of the content.
The Wall Street Journal put some more meat on the bones of this story, interviewing another Google search whiz, Amit Singhal, about the current introduction of semantic technologies that will better understand the true meanings of words used in searches. The changes, which will hit over the next three-to-four months, will end up providing smarter search results and a wider range of more useful information on search results pages. After all, if more and more searches may be prompted by technologies like Siri-powered iPhones, which let you ask for searches in the simplest, direct way possible, then Google needs to find a way to keep up, right?
If all this makes a business owner’s head spin, then it may be the excuse you needed to finally get some outside help for your SEO. But you should know that it all comes back to good, compelling, business-generated content that is more informational than promotional.
“Good SEO should be the same as creating a good user experience,” says Splash Media SEO specialist Cole Field. “Google is working to make their search bots smarter in detecting sites that are ranking based on ‘black-hat tactics’ like link-buying, which create hundreds of links to your site from irrelevant sources. Google’s algorithms will focus more on organic quality links to measure your authority on the Internet.”
Those links, Field explains, should be based on your blog posts, news releases, news stories and social media. “This way Google can rate your authority based on the amount of relevant online conversations happening about your site.”
If there is any group that is cheered by the forthcoming Google search changes, it’s content marketers who have long preached that educating current/prospective customers is better than trying to sell to them. Content that lets your business comment on your industry, examines problems, offers solutions – all with a human touch that’s original and worth reading and sharing – will still mean more to Google’s new pumped-up search bots in the long run.
If you’re an SEO specialist or content marketer, what do you think of the upcoming Google search changes? If you’re a business owner, do you have any questions about this news? Please share with us in the Comments section below.
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It’s hasn’t been on the social media radar for very long, but Pinterest is already making some design changes: adding a”Repins From” box and an Activity feature, as well as tweaks to the Profile section and some navigation help.
However, those changes aren’t what pushed the rapidly-growing, image-centric social network to the top of recent blogosphere chatter.
Atlanta photographer (and practicing attorney) Kirsten Kowalski late last month wrote on her blog that she was deleting what she called her “Pinterest inspiration boards” – favorite pics from other photographers. Her reasoning? She didn’t want to be sued for copyright infringement. Kowalski combined research and her own legal knowledge and found she wasn’t convinced that Pinterest’s reliance on the Digital Millenium Copyright Act’s “safe harbor” exemption would trickle down to her repins of photos she found on the internet.
That blog post quickly made the rounds among social media and technology blogs, prompting a phone call to Kowalski from Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann. To his credit, Kowalski writes in a follow-up post that Silbermann was gracious and actually asked for her advice on how his company should clarify the copyright issue. Silbermann told Kowalski that his lawyers were examining the problem and changes could be coming soon.
So let’s say you’re a small/midsize business and you’ve just added Pinterest to your social media marketing strategy. Should you now be worried that a legal Seal Team Six will show up at your office, scattering flash-bang grenades while aiming rocket-propelled subpoenas at your head?
Not likely, although the issue does point to how difficult it can be for the law to keep up with changes wrought by new technologies. Whether it’s pinning photos to Pinterest and linking pics and stories on Twitter, some more legal clarity is necessary to find out whether the burden of responsibility in all this should be on the social networks themselves or on users. Aggregation/curation and linkage are big parts of the social media world, and they will naturally impact social media marketing.
That said, I don’t believe we’re heading towards a Napster-style showdown over links and pins. There’s too much traffic being sent back to original sources via social media links. Those doing the sharing on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest aren’t out to steal anything; their intent is to just pass along recommended content to friends.
So while we’re waiting for that legal clarity that protects both content creators and consumers, here are some things businesses should keep in mind:
* Original content, whether it’s photos or text, is always better. Search engines are zeroing in on fresh content for SEO reasons, and you should too. Pinterest discourages a lot of self-promotion, but it will seek to strike a balance between spam and legitimate marketing content because it wants brand/business attention.
* If you are wanting to highlight content that didn’t start with you, give credit where credit is due and always link back to the original source of that content. That’s just proper social media etiquette. Someone else wrote something about a development in your industry? Pass along the link and say nice things about the person who wrote it.
