Ok, we have had a chance to breathe and calm down since our SERPS changed. Google really “messed up” our search results, and made the SERP somewhat ugly. What do we do know? We are Search Engine Optimizers, or as I like to say – Organic Web Strategists.
We have seen change after change occur, both algorithmically and user interface, which affects what we do for clients and their respective campaigns. With this post, we are going to get through it together, both the more pressing matters (how do I get rid of it) and the long-term plan (how do I get my clients conversions from it.)
How you turn it off
First, if you are like me, you want your search results back! Google has made this easy for us. First, go to any search related page, such as the Google homepage. Click the gear in the top-right corner of the page, select search settings, find “Do not use personal results”, select the radio button next to it, and click save. Congrats, you now have cleaned up your search results! (If you want to turn it off permanently be sure to read this).
Now what do we do?
First, and I must stress, when personalization is given to the wrong SEO, it becomes a beast that can be used to give all SEO’s a bad name. Part of our job in a given campaign is as much educate the client, as it is to produce quantitative results for them. Imagine, if you will, a less then scrupulous SEO who just wants a client’s money – they can simply put the target into a circle, have the client do the same, and then magically rise the target site to the top of the rankings. Now obviously the client in this hypothetical can find out the true nature of the deceit by either running the search in a non-logged-in browser or in an incognito window (in chrome), but the hired SEO will not divulge this information.
This is why from the start of a campaign you must be transparent. Explain to your clients what personalization is, how to recognize it, and how to negate its effect. Personalization is the fixed skewing of your search results. It allows a user in your social circle to influence what you wee on a given search with google.
How to plan for it
As SEO’s, it is important that our clients profit from this new addition, so the first step must be to get them on Google+. Many companies, both large and small, will fear this as they already have two or three social profiles out there that they already cannot keep up with/maintain. At this point, sadly, Google+ is not a choice. If you fall too far behind the target on this one, you could spend a long time catching up.
Now you may be wondering, how do I even know if I can benefit from Google+? The short answer is that everyone can, but to test it, we just need to run a simple report in Google Analytics. Visit your websites analytics profile, click on traffic sources, then search, then organic. Now click on the (not provided) search result. At the top of the graph, you will see the visit metric, and beneath that, you get a total percentage of (not provided) in terms of your search traffic. Now this percent represents the number of visitors you have that are presumably seeing personalized searches. The fact that 10-20% of searchers to a given site are seeing personalized results almost mandates targeting social in one manner or another.
How do I target users?
The first thing everyone seems to think is that they need to go out and add everyone to their social circle to have an impact. The key to social sharing is recognizing your audience, and as such, Google+ presents special access to an otherwise hard to sway demographic – technology lovers. The first step to gathering a growing social is to place links to your social profile in conspicuous places on your website. Do not bury them below the fold, as that will make it harder for your target users to locate. What I have found to work well is to place it in a section of the website which follows user interaction WITHOUT being overly obtrusive. This allows a user to visit your profile or share your information socially no matter where on the page they may be. The key is that it does not block content that the user may be interested in. At every site interaction a user experiences, there must be an option to connect with you socially. Consider adding links to your email signature, so that even when they receive an email from you are now giving the user the option to interact with you on a social level.
What do I share to my users?
Now the goal of this social build up is to get your Google+ page shared with other users through search or have other users share your website material. By creating high quality content, you can increase the odd’s of +1 sharing of your static content, but you may be asking how do you increase the standing of your Google+ page?
Because each social network has a unique set of users and behaviors, you must tailor each interaction to that particular demographic. Because Google+ seems to be mostly tech/visual based sharing, you should share those kinds of items. While this is particularly easy for those in the tech industry, you’d be amazed at what kind of things the normal everyday page can share – from stories that interest the site owner (which pertain to their niche) to perhaps a behind the scenes “what helps us work for you” type share.
What you want to focus on is moving the user from your social profile to your static page, you may be adding to your circles by increased use on your social page – but that does not really pay for an SEO campaign:
To do this, you want to focus on laser-targeted content that will make the user follow your link, visit your target page, and go onto whichever metric you record for conversions. Let’s be blunt, this is not about SHALLOW sharing, it requires you to actively seek out news worthy items and share them in a way which entices your user. A like, follow, or addition to your circles may be something that you can measure by a simple line chart, but it is not a conversion. A conversion is an e-mail, a phone call, something that turns into another user of your site or a lead
Social is a required part of any given SEO campaign today. Look to your analytics to determine just how much time to spend on it by using the not provided percentage shown in your organic search report. If it is over 10%, odds are you can benefit from a concerted social strategy. Put links to your social profile in a conspicuous manner on your site. Do not block your content, and do not let it become lost on the user during the navigation of your site.
Once a user is seeing your site through social circles, there are two options – they may go directly to your site (which you want) OR they may go to your Google+ page. If they do this, it is then your job to get them back onto your static content!