We asked a panel of experts to answer a few questions about SEO and social media. Specifically, we had each of them share their ideas on emerging social metrics and tracking, Google Author Rank and its potential use in business, and their go-to sources for social and SEO news and innovation.
We hope you enjoy this compilation of advice from some of the biggest names in the social/SEO industry. Note that this is an interactive piece. We will regularly grab particularly insightful ideas from the comments section and add them into the piece with author credit.
1. What new Social Media Metrics do you think will appear in 2013, and how will they be tracked?
Well, in December of 2011, Eric Schmidt said, “The social signal, the people you ‘hang with,’ is actually a ranking signal.” Then in March of 2012, Google started to bridge the gap by adding social tracking to analytics. As they said at that time, “The new reports bridge the gap between social media and the business metrics you care about – allowing you to better measure the full value of the social channel for your business.” They are also tracking via Pubsubhubbub.
There are several important metrics, each specific to social activities: Reach, Mentions, Engagement, Visitors, and Social-induced Conversions.
I believe the top metrics today are much like links: they should only be a byproduct of what we earn. What we do know is that social is much faster than search at identifying content. When a social activity stimulates a visit to your site, failure to present superb content targeted to that visitor is a fail. As a result, social activity without the content to fulfill the promise of that event degrades your authority and effectiveness at the same speed as the social network – they are inseparable. Hence the quality of the content makes the effectiveness of the social media all that it can be. All of these metrics count more than ever, but the ultimate value is strictly in conversions.
Similar to how Klout measures your overall social rank, I think search engines will get better at measuring a user’s social score. And when social users with high social scores endorse web pages, they will potentially rank higher.
I think search engines have to do something similar to this if they want to continue to take social signals into account, as you can easily game the system by buying tweets or Facebook likes.
We are continuing to develop KPIs that target what social media does best, start and develop relationships with individuals. Rather than measure a mass of people that you can push a message to, we’ll see more focus on real engagement with thought leaders and prospects. We are now moving back from what ad or event triggered a sale to tie in connections from social graphs and the inception of the idea that got the buyer interested before the first click.
Take-away: The value of strong connections on social media is increasing all the time, and the quality of content on all websites is becoming integrated into social media. Social networks will become better at ranking users – users who understand that “social” is primarily about relationship and interaction, not self-promotion.
2. What are your thoughts on Google’s Author Rank and how businesses can leverage Author Rank?
Well, that’s kind of a tricky question…. If someone has something worth writing about (meaning, it’s something that will spread via social or links), then sure, Author Rank can be great … but, if a business thinks they’re going to just publish “stuff” and throw an author tag on it, then there’s no value.
This is a great concept that is yet to be seen. We have fully implemented the use of author tags (rel=author, rel=publisher) on our site. Our SERP entries do stand out, and that alone is reason enough to pursue the use of author tags. That advantage will encourage others to engage the tags, and that participation will spread and eventually improve the statistical population and reliability of author merit. This merit, combined with other social mentions (in particular Google+) will result in improvements over the specifically spammed link networks we regularly see.
It is my belief that Author Rank is going to significantly but not solely complement the importance of content and replace links as a measurement of page importance. This will be a major ranking factor this year, exponentially increasing in importance as time passes.
Author Rank is a way for Google to potentially know which authors write great content. Before authority was mainly given to websites.… Now with Author Rank they can potentially give certain authors who write great content more of an authority so their content can rank higher no matter what website they write on.
As for ways businesses can leverage this, they can hire these authors who have great content and good Author Rank and have them write on their own company website. This can potentially boost the company’s web traffic.
Author Rank is doing a better job of connecting real human contributors and their networks to content creation. Like the citings that PageRank is based on, it seeks to measure authentic authority. Some are trying to game that system, but we’ve learned that the best way to look authentic is to be authentic.
Take-away: Author tags only have value if connected to meaningful content. As the power of Author Rank becomes common knowledge, more will get involved and reliability will improve, enhancing the Web’s human authenticity. Authors will trump links for page relevance, ranking highly regardless where their content is posted.
3. What websites do you frequent daily to keep up with Social and SEO?
I follow several forums, including three that I own, WebmasterWorld, SEO Chat, and Cre8asiteforums. Beyond those, I follow SEO Book, SEOmoz, and Search Engine Land. Much of the news that I find I discover via Twitter and the people that I follow. Since we just brought back Threadwatch, I’m expecting it to be another “must watch” source once again.
I am fortunate – information comes to me. I am an advisor to a great curation product (PublishThis) that gathers topic-specific social and website information on topics that matter to me. I also think that there are emerging capabilities for reporting the KPI statistics across search, paid, phone and social (again, advisor to Acquisio). There are others I am watching such as Social Snap (not an advisor). As you get further into trying to remain competitive and well educated, you will find that this social and SEO effort is high maintenance. I spend approximately 3 hours per day reading and studying what is happening in the space… admittedly a lot is provided by Facebook colleagues and groups – I lurk often.
I believe that to really understand either social or SEO (or any other Internet Marketing Optimization discipline), you need to both follow those that do detailed research and perform your own research. You should, if possible, develop tools or be involved in tools. You should really have skin in the detailed discussions about why it matters, how it is measured, how to cause actions, and obviously how to make it repeatable and foolproof. If you want to do SEO, then do it instead of just watching it. Same for social. As time passes the slow follower will always lose the race.
I’ve stopped looking at social as a topic. I spend most of my time connecting with experts and those actually doing the connecting. In SEO, looking for the engineering trick to feed search engines has become akin to fixing a carburetor. There are still a lot of things that will artificially boost a page for a time, but keywords and links built for SEO are fading in importance. Today, we look to produce awesome content, mindful that it’s got to be easy to find by search and people.
Take-away: Sites such as SEO Book, SEOmoz, and Search Engine Land have quality ideas for social and SEO. Doing one’s own research, following those who do research, and being involved in the development of tools are all essential to growing your skill set. Don’t forget keywords and links, but shift your primary focus to great content.
Many of the more salient points made by one of the panelists above were echoed in some form by various panelists. One broad notion is that social media and search engine optimization are becoming more interconnected all the time. Quality interaction, both through one’s website and through one’s social media presence, will determine the level of reach that a company or person is able to maintain. The web is becoming more individualized, in the sense that the human source of the content will soon become a huge element – possibly the defining factor – of online reputability and influence.
Finally, Author Rank is on the rise, and with it, Google+. Author Rank will become an incredibly valuable commodity as it is more fully integrated throughout the Web, and the prominence of individual authors will in large part be determined by their ability to engage social users.
About the Panelists
About the Authors