Combining Entity Search & Social: A Chat With Bing’s Duane Forrester
In the past month, Bing has made some significant changes to their layout, integrating with Facebook and other social platforms, drastically adding value to their product.
The question I wondered out loud was, how do we as marketers leverage this new social visibility. How do we become one of the influencers that show up in a given search? Take a look at this image below.
This section is independent from your connections. Somehow, Bing has begun using social data, to determine who is an authority and worth listening too. This is a tremendous opportunity from a personal branding perspective and for brands.
I had the great pleasure of catching up with Duane Forrester, who runs the public outreach side of the Webmaster program for Bing, and we talked through this question and touched on many others. Duane left me with some great tips that I think everyone in the community will benefit from.
Disclaimer: If you are hoping for the silver bullet on getting listed in the “people who know section” this article will absolutely not answer that. However, it will give you some great advice on how to better build your brand online, and help make you more of an authority. Perhaps, if you heed this advice, you might make the people who know list.
SEO is about having a broad view. It can’t be looked at in a vacuum and as marketers we need to be aware of out surroundings. And I am speaking to the community when I say that I think we, as SEO’s, collectively do a good job at having this broader view.
It’s a balance of providing incredible content to our users, as well as having the engines discover our content and display it ahead of the competition. Many of the SEO’s I know understand that things change. Being open minded to change and adapting is the key.
Nobody sums this up better than Courtney Seiter (I love this tweet!):
Share Of Voice, Entities & Content Creation
Duane and I discussed this balance and touched on 3 different points which I will elaborate on below: Share of Voice, Entities, and Content Creation. Each one, while valuable on its own, is significantly enhanced by the other two. I will explain below.
Are people amplifying your content? Duane shared with me that this is one of the more important signals Bing is paying attention to. Take for example any article written. It could be the best article in the entire world; informative, well written, thought provoking etc.
But if no one is sharing it, does it actually mean anything? If no one is linking to is, is it really as good as you think? (Danny wrote an awesome post on link building.) If no one is sharing, it leaves the engines wondering; perhaps this post isn’t of the highest quality?
This is exactly where social can make a huge impact for your site. Having this presence, and I don’t mean literally just having it, I mean, embracing it and having real relationships with your audience. Check out Warby Parker on Facebook and Twitter. They are doing a solid job building these relationships. They communicate to their users on YouTube, who in turn respond back to them. This is a real dialogue and their users love it.
When that relationship exists, people will want to share your content. But that relationship doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from REALLY hard work. Building your personal brand takes time and consistency. John Doherty explains personal brand building real well and is himself real good at it. Personal experience dictates that this is undoubtedly the only way to help capture share of voice.
Now, this is something that people like David Harry and Bill Slawski have been talking about for a some time now, uncovering all sorts of patents and documents so we can better understand what directions the engines are going with this (I promise you, read anything they write, and you will be smarter for it).
The thing is, I am not convinced most people, at this time, know exactly what to do with this. It’s hard concept to grasp that entities are going to change how search results are displayed.
Talking with Duane, I took away a few important key points.
We are probably a good 5-10 years away from having entities take over engines. Why? Simple. A few years ago, the engines told webmasters to adopt markup and there has been an extremely low percentage of implementation.
“It seems like businesses are just not ready for this yet” Duane told me. This is likely because it’s not clear what the return will be. For those of us in the industry, it’s our job to help educate our clients, so they can understand the long term benefits.
While it may seem that entities have the potential to be the new alt spam, that’s not really the case. The example I gave was video or flash, which may contain little to no information about the content.
Duane assured me that while you may have amazing markup, engines pay close attention to the surroundings. Markup is there to support the content you have and if engines are unable to find information related to the entities on the page, then the markup is basically useless.
Entities Influence, They Don’t Change
Just because you add in entities, they themselves don’t change your visibility. It’s when the markup provides a better user experience for your users that it makes a difference.
The bottom line is, although markup might not be the biggest signal right now, it is helping. And will continue to help display your content.
One thing Duane stressed to me is that Bing is really big on producing compelling content and creating a strong user experience. Fair to assume Google is the same exact way.
And by the way, this should have come as no surprise to anyone.
So You Want To Make Good Content?
I had previously written about a method I like to use which utilizes data from twitter to gather content ideas. And while this method does work, there are other things that, as marketers we should be doing regularly to help us get ideas for content:
- Find a niche. Matt Cutts has a pretty awesome article he wrote about finding that niche and creating great content when there is a need. Do the same. Fill the gap for your audience.
- Stay Current. Read industry trade publications. If you are reading this, that means you are reading Search Engine Land. Good start. Engines like fresh content. The more you keep up with the industry the better.
- Be Creative. I am a huge hypocrite for saying this, but don’t be afraid to try something new. It’s much easier to just write an article than it is to create a theme around that article, put together an infographic, or maybe a youtube response to a question. It can certainly be scary, but try. What is the worse that can happen?!?!
It is important to keep in mind the evolution that our industry experiences. These were three important topics that Duane and I talked about today. But they can change, and they will evolve over time.
Today they stand for Share of Voice, Entities and Content. But tomorrow, we could be dealing with voice being a power figure, and optimizing for variations of speech, or images. What if the SERP became more visual and understood pictures?
And that’s it. Like I said, there are no silver bullets. But this is how we should be approaching visibility. This is how we become more of an authority, and this is how we get seen.
* A special thank you to Duane for his help in putting this together.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)
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