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Is my site doomed because I won't go social?
Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4416892
 5:35 am on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Is the time in which I hold excellent rankings running out just because I refuse to take my hobby site social? Google is pressing extremely hard for people to stop promoting brands and start promoting themselves (even comments on Google spam team leader Matt Cutts's blog require a real name now) and I have very little interest in creating profiles on OTHER websites in order to promote myself and my site.

While that means I may not get additional social recognition and traffic, which I am fine with, does it also mean Google will, eventually, send me fewer visitors too?

I'm not asking about the causality and effect of not having social profiles (e.g. fewer links, less brand name recognition etc), I'm asking about the potential for eventual direct downgrade due to lack of social profiles. Should I be worried?

 

Marketing Guy




msg:4416930
 10:12 am on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

In terms of physical downgrades, I'd say it's unlikely that social signals will ever be factored into the algo to such a degree that it would be an issue.

But in terms of causality - I think increased personalisation of SERPs will have a larger impact on organic SEO via social than traditional links / branding / traffic benefits.

Rosalind




msg:4416944
 10:57 am on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

I wouldn't say it's doomed, but you'll be missing out on quite a few side benefits: pictures of your face in the SERPs, better name recognition which might lead to more click-throughs to your site which could be factored into the algo. And social shares and likes certainly are used as signals with personalisation on, so they matter.

Balance that against the time you spend developing your site. People will still Tweet your stuff if it's good and you let them know it's there, and you don't need to have "like" buttons for them to like it.

One of the difficulties is we're at a transitional phase: Facebook has probably reached its peak, but even with SERPs integration it's no sure thing that Google+ will take its place. It could be Pinterest, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Twitter, or any number of others instead. So by choosing not to take part in that you're not wasting any effort on social sites that are either on the way out or are not getting much use yet.

Marketing Guy




msg:4416948
 11:47 am on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

FWIW setup Google+ author profile for a blog of mine last month and although it's early days (results only just showing my profile photo, etc at the end of last week), not really seeing an improvement in CTR.

aristotle




msg:4416949
 11:47 am on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google is pressing extremely hard for people to stop promoting brands and start promoting themselves


Google has no right to be telling people what to do with their sites. I'll never put any social buttons on my sites, or try to promote myself in Google plus or any other social network, regardless of what they say. It's none of their business.

lucy24




msg:4416950
 11:48 am on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

you'll be missing out on quite a few side benefits: pictures of your face in the SERPs

Is that really intended as a benefit? The other day I did a search-- a real search, not testing anything-- and the second hit came with a photograph of the author. Frankly I thought it was creepy.

Somewhere on the horizon there's a whole new crop of studies. Which faces get the best click-through rates? Do authors of some particular demographic have an advantage? Does it depend on what you're searching for? Is there a relationship between searcher's demographic and preferred author demographic? Depending on site content, should I let myself be impersonated by my daughter the aspiring model or my father the retired math professor?*


* I made that part up.

HuskyPup




msg:4416961
 12:39 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Is the time in which I hold excellent rankings running out just because I refuse to take my hobby site social?


Without being too specific what type of hobby site is it?

Is it local, national or international?

Is it sport, business-related, informational, specialist hobby, past time or something else?

I feel certain subject types, regardless of whether they are company professional or specialist hobby, are simply not suited to being social sites and many people do not wish to use those sites for social networking.

For instance I supply specialised construction products in bulk for both the retail and wholesale industry and the pages carry loads of images and information however, to be honest, the best social forum board is one where loads of, mostly, women seem to frequent on a daily basis, discuss my products and link heavily to many of the different products available along with other industry related products.

All of the biggest global companies in my industry have tried social and all but one have given up, a large US retailer, and even they admit it doesn't work well and takes up a lot of time with seemingly no benefit.

Personally I feel it's our problem in that we talk "trade speak" and most tradespeople normally do not need to be told this, whereas Joe Public usually does not understand our trade speak and prefer to talk with others who have gone through a similar buying process and can talk about their experiences with the product and which companies they found good to deal with.

