Search Wars Continue - Is Social Search The Holy Grail?
The latest frontier in search engine technology is social search. Born out of the social networking boom, social search will attempt to humanize search results thereby providing users with consumer driven answers to their queries. Considering that 50% of queries go unanswered, social search could be the biggest breakthrough since page ranking.
As search giants, Google, Yahoo and MSN continue their fierce battle to become king of the search engines, internet marketers are faced with increasing challenges to dominate in the rankings. As algorithms and methodologies change, savvy entrepreneurs and Madison Avenue continue their heated battle for a coveted Top 10 spot in search engine rankings.
Social search is not officially here but the debut is not far off. Yahoo, MSN and Google are all purportedly working on methodologies to converge search and user generated content all while walking the tightrope known as "privacy." Yahoo has been beta-testing Yahoo Answers since December 2005 and has hired powerhouse, Raghu Ramakrishnan, the co-author of Database Management Systems and co-founder of QUIQ. Mircosoft is in talks with Eurekster.com, a company specializing in social search and Google is experimenting with Google Base Beta.
Why are these internet behemoths investing so much in social search? Social networks such as MySpace and Friendster are threatening the domination of established search giants.
Social networks are pulling in a significant and increasing share of web traffic.
Social network sites are actively working to improve their internal search capabilities and provide an even richer experience for their members. Search giants such as Google, Yahoo and MSN must accelerate their social search efforts or they may be left out of the search game that they now dominate. Search giants must step it up or they will get left behind.
Why now, what drives this apparent sudden change?
It is hard to believe that in the early days of the net, there was an underlying assumption that technology would replace or hinder human interaction. There were those that believed users would prefer getting their information from a computer rather than a person. Social networking is really something old made new by bringing it online. It turns out we humans still rely on other humans and technology simply allows us to expand the boundaries of our social networks. Studies have proven what we already knew intuitively, we pay attention to recommendations from real people.
Social search, viral marketing and social networking are not at all new concepts. Social search is really the technology derivative of asking friends and colleagues for recommendations. In the long ago, dark ages before we "googled", if you needed a mechanic you asked your neighbor, your colleagues and your friends for a recommendation. We now google for mechanics and visit websites to gain information that will help us in our decision.
Social search will enable users to combine the two for a robust result that combines user driven content or the human element with the power of technology. Pretty heady stuff, when you contemplate the impact of this new era of search.
What does all of this mean to the internet marketer?
The internet marketer's goals remain the same – drive traffic and convert that traffic to profitable sales.
Social search will not change the foundation of marketing but it will change the way in which you present your information to generate leads. In other words, you will still need to apply good old fashioned Public Relations and Marketing tactics to the new fangled Social Search Medium, fondly dubbed SMM by some.
Drive traffic to your site from social search and search engine optimization
To take advantage of social search, the first step is to develop a plan, and finding your niche. Contrary to popular belief, the world is not your customer. Often the focus is on pure traffic results, but none of that matters if you're not hitting your sales goals. Answer these:
- Who is your ideal customer, what does he look like?
- Do you merely want 200,000 hits per day or do you want 200,000 hits from people that have a problem your product or service can solve?
- What complementary products or services do they buy?
- How often do they make purchases, when?
Take the time to identify your target market before you launch a marketing plan. Make sure to also include complimentary offerings through popular email courses, as in: http://www.microsaw.com/myform.htm to educate your audience first. Then, sample them via a survey, to find out more about them. And, because you gave them something for free, they'll be more willing to fill out the survey.
Now that you have identified your niche, you'll have a much easier time capturing them using SMM. Marketing whether online or off is all about relevancy, visibility, and credibility. As an internet marketer you want to dominate your niche market by establishing yourself as the expert in your area, delivering content to your potential customer that is relevant to their needs and preferences and have greater visibility than your competitors.
Steps that you can take to achieve expertness with SMM:
1. Become an expert source of information.
Use the bookmarks and article submission features of sites such as Digg to establish yourself as a credible and recognizable source of information.
2. Hitchhike on a blog.
Post relevant and informative content on high profile blogs in your industry. Contributing to a blog on relevant subject matter will increase your visibility and credibility with your target market.
3. Share, share, share.
Create a Squidoo lens, write and publish articles to online article banks (i.e. ezinearticles.com), contribute to wikipedia. Issue quarterly press releases through PR Web. Providing content will establish familiarity with your name (the "haven't I heard of you?" effect) and enable you to cement your expertise with your audience. You will then drive pre-qualified users to your site, who has already established interest in what you have to sell.
4. Create your own friendly network.
Link sharing with complementary products and services is still a great way to expand your social network, and hence your visibility.
5. Build on your existing foundation. The technical aspect of search will not be eliminated with the dawn of social search. Rather social search will augment technical search. Thus, it is important to continue utilizing the tools and resources that drive technical search including optimization techniques and paid inclusion.
6. Apply innovation directly to your site. Here's an example: http://microsaw-swicki.eurekster.com/ that we are using, and it's a free service.
Social search will not entirely replace the traditional technical driven search but does open up yet another avenue for internet marketers. One of the more exciting aspects is that smaller businesses are better positioned to make the most gains from the social frontier. We have seen the power of the "regular Joe" community in driving site popularity and outpacing Madison Avenue marketing efforts.
YouTube, MySpace and Facebook owe their growth to the power of viral marketing. Big Business has not yet mastered the art of getting up close and personal with its users providing savvy entrepreneurs with the opportunity of a lifetime. By using the simple techniques outlined in this article you will be well poised to take advantage of that opportunity.
Social Marketing Resources:
Digg, Wikipedia, Wikihow, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Newsvine, LinkedIn, Del.icio.us, MySpace, Ma.gnolia, Yahoo Answers, Reddit, Technorati, Squidoo, Shoutwire, 43 Things, YourElevatorPitch, Ning, Yahoo 360, BlinkList, Shadows, Wetpaint, Jotspot
Ezinearticles, GoArticles, SubmitYourArticles (fee required), Buzzle, Articlealley, iSnare