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Why Buying ‘Social Indicators’ is a Bad Idea

Some of those who are reading this may have seen a recent documentary from Channel 4’s Dispatches team. The programme investigated the purchase of social media influence from companies in the UK and abroad. Businesses and celebrities who want to build up a following, whether for reasons of appearance or in an effort to boost their search rankings, are able to source hundreds of new fans and followers from overseas with just a few pounds.

In order to show you why it’s a bad idea to purchase so-called social indicators in an effort to bolster your SEO, I’m going to show you what happened to a site of mine. This was actually a deliberate attempt to sabotage it by a competitor. That’s right – buying social indicators is so bad for your SEO that rivals will attack you by doing it!

About the Site

The target was a small, simple local business site. There were a few pages about the services, some photos, and contact information. It was ranking on the first page for its target keyword, between positions 7 and 9. I had set up a Google Plus page for the business (as we all know, Plus is great for your SEO) and things were moving forward.

Then, this happened:

google plus marketing

88 new +1s for the tiny local business page, all on the same day. There is no way that these were natural – in their niche, the business would not have that many customers in an entire year. No other SEO work had been done recently, so the following results were purely due to the new influx of +1s.

The business lost its first page ranking for the target keyword, disappearing completely from the results. It has also lost its good positions for secondary keywords. Luckily, it still appears in the local listings and is receiving some traffic that way, so the situation is not as bad as it could be – but can you rely on this?

The Bottom Line

Don’t buy ‘Social SEO’ packages which offer to deliver a set number of ‘real, natural’ fans and followers to your business in a short time period. It will only ever be harmful. Instead, concentrate on creating great content and networking to build a real social base. I Say! Digital can support you in this. Why not give us a call and ask what we could do for your business?

Google Social Media Marketing: The Power of Plus

Ask any SEO professional what the most exciting current social platform is and you’ll receive only one answer. The relatively new Google social media site, known as Plus, can be a great way to integrate the search engine optimisation and social media marketing that your business is engaged in. There are a few different ways to approach this.

Hang on – what’s the big deal with Plus anyway?

The key reason why Plus is so important is that it belongs to Google. Google has access to all the information stored on Plus – it can see who’s a member, what they’re talking about, which sites they own, whose content they are sharing, and so on. A great deal of this data is helpful for the company’s algorithms when they are trying to calculate search rankings.

The potential to gather this information from other platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, is comparatively limited. That’s not to say that those sites aren’t important, or that they have no SEO impact. However, it does mean that if you’re focussing solely on the SEO benefits, and have to pick just one social media site, it should be Plus.

Google Plus Optimisation

Authorship

google authorship social media

An example of the way in which authorship is displayed in search results

Authorship is a simple mechanism which is used by Google to, you guessed it, determine the author of a piece of content. The process of enabling authorship consists of two steps – firstly, special code must be added to the content, and then the author must link back to the site from a particular area of the Plus profile.

Giving authorship credit to a content producer could help in either of two ways. Primarily, it lets Google know that a site is being run by real people. It can also help to build your authority as an author. It’s widely believed that Google is going to start calculating search rankings by looking at the author rather than just the content, so this is a great way to get in ahead of the changes.

+1s

google+ social media optimisation

It’s no secret that social media signals are taken into account by search engines. As touched upon above, it’s likely that signals broadcast via Google’s own platform will be heavily weighted. When real Plus users endorse your content, especially if they are authorities in your niche, you can be pretty sure that your rankings will improve. Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that sharing your content via Plus will mean that more people are exposed to it, driving traffic to your site.

So how can you get +1s for your content? Well, you could go to any one of hundreds of cheap overseas providers who offer to deliver dozens or even hundreds of +1s for the princely sum of $5. However, we know that fake +1s can have a negative effect on your rankings, so it’s probably best to steer clear of the quick fix.

The best way to attract +1s is to make sure that all of your content is easily shareable. Google themselves provide all the code necessary to insert +1 buttons into your pages. If you’re running a WordPress site, there are also numerous plugins that you can easily install to help you achieve the same aim.

Leave it to Us

At I Say! Digital, we always take advantage of Plus when planning social media or SEO strategies. It’s one of many tools in our box and we’re constantly updating our practices as the landscape evolves. Contact us if you’re interested in learning how we would approach your online marketing.

Snoox, Google+ and How Social We Really Are

What is Snoox?

Today I read about Snoox; a new social network which allows you to view recommendations from your friends on things like films, books or places. It is very similar to a network like Letterboxd which does the same, but specifically for films. Snoox goes further than Letterboxd with what you can recommend,  but isn’t quite as focused on being a timeline or personal history.

Snoox allows you to follow others, whether you know them personally or not (nothing new there). Twitter took the Facebook status and amplified it into its own model. Similarly, Snoox adopts the ego-maniacal activity of  “liking” a film or TV show on Facebook to show that you’ve watched it and/or are cultured and/or hip. If it can remove the necessity for all those Netflix updates on Facebook courtesy of friends, providing a specific place to go to find out what people are listening to/watching etc., then all the better.

Would You Trust Your Friends?

