The Influence of Social Media on Search Rankings and Business Success

Guest blog by Gavin Ward

I met CubeSocial’s founders, Linda and Mark, at the Lex 2011 Tweetup, having engaged with them previously on Twitter and Linkedin.

While I had heard much of the Connectegrity brand and had even managed to pronounce it properly without assistance, I wasn’t entirely clear on its business model. It wasn’t until that meeting that I learned that Connectegrity was actually a start-up and that there was to be a launch of a new social media product specially designed for professionals to be able to focus on information and conversation on social media that is relevant to them, without the irrelevant noise.

Given that I use various social media tools for my own blawging and, indeed, my work as a Search and Social Media Manager, I was immediately interested. I thought that Connectegrity’s business model is bound to succeed – because of the growing influence of social media on Google’s and Bing’s search rankings, which, to some degree, influences the number of enquiries to a professional organisation through the web.

An Evolution in Search

Google and Bing have always had a challenging time trying to weed out irrelevant websites from search results. Previously, search engines worked by giving enormous value to websites with many links pointing back to them regardless of their content. One comical example of this was when George W Bush was subjected to a “link bombing” campaign, when many people directed the words “failure” or “miserable failure” back to his official webpage, despite the page having no relation to such a statement. The former president then ranked very highly for the word “failure”. The search engines have managed to get around concepts like this, e.g. by sharpening up link relevancy.

Now, following many further changes to their algorithms, the major search engines have started to give growing importance to links shared on social networks.

The Effect of Social Signals on Search Rankings

It is, therefore, useful to question, first, precisely which social signals are relevant for search rankings and, second, how much weight those signals carry.

Those two questions are the focus of leading SEO company, SEOMoz, in their recent blog post Facebook + Twitter’s Influence on Google’s Search Rankings.

SEOMoz concluded that, while almost one year ago, the biggest influencers were exact match .com domain names and number of linking root domains to the page in question, the leading influencer now appears to be shares of a URL on Facebook in addition to traditional backlinks, with shares of URLs through Twitter also being recognised, albeit with slightly less significance at present.

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Conclusions

In light of these findings, it is clear that start-ups like Connectegrity, with state-of-the-art social media technology, will be able to add a great deal of value to professional organisations. At the same time, it will be interesting to see just how much value Google can foster from its continued foray into social search.

Gavin Ward is a blawger via http://wardblawg.com and is a Search and Social Media Manager with Moore Legal Technology Limited. Follow Gavin on Twitter via @GavWard.

Thinking Digital – newbie nerves

By Linda Cheung

Thinking Digital Logo

If you’ve not heard of Thinking Digital before, it’s “a conference that brings together the world’s most innovative ideas, technologies and people”.

If you can spare 10 minutes, take a listen to my InspiRadio interview with Dave Thackeray. We talk about the Conference, Connectegrity’s journey so far and why it’s good to be geek!

I’m excited to be making my first visit – thanks to Herb Kim and John Catnach for understanding my start-up budget and for awarding Connectegrity an Accenture sponsored ticket.

Let me know if you’re going too, it would be great to meet up. If not, I’ll tweet when I can to keep you posted – the hashtag to follow is #TDC11

As for newbie nerves… new business cards are at the ready, I’ve chosen my conference options, and completed my profile in the People Library… if it’s not about lack of preparation, it must be the fact I’m visiting Newcastle for the first time ;)

CubeSocial Business Cards

Old Rules, New Tools: What to talk about on Twitter

By Mark Bower

When we encourage businesses to get on Twitter, one of the comments we often hear back is “…but I don’t know what to say”.

The fact of the matter is that building relationships on Twitter is not as scary as it first seems.

For professionals it is about using all your existing relationship building skills from the real-world and transferring them to the virtual world, or as we like to say –  old rules, new tools.

Start in the same way you would when you enter a room full of strangers at a cocktail party – by listening. Get a feel for the room, the mood and tone of the conversation and seek to understand before you leap in.

Then when you are ready to get going follow these rules of thumb to avoid coming across as spammy and unwelcome:

  • Focus on building relationships. About half of what you say should be social and conversational. Just as you would in the real world, show a genuine interest in other people and their concerns and you are already half-way there.
  • About a third of what you say should be making others look good. Share information you have found that will be interesting to your followers. ReTweet interesting information from others. If you are a local lawyer for example, perhaps you could Tweet local business news. If you do this well and keep it on topic, it helps you stand out as an authority and is also another relationship building step with those you ReTweet.
  • The remainder of what you say should be about you. Doing the other stuff earns you the permission to do a little bit of self-promotion about your products or services.

