How Google works: Why knowing this is half the battle to social media success
One of the most important aspects to approaching communications strategy in the "new normal" marketing environment (is it time to start calling social media, "media?") is understanding as much as possible how Google works. Why?
For as much as the growth of Facebook and Twitter has been important enough that having Fan pages and branded channels are table stakes, it is still Google that is by far the biggest referrer to just about every company website. All the social media strategy and tactic in the world is only as good as how much search optimization is taken into account in order to have a direct impact on business results.
So whenever articles like yesterday's piece by Steve Levy of Wired come out that take us inside Google's process for evolving its algorithm, I pick it apart. For a company as historically secretive as Google has been about its crown jewels, I find it interesting that the Wired piece followed so closely on the heels of a similar article in MIT's Technology Review about its real-time search algorithm. Is the sudden openness a coincidence, or a function of increased concern about the competitive threat called Facebook?
In any event, the Wired piece is mandatory reading for the reason stated above -- the fundamental importance of learning as much about how Google search works as possible. Here are my key takeaways from the article:
Google's quest for quality
If anything, social media can be seen as a new frontier the way the Wild West was in the 1800's. On services like Twitter, anything goes and Twitter hasn't been able to stay on top of it. Comment spam still predominates, as do spammy Web sites stuffed with keywords and Google Ads. Google has been most committed to quality so users find the best information through even the most obscure search queries. This applies to the real-time junk information it now includes in search results.
If you really want to know how committed it is, just follow Matt Cutts. It has been a revelation for me.
PageRank is so yesterday
When Google went live in 1997, this was its big breakthrough -- ranking a site on relevancy and authority and using it to value its importance on the web. Based on how the web has evolved in the last 13 years, this doesn't matter much anymore. There are now more than 200 factors that matter, including things like freshness. Enter social media.
More than ready for real-time and social
Don't expect Facebook to overtake Google anytime soon. It didn't just figure out social search. The tweaks it's been making for years put it in a great position to show anyone how their peers are talking about a search subject within quality results from the rest of the Web. This means keywords need to pervade all of the content companies put out through social media channels because search results are changing faster than ever.
Just consider the search term referenced in the article: mike siwek lawyer mi. At the time of the article's writing, this query returned the database entry for attorney Michael Siwek from Grand Rapids, Michigan as the #1 result (in contrast to Bing returning a page about Lawyer Milloy). Click on this link now and this result has been usurped by a blog post and a tweet referencing the Wired article.
How are you keeping up with Google?