Snoox and its facility to recommend provides the opportunity to users to write a mini-review in the same vein that Google+ Local invites users to rate local businesses. This got me thinking about how much I would trust my friends’ opinions. As someone who has a very diverse set of online friends in terms of socio-economic status, location and tastes, this would probably not help me find something I like. Taste isn’t based on these factors exclusively of course;  a good film is a good film, and transcends barriers. However, I definitely have those friends who I would consider as having “bad taste”. I like most of my friends for the people they are, and not what they watch. There are a handful of exceptions; those friends of friends who I can put up with because we have a TV show in common to save the conversation. Generally, though, I wouldn’t take the advice of a majority of my Facebook or Twitter friends about where to go to eat or which books to read, because there is a big gulf between what we respectively enjoy.

Google+ and The Question: ‘How Social Are We?’

Google and their outlook of ‘Search n’ Social’ seems to have this belief that we’re all a trendy bunch, with money to burn at the whim of seeing a friend post a five star rating for a bar; that we’ll jump straight online at a moment’s notice to find a restaurant at which to spend all this free time that we have falling out of our ears. This was parodied brilliantly when Google Glass was previewed earlier this year. That’s just not the reality for many of us, who are struggling to save money, like to stay indoors or just don’t live very interesting lives.

The social aspect of search seems more applicable to a wider segment of users (provided they are logged into a Google account) when it comes to essential services, like looking for a respectable plumber, than leisure. Indeed, this is one of the ways that we can help with managing social media for your business. ‘Social’ feels the wrong word for these services.  Those who do leave constructive business reviews, are very much appreciated and this can make a difference; but in terms of empowering users to shape Search, its utility is somewhat limited.

 

 

What is “Distasteful Content”?

The recent story of an individual in America, who was “outed” for moderating content deemed to be offensive on Reddit,  has sparked yet another round in the debate as to what is and isn’t allowed online.  Should internet users suffer real-life repercussions, such as the loss of their job and negative worldwide public attention, when they haven’t done anything illegal?

This brings me to the subject of content and what you put out into the public sphere. Usually, we talk about what kind of content you should post to encourage more followers. This requires looking at the audience you wish to appeal to and developing a marketing plan, with clear objectives, strategies and metrics. What are they talking about and where? Usually for us, this begins with speaking with your business and working closely on this, before slowly taking the reins as you feel comfortable with what we’re doing.

Just as important is what NOT to post. This would definitely be anything that might offend or cause controversy, and of course this can be very subjective. Some say that ‘controversy creates cash’, but this is a bit over-the-top and can be dangerous; especially so when you run a simple business with a traditional customer base. A good rule of thumb is not to post anything related to drugs, sex and violence, but you may also wish to stay away from issues such as race and class which can be a minefield to navigate.

Though you can bet your competition is already making full use of the various social media networks out there, there are those out there who aren’t (that might even be including you). In some cases, this is because they don’t know what they would tweet, or what photos to post if they did have an account. This can lead to some treating the company Twitter as their own personal dalliance with social media, which can be risky. While it’s always important to be personable, how long is it before you start bringing into play your personal social or political views? Could you be alienating a section of your customer-base with what you’re tweeting? The point of social media is for new customers to get to know you, invest in you and turn to you when they require your services; not to learn why you disagree with the Tories. It is possible that you can put a bad taste in the mouth of your audience if you affiliate yourself too closely with a particular ideology. No one wants another person’s views pushed on them.

Many who come to us looking for social media services simply require their networks to be maintained, with queries answered and to build an audience. We can also help with driving traffic to websites and establishing relationships within key circles in your industry. Most clients aren’t looking to set the world on fire, or become the next Martin Luther King; but simply grow their business and stick their flag in the social media moon.

 

I/O 2012: Google+ Updates

While I’m not so intrigued by actual device developments, news coming out of I/O about changes to G+ piqued my interest. Though I have been making more of an effort, I am still well in the blue camp of Facebook, and have yet to jump feet first into the G+ camp whereby it becomes a daily ritual. I do intend to do so, but what has prevented this is a feeling that not enough of my friends are on it yet, and that it has (up till now) been missing some of the key aspects that make up Facebook.

G+ Events

But now this seems to have been rectified with the advent of G+ Events; a glaring absence from Google’s social network when compared to Facebook. Events basically does the same thing as its competitor, though invitations and pages can be personalised including videos from YouTube being added. This is a great idea e.g. for film-viewings where a trailer can be linked to or embedded. They will also be marked in your Google calender which is handy.

Party Mode

Party Mode takes enhance the experience further. For instance, how many of us have been waiting for ages for the person who brought the camera to last week’s party to upload photos? Yes, it can be a bit frustrating waiting to see how bad some of those photos are.

Now with Party Mode, photos and videos can be taken and uploaded to the Event page directly from a mobile device, as they are taken on the same day or night (probably a better idea early on in the evening when you can use your phone without mashing all the buttons). It also means that anyone on the fence about attending can see what kind of fun they’re missing. Along with a “thanks for attending” message after the event, the facility to upload while an event is in progress means everyone at that event can connect a bit more easily. Now, the girl you gazed at from the other end of the room can find you online and you can begin your epic love story easily. This brings a whole new sense of immediacy to the recording of good times with friends, and the removal of horrible photos can begin a lot more sooner.

G+ History

G+ are also looking at the fact that much in terms of user-uploaded content is bound up in users’ Facebook accounts because the latter has been around longer. Google are introducing G+ History, whereby statuses, posts and photos from the past on other social networks can be shared on G+ in users’ present feed. So get ready to reminisce with pals about old times, and expect some dodgy haircuts to show themselves again.

 

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