It's a conundrum many of us have and I am still not of the opinion that it is an absolute essential to succeed...the justification of Mr Jobsworth and lemmings seems very evident to me.

Pjman




msg:4416973
 2:07 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hey Sgt,

I worried over the same thing for a while.

I have come to realize that adding social measures really just leads to a small percentage of better conversions. Like anything put a likable personality out there and it becomes more human. human = slight bit more sales.

I doubt it would every majorly affect your rankings.

Staffa




msg:4416976
 2:18 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

pictures of your face in the SERPs

Why would most searchers be interested in the face of whomever wrote the text while most of these same searchers don't even know the face of the neighbor living 5 houses down their own street ?

santapaws




msg:4416981
 2:34 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

what about when 8 of the 10 results have a picture but you dont?

Yulia from DNP




msg:4416982
 2:35 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

going social has major effect on the ones who has major potential.
These days every single site is social and its become very standard, yes, it will have effect on your site . how big? depends on the niche , the crowd interest, but from what i see , not a lot going to change

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4416997
 3:20 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Without being too specific what type of hobby site is it?


It's a past time people enjoy doing on weekends or after work, no collecting is involved - people just enjoy making them, improving their skills with them and using them. Demographics show both men and women enjoy the site equally and age range is 25 to 75, it's a rewarding lifelong hobby once acquired.

About demographics - I'd say a majority of my visitors could not care less about technology and most do not have social profiles they use regularly.

GifAnimator




msg:4417022
 4:12 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Have you considered that by joining Google+ and adding the authorship tag Google would see your site as the original content. There are problems with scraped websites getting better search engine placements than the original. I do not think that Google just gives you the fancy little photo in the results without some serious investigation as very few websites are actually getting this little extra at the moment.

Marketing Guy




msg:4417023
 4:16 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

I do not think that Google just gives you the fancy little photo in the results without some serious investigation as very few websites are actually getting this little extra at the moment.


There does seem to be an element of manual review on this one - had a huge surge in visitors from Mountain View days before the switch was flicked on mine.

netmeg




msg:4417034
 5:03 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think about 'going social' the same way I think about 'going mobile' - where are my users? If that's where they are, then that's where I want to be.

I don't think social is necessary or even appropriate everywhere. Almost all my clients are B2B E-Commerce; only one of them has a business where social even *might* make sense. Some of the others have struggled with it, but it's a fine line between being being socially active, and coming across like you're trying too hard - and they're still on the wrong side of that line. Then I have a couple of very small clients who probably could benefit from it, but feel like it's more trouble than it's worth.

Whereas my own personal sites are event sites, and the people who visit them are all about social (and they share my stuff like crazy) so it makes sense for me to be there, even if I kind of think it's a drag.

Google does seem to be using Google+ as another kind of "site verification" signal, so it might make sense to keep and link a profile there, even if you don't do much with it.

Personally, I don't think it's anywhere near as important to be up and present on every single social-network-of-the-moment as it is to make your content easy to find, easy to navigate and easy to share. Hopefully Google will continue to think so too.

HuskyPup




msg:4417042
 5:20 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

About demographics - I'd say a majority of my visitors could not care less about technology and most do not have social profiles they use regularly.


However they are finding you via The Net and/or recommendations therefore IMHO I feel you require an identifiable presence, one that shows you are a significant resource for the hobby, it need not be huge, just something that shows that Sgt_Kickaxe is the place to go.

Does that make sense?

Oh, and use a pseudonym if you're as paranoid as me:-)

ddogg




msg:4417077
 5:57 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

+1's currently have no impact on rankings at all, personalized or otherwise (the only thing you will get is a 'so and so +1'd this', etc., but not an increase in ranking). I don't know if Google grabs FB Like data from public FB pages and uses that for anything, but I am thinking not (and they certainly don't have the private Like data to do anything with, but Bing does and may use it for rankings).