* Speaking of saying nice things…you always add value to any content you’re linking to by commenting on it; praise what someone else wrote or took a picture of, disagree with it, use it as a jumping-off point for your own story.
Splash Media will keep up with the latest on copyright issues and social media. And we would love to hear your take on whether copyright fears are keeping you off of Pinterest in our Comments section. In the meantime, check out these items from the week in social media marketing:
The New iPad Can Be A Business Owner’s Best Friend, Not Just Their Shiny New Toy
Okay, so it’s not a social media marketing item. But I’m guessing a lot of readers of this here blog are iPad users, and twenty bucks says many of them were either in line at their nearby Apple Store today or eagerly awaiting the UPS/Fed Ex truck. This American Express/Open Forum post by Mashable’s Lauren Hockenson offers ideas on how to optimize the new iPad for your business.
Yes, Use Social Media. No, Don’t Use It Without A Strategy
Fast Company blogger David Brier says it’s quality, not quantity for businesses and brands using social media. Forget about customers and conversation, and you take a chance on repeating some of the bad practices illustrated in the cartoons accompanying Brier’s post.
Blogging For Fun, Profit..And Search Engine Love
Six essential things to do to make sure a blog post ranks high in search results, according to Smedio founder Douglas Idugboe, writing at Ragan.com.
That’s it for this week. Good luck on those early March Madness brackets; we’ll see you back here on Monday.
Lost in all the dissection of last week’s Facebook Marketing Conference was another social media-themed event: Friday’s very successful initial public offering for Yelp, the user review website/application. Yelp valuation placed the opening price for a share of the newly-public company at $15, but the stock closed Friday at $24.58, marking a 64-percent jump. With Yelp revenue included, the company is worth nearly $1.5 billion, even as its local advertising-based model continues to lose money.
That stock soared on the power of user recommendations and the growth of mobile devices. But businesses using social media marketing should cheer the stock on because Yelp’s success points the way for even more social media impact on search engine rankings. And that would be reason No. 2,198 for small businesses to start monitoring their online reputations and get active in social media.
Don’t worry too much about Yelp’s current negative-revenue headaches; Amazon lost money too before its investments in infrastructure and marketing started to tip the balance sheet in the right direction. Yelp can be the 21st-century Zagat, riding the powerful waves of mobile technology and social media recommendations. Yes, it’s true that Google has purchased the original Zagat and may have big plans for it down the road. But let’s see a show of hands for all of you who have downloaded that $9.99 Zagat iPhone app vs. those of you who have installed the free Yelp app, which as of this writing ranks #2 among all travel apps according to TopAppCharts.com and is 98th overall for the iPhone. (Zagat is right now ranked 9th in iPhone travel apps.)
Try to pretend this next paragraph is a listing in those famous Zagat booklets:
Some think Zagat was “too slow” to move into digital, and that $9.99 cost is “pricey.” Also, users praise Yelp’s “wider-ranging” reviews, which include other types of local businesses besides “spicy” Mexican restaurants and “smoke-filled” bars.
Sorry, couldn’t resist. Also, Yelp received 66 million monthly unique visits in the last quarter of 2011. It passes along daily deals and has introduced technology that targets suspicious reviews. Yes, it will need to get busy with those local ads, but now it has some breathing room for hiring and marketing expenses.
Like the LinkedIn IPO, Yelp’s first day of trading was deemed another social media-flavored success story in anticipation of Facebook’s IPO expected later this year, but I’m guessing that some investors know that reviews on Yelp are part of that big, organic, user-generated content stream that Google and Bing’s industrial-strength algorithms take into consideration when calculating search results. For all I know, a few of those investors may also suspect that as Yelp revenue grows and attracts more profiles and user reviews, it will push more businesses to start wondering what’s being said about them on those kinds of platforms.
Because after all, there’s a good chance that someone is talking about their business on a publicly-traded Yelp, and it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. So businesses need to join that conversation.
What do you think about Yelp and the power of user-generated reviews of businesses in social media? Please share your thoughts in our Comments section below.