The importance of being social online for businesses

Bing made a splash with integration of search results with Facebook ‘liked by’ friends links. Bing holds currently only 12% to 15% of search market, so as a business you might dismiss social networking only for nerds and restless young.

All along Google too had its stake in social search with a social circle link below search results since 2009. Now Google has made the social graph more important to organic search with its announcement on February 17, 2011 that links liked by your friends will be bumped up the search results. Your online circle is built by Google from the connections linked from your public Google profile, such as the people you’re following on Twitter or FriendFeed, Gmail contacts (this will include your chat buddies and contacts in your friends, family, and coworkers groups).

Social search results will now be blended with other organic results based on their relevance.

Annotation below the result will specify the friend or connection who either shared the link and mode of sharing, like tweet or created content in a blog or publishing on YouTube, Flickr or their own blog or website or posted a video on YouTube or a photo on Picasa.  Annotation will be  visible only to you, and only when you’re signed into Google account.  There is a new option to that  enables you to choose whether or not to show your connected accounts publicly on your Google profile.

Google images went social last year. When you search on Images, you will  seeing pictures from people in your social circle, which have been  published publicly to the web on photo-sharing sites like Picasa Web Albums and Flickr.

Google has a deal with Twitter for full access. It has access to Flickr and Quora content as well. What takes away the fizz is that your social data in Facebook is not integrated. After all Facebook is the most important social networking platform. Maybe some in near future, Google and Facebook may cozy up.

Clearly, as a business owner, you cannot be unsocial. If you have not done so, dress up and start making your presence felt in all social media platforms. Add buttons on your website to share on Twitter and other platforms. Make it easy for people to share your content from website and company blog.

Updates for SEO in 2011

There have two developments in Google search which have bearing for SEO in 2011 :  first is improved spam detection and the second is PageRank changes.

Battling Content Spam

On 21 January 2011, Google announced a redesigned document-level classifier to detect web spam. This will detect pages with scraped content using bots or software, or manual spam content, such as repeated keywords words which occur in junk, automated, self-promoting blog comments, or sites created for link exchange. This will affect primarily sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content.

Google also claims to target “content farms,” which generate content for SEO based on keywords. These employ low-paid content creators, who scrape content from high ranking sites. However, certain sites generate high revenues from Adsense for Google, and experts doubt if Google will black list sites like eHow, LiveStrong.com.  AOL, with Seed.com and Yahoo, with its Associated Content , are also in the content farm business.

Content scraping, and pingback spam are some of the biggest threats a genuine site faces in 2011. There are tools for pingback spamming and content scraping. Solutions are: check pingbacks before approving them; you can report any scraped content to Google, Yahoo and Bing.  Auto blog pingback spam is now so bad that many blogs are refusing to accept any pingbacks at all.  This is due to many unethical sites that create blogs using packages of WordPress plugins that copy content from other blogs or article publishing sites, and send pingbacks to many blogs to try to get backlinks and traffic.
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