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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.

 

 

How We Use Social Media – Meeting the Team Part 1

Recently here in Peacehaven, we have undergone some changes; we have said goodbye to Cat (congrats on the wedding!) and are awaiting the arrival of our new intern and dog (two distinct members, I assure you). In this new series of blogs, I decided that, following this re-structuring, we would get to know each member of the office, looking at how they use social media in their day-to-day lives.

I thought I would begin by interviewing…. myself, so we could ease in to things slowly. So here we go; I promise not to sound too much like Jekyll and Hyde.

Paul

So Paul, what is your role at I Say! Digital?

I began an internship here in May, and have recently been offered a full-time position as a team co-ordinator. I perform quite a range of tasks from content writing which includes proof-reading, corresponding with contributors, managing social media accounts, some PPC, proposals, maintaining our own site, offering ideas to increase business and the odd bit of taking things to the recycling point. Pretty much anything that helps business chug along day-to-day. Going forward I’ll be a project manager on a few things too.

And what social media networks do you use?

Well Paul, I use the biggies like Facebook, Twitter and Google+; though with G+ it has taken me a while to get into and integrate into my routine. It was more when I began my internship here and started to follow those in the SEO and social media industry, that it became a worthwhile pursuit. I’m also a keen Redditor, because it collates everything that appeals to me in one site, and I like the idea of an internet democracy which votes on what is quality content.

Any that you stay away from?

I’ve never really used things like Foursquare because I didn’t have a smartphone until recently so it seemed a bit pointless to just sign in to being at home or work. I’ll probably start using that a bit more especially when going to conferences, like Brighton SEO, in the next few months. I’m not a huge Pinterest fan either as it all seems a bit disorganised and random to me, though I occasionally come across a really great image that becomes my screensaver.

What do you gain most from social media?

I’m a huge television geek, and watch loads of obscure shows from America. I like being able to stay up late when they’re broadcast over there, and see what people on Twitter are saying while a show like Breaking Bad or Community airs. Because I don’t really know anyone who watches the same shows as I do (everyone else has a social life), and don’t have the proverbial water-cooler around which to talk about them, I can bring the water-cooler to me, so to speak. I like the idea of getting instant reactions rather than wait the next day. It’s also really cool to see the variety of places that bands I like are in at that moment. It took me a while to get into the way Tweets were so fragmented and broken up but now it’s plain sailing.

Why did you choose social media to be a part of your career?

I never really considered it because, to be honest, it seemed too good a prospect to even consider a viable option. It was only through being an administrator for a music society at University, where we used social media to plan for events and get discussions going, that I gained my first experience outside of my personal leisure. I had a really terrible experience in my first grad job, which wasn’t media-related, and realised that doing something that you really get a sense of fulfillment and personal satisfaction out of  means so much more and so I looked into it. It’s been hard starting over and learning a lot of background that I didn’t previously in my degree, but it’s been completely worth it and I actually enjoy listening to podcasts about SEO and social media in my free time; on my commute, I can easily go through ten episodes of geeky chatter about relevant updates.

So you use social media during your day?

Pretty much from when I wake up to when I go to sleep, more so now I have my snazzy phone. I can keep in touch with what my friends are up to without sending a long message to each of them with the same questions. What is quite nice is a lot of the tools or sites I use at work are different to those I use in my free time, and with changes occurring every month in this industry, it’s a cat-and-mouse game of grabbing people’s attention. The best part is when you completely forget that not everyone is in tune with social media, especially in our line of work where many business owners don’t realise the potential in having an online presence. Walking clients through the fundamentals of our SEO services is enjoyable, but when you can see how passionate they are about their own business and you show them that they can express this in a way that can actually impact their bottom line, it’s fantastic. Often the perception is that a social media or SEO strategy will be additional work which is completely the wrong mind-frame.