But really, what's the point of all this +1 stuff if Google doesn't plan on using it in the algo in the future? One has to assume they will factor it in the default rankings at some point, lowering the impact of links which are weighted way too heavily at the present time IMO. So if I were you I would be pushing hard to get as many likes and +1's as you can, assuming some day in the very near future Google will use that data to help them rank pages.

nomis5




msg:4417087
 6:27 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hopefully Google will continue to think so too.


But the danger is that we will wake up one morning and find that the general public have given up searching on Google (and Bing for that matter) and decided that Facebook (or whatever is the flavour of the month) gives them better results. Impossibele? I think not.

Why not spread the zone of influence of your websites to help insure that whatever the public does, you already have some presence in their chosen source of information?

Even if the likes of Google and Bing do remain all important over the next ten years or so, although unlikely, does anyone outside of those two organisations really know how they view the importance of social sites and the effect on their SERPS?

We have no idea at all.

My guess is that social sites like Facebook will become increasingly important to how Google rank entries in the SERPS.

Simsi




msg:4417093
 6:52 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

People generally feel more comfortable buying or taking advice from someone they know or has been recommended and the more transparency you have in a relationship the better (generally speaking) so it seems natural that anonymity will be discouraged more and more as the Internet evolves. Especially when you add to the fact that "authorities" prefer it that way!

I'm not into "social" myself I can see why it is perceived by people - including Google - as being more influential. In the short term (next few years) I doubt it will have a major negative impact but over the long term I personally think sites/businesses in some b2c verticals would be astute to add more transparency - which may mean considering "social" - in order to stay competitive.

As for Google "telling people what to do with their sites" I agree, that's not their call but they don't: they just tell us what they expect to receive exposure on theirs - as I do to posters and advertisers on mine.

henry0




msg:4417094
 6:59 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

@nomis5
My guess is that social sites like Facebook will become increasingly important to how Google rank entries in the SERPS.


I second your statement, let's look at another social site, Tweeter has a very good tagging system if you tweet and precede terms that matter to you with "#" like: here is my red #widget.
Then if any user search for widget yours will show, at this point I do not know how the multiple widget terms could be classified in a tentative form of ranking.

bhartzer




msg:4417113
 8:29 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google has no right to be telling people what to do with their sites. I'll never put any social buttons on my sites, or try to promote myself in Google plus or any other social network, regardless of what they say. It's none of their business.

I totally agree. There is no reason that you have to promote your brand's presence on your website, especially by putting social media logos and links on there.

However, keep in mind that even though your brand doesn't have a presence on the social media websites, that doesn't mean that you don't have a presence. If your company or brand exists, then others already have or WILL talk about your company or brand on social media sites.

Regardless if you take the time to promote your company or brand on social sites, others will talk about you. And that's where Google, upon monitoring the social media space, will be able to get an idea of how much your brand is mentioned. Or how many people add a link to your website.

ponyboy96




msg:4417168
 11:05 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'll tell you like I tell most people I know. Does it make sense to be "social" for your business? If so, then spend the time. If not, don't worry about it and move on to other things.

I've got a friend that owns a residential service business. He spends a ton of time on Facebook trying to promote his business. I've shown him the analytics around the data and his ROI is beyond negative. It simply makes no sense. Yet he still does it. It hasn't improved his rankings or organic traffic one bit either.

Bottom line, social media isn't for everyone or all businesses. Even where it has somewhat of a fit, the ROI is negative. As I heard one social media manager say candidly one time, "ROI is a dirty word with social media."

Copeland




msg:4417169
 11:09 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

If I were writing an algorithm to index, organize, and rank the content on the web, I absolutely would include social signals and I would give that variable significant weight. Real people are sending messages about the quality and context of content. Why would anybody at Google ignore those messages when writing the algo. Ignoring social may not doom a site today but it will as time passes. Having a history of quality social signals will one day be the equivalent of having a bunch of long term dot.edu inbound links.

bhartzer




msg:4417173
 11:21 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Does it make sense to be "social" for your business?

It's not necessarily whether or not it makes sense. If your competitors are there, then you probably need to be there, also. Whether or not it makes sense.

If your customers and potential customers are talking about you on social sites, then you need to get involved--or at least monitor it and respond in a timely manner.

