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Social search: Where whom you know matters as much as what you know

Photo courtesy of Bohman via Flickr

Back in November we discussed how applications like Google Social Search could change the game of search engine optimization (SEO) for communications professionals. SEO has long seemed to many PR pros like something of a parlor trick: add a metatag here, an oft-searched keyword there, stick the phrase “top 10” in the headline and, shazam! Like magic, your blog post or news release will rise to the first page of a Google search for a particular phrase.

Some of these tricks still work, but the rise of social search is one of a number of factors that could turn SEO into a more organic, human-centric process.  

For the first time in SEO, whom you know matters as much as what you know. With applications such as Google Social Search and Aardvark, a service that helps you find someone in your network on Facebook or other social sites to answer your question, having lots of connections provides an advantage in getting your message across. Simply put, the more connections you have with people interested in the same topics as you, the more people will stumble across what you have to say. That’s a basic reason why companies are developing robust presences on social sites such as Twitter and Facebook in the first place, but never has social networking been quite so relevant to SEO.  

“New social search services give marketers a chance to connect with potential customers on a much more personal level, almost as a friend,” says Alison Johnston, community manager for Aardvark. “For example, we are just beginning a Sponsored Answers programs which allows advertisers to pay to receive user questions on a specific topic, giving them the chance to interact and close a deal.”

None of this is to say that the future of the social Web is that of a bunch of closed communities keeping discussions to themselves. Openly accessible information will likely serve as the bulk of most search results for a very long time. But now, in some applications, that open content is beginning to be preceded by answers from your friends first. Everyone else’s thoughts will come second.

As always, we caution you: focus your efforts in making connections online to people who have expressed an interest in topics relevant to your products or services. But that said, when it comes to social search, more connections increasingly equates to better SEO.

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