Now you know, off you go and enjoy.

The birth is imminent… and we’re calling it CubeSocial!

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Like all parents-to-be there’s been much discussion and deliberation, but we’re happy with our choice and wanted to share the news with you Smile
You’ll see the new name and logo online soon, and if you’ve signed up for a Beta invite, your invite will follow shortly after.

Thank you for your patience since signing up. We love how keen you all are, but as the techies say: "we need to make sure the quality is right". As soon as we’re ready, we’ll be in touch.

In the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter – be sure to say “hi”, we like social media to be social!

Or, if you prefer, join the debate on our blog.

If you’re not yet on the Beta invite list, you can sign up here: http://cubesocial.com

Lots of nervous excitement and energy at Connectegrity HQ as we start the countdown…

Thanks again for all your start-up support – it means the world to us Smile

Trading blows: How Twitter provides a nifty right hook

Guest blog by Gideon Todes

BBC Question TimeFor anyone over the age of 40, having your phone on in meetings is regarded as a no-no. It’s perceived as rude and loutish and distracting behaviour.

But in recent years, as this blog has argued, there is a case for an active participation with Twitter to enrich the experience all round. And even to market the event.

A kind translation of this is the way we now consume Question Time (#bbcqt). Anyone watching Paddy Ashdown and Douglas Murray trading blows on television last Thursday would have been tempted to trade a few themselves.

The topic was Bin Laden’s execution or unlawful killing, whichever way you see it – a fundamental debate where it’s hard to sit on the fence.

And this is the opportunity of Twitter.

Below, one of the nation’s top twitterati, @legalbizzle, takes Paddy’s side and lets off steam. It’s a good demonstration of how leaving your phone on and letting people push buttons can add a whole level of interaction to the topic.

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Beyond the question of should you leave your phone on, is what can you actually do with the tweet stream that happens?

More gadgety venues broadcast them up near the speaker, and sometimes incorporate tweets into the Q&A portion of their events. CubeSocial predicts that this will further evolve into teams which help panellists and speakers manage complex interaction between cyberspace and real life.

Watch this space.

Can you buy social media influence?

By Linda Cheung

imageJillian’s recent guest blog Klout… and how it can be manipulated made me think of the phrase: “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”.

As social media use grows, so do measurements of its use.

In What makes a credible social media expert? Heather Townsend warns readers to “be very concerned if your social media expert has more friends than followers, or similar numbers of friends and followers” because it suggests automated following and low engagement.

I agree, and always steer clear of such “experts”. However, I’m also aware that wherever there is a measurement, there will be people who look to manipulate it, and it’s not quite so easy to steer clear of these individuals.

Buying “friends”

I’ve met many people who have bought followers. For £X they have purchased hundreds, in some cases thousands, of followers. While I get why they’ve thought to spend their money, I don’t really get why they bother.

In the same way you can’t buy genuine affection, you can’t buy genuine social media engagement.

Purchased followers won’t engage and will often unfollow… so your friends/followers ratio will falter, requiring you to buy more followers… who won’t engage…

Spending cold hard cash is obviously the most literal way that you can attempt to buy influence. Many others have tried softer approaches – awareness of how your friends/followers ratio may be perceived has resulted in hundreds of articles on how to gain more followers.

Using tools

In The ultimate guide to getting more Twitter followers Heather refers to passive and proactive means and automated following. I know these methods have been very successful for Heather, but I’ve not yet pre-scheduled/bulk uploaded tweets because for me it seems counter-culture to the real-time nature of Twitter. Nor have I used software to auto-follow because, as Heather points outs, the tools simply help you find followers, not engage with them.

I’d be interested to know what you’ve tried, what’s worked and what hasn’t.

As social media becomes more important, so will the measurements. It’s been fascinating to watch the growth of Klout, and I like that it tries to incorporate 35+ variables to measure “True Reach”. Similarly PeerIndex wants to be “the standard that identifies, ranks and scores [social web] authorities” and it was interesting to see how they ranked speakers at the GeeknRolla conference.

The right balance

Jillian has already illustrated how Klout can be manipulated. I’m also aware of people who have tens of accounts and re-tweet, mention, and generally provide link-love, all to increase how one main account is rated.

Will it be money, time, tools, or all of the above that are used to ensure the “right” influence?

We all want and need measurements… but no matter how many variables, measurements are statistics… and lies?!