ThatsBoBo




msg:4417178
 12:13 am on Feb 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

When you create a "like" button on facebook for a site or page, you can now also add Open Graph Meta Tags to your page/site which actually links your page/site to facebook.

You no longer have to create a Facebook page for your site, your website becomes a page that people "like" and that like gets added to their interests just as if they "liked" a facebook page for a company.

I feel this gives the webmaster more control. Instead of creating a Facebook page for your site or company, your site or company page becomes linked to the Facebook platform and will show up in Facebook search, etc.

You may want to look into it if you don't want to actually create a Facebook page for your site/s, but still want to benefit from social networks.

dibbern2




msg:4417208
 2:01 am on Feb 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

My son teaches computer skills in middle school. We were discussing Google and the search universe a few days ago. He recounted one of his assignments to his pupils in which they must do research via Google on a set of topics. Here's what they had to say: "Google? Why Google? You can find everything by just searching Facebook. I don't want to leave Facebook."

That hit me as a wakeup to what's changing. I dislike social, but I have a lot of respect for its growing power. I am recommending an increase in social aspects to my clients as a survival strategy for the future.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4417215
 2:38 am on Feb 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Here's what they had to say: "Google? Why Google? You can find everything by just searching Facebook. I don't want to leave Facebook."


That's interesting and it shows a divide of sorts. My visitors aren't into Facebook for the most part or they have an account(because family does) but they use it sparingly and although they do use the internet to find things, often using the browser default search, they shy away from what I've heard called "pretend friends".

I hope Google recognizes that and won't hand me a downgrade in serps because I don't maintain a social presence for this site (visitors aren't asking for it).

This thread has me wondering something else entirely now. Since young people are so exposed to facebook perhaps the days of having adults who find it alien territory are numbered themselves if only by age. Kids born today will grow up seeing facebook and twitter from as young as they can remember.

By then however I won't have to worry about a google downgrade, I'll be retired to pasture myself :)

Whitey




msg:4417216
 2:49 am on Feb 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google will look at this from a business viewpoint - search versus social. It simply wants to encourage folks to use more of Google and competing for advertising dollars with Facebook may become a challenge.

So IMO the jury's out on how and when Google will promote/demote/neutralise sites that engage social, because i don't think they've worked out how to deal with it commercially. Google + is in it's infancy and doesn't have first user advantage - but let's see what the gurus at Google have cooked up in their strategy. They are at a very strategic strong point to play their tricks of engagement. Webmasters and site owners could be prone to some tactical manipulation eventually forcing them to be more involved with website engagement, compared to FB etc.

Is social good for sites ? Absolutely. Repeat and referral traffic is gold for brand. Search is not really brand centric. So depending on what one does and how one does it, social enagagement is the next big thing IMO

So i think everyone should consider getting involved, learn from the experience and be prepared for any eventuality. Not being part of the overall learning curve and break with a strengthening trend is a reason to worry.

lucy24




msg:4417222
 3:25 am on Feb 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Since young people are so exposed to facebook perhaps the days of having adults who find it alien territory are numbered themselves if only by age. Kids born today will grow up seeing facebook and twitter from as young as they can remember.

But it doesn't automatically follow that they will grow up to continue using them. Some of the technologies you used in middle school are around today; some have been superseded. Some habits you acquired in middle school remain with you today... and some you outgrew within a few years. There is, ahem, no need to cite specific examples.

And if g### personally visits every site that's potentially eligible for Author credit, you won't be seeing my picture any time soon. The computer may be perfectly happy with my nice head shot of Leela as a youngster; a human viewer will object loudly.

dibbern2




msg:4417250
 6:06 am on Feb 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Another aspect of this topic -which we could talk more about- is G's strategies to up the battle for the social audience. I think they are committed to this as perhaps the biggest factor for audience and the revenue streams that come with it for the near future; say, 2-3 years out... or even a little longer.

As a webmaster, I'm thinking about how can I take advantage of G's focus in this war to help my little business? I wouldn't fret about how +1 and stuff like the author tag works or looks... that's not, IMHO, important.

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