Google’s new social search experiment is kind of a big deal for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is it will open up lots of opportunity for smart local search marketers.
Over the past couple of years we’ve seen social-local search plays like Yelp gather steam while at the same time Google Maps results have slowly started encroaching on more and more Web results. Recently Google added place pages and Google local listing ads which should both start to grab more and more local search attention. In short, as Google improves its local search experience, it will get harder for sites to get the valuable local search traffic they have been feasting on for years.
But along comes Google social search and it looks like the all-you-can-eat local search buffet has been restocked.
At the moment Google social search does not work very well for local search. The algorithm appears to rely heavily on Gmail connections. Combine this with the fact that its hard to find enough relevant social interactions for a large amount of search queries, so Google doesn’t have much to work with for a lot of users.
But you can be sure that with the announcement of a Twitter integration deal and Facebook turning on location-based services, Google social search is going to come out like a monster and the local part of it is going to be huge.
So how can you benefit from this?
First let’s talk about some of the main types of social connections one has on the web:
- Friends of friends
- People who are interested in the same niche
- People who are located in the same geographic area
- People who you have no connection with (let’s call them “the unfortunates”)
As I mentioned in my Twitter Chamber of Commerce post there is a large opportunity for businesses to increase awareness in their community by simply networking with other businesses via social media like Twitter. But now with the advent of Google social search, the simple act of following or being followed has a ripple effect that could yield dramatic benefits.
Here’s a pseudo-real-world example:
Joe’s Pizza in Pleasanton follows me on Twitter. Someone else in Pleasanton whom I have a Facebook connection with searches Google for “pizza” or “pizza in pleasanton.” Because my Facebook and Twitter accounts are connected in a variety of places (my blog, on Brizzly, etc.), Google can find my relationship to Joe’s Pizza and surface it in the “social” results section of a search result page, which is a good thing for Joe because he was having a hard time cracking the local search “seven pack” (local search results placed next to a map on Google’s Web results pages).
But since it’s highly unlikely that I will have even a one-way social connection with local businesses or Tweets about a local business in many categories (think upholsterers, foot fungus specialists and pet psychics), Google will have to look somewhere else to find socially relevant results. This is where people interested in the same niche and people located in the same area come in. My guess is that these social profiles will make up the “backfill” of social local results when no one whom you have a direct or even indirect connection with for a specific local query has shared any relevant content. And given the tangled web nature of social media connections, my guess that inevitably Google will be able to find a connection that is somehow relevant for any query.
So basically for a lot of queries in the early days of Google social local search it’s going to come down to how aggressive and targeted you can be with your social media profiles. The more relevant you can be regarding the query, the location and the network, the more likely you are to appear in the local search results. The good news is that if you follow basic social networking logic you should be able to do pretty well. Some tips for all of you locksmiths and other local businesses out there:
- Create a social media profile on the major social networking sites—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc.
- If your niche has social media sites, create profiles on those sites (e.g. Sphinn, PetPsychicNetwork, etc).
- Make sure you include both your location and your niche keywords in all of your social profiles.
- Connect with people who are talking about your niche and/or talking about your location.
- For good measure you might want to connect with people who have a large number of social connections. This will increase the likelihood that you have at least a distant connection with someone who is searching for a query relevant to your profile.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.