Social media and search engines - which channel is the best?

Digital Visitor social media innovators.jpg

Thumbnail image for Anthony RawlinsThis is the Social Media Channel from Anthony Rawlins, managing director of Travolution's social media partner Digital Visitor.

Lately many reports have surfaced highlighting the importance of social media when it comes to the future of search engine optimisation (SEO).

Recently Bing in the USA confirmed that they will integrate social information from Facebook in their search results. This could mean that if you search for a hotel in New York; the results that appear will be prioritised according to the opinions of people in your personal Facebook network.  So if one of your friends had posted about how they were staying at Hotel123 on Madison Square, this post would appear at the top of your search results, making it more specific and personal to you. To take advantage of this new tool, you will need to be logged into Facebook before you search. 

Google made a similar move also earlier this year, firstly challenging the Facebook 'Like' button with the introduction of their '+1' button.  Now they've made a move that directly challenges Bing, by using results from Twitter, Flickr and other social networks to help users make decisions on content based around the recommendations of their friends.

Essentially, this means that in addition to crawling traditional content of a company's website and blogs for relevant keywords, search engines will now also pull results from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

A recent  report by L2 Think Tank, the Digital IQ Index for travel, highlighted the sheer importance of social media for the travel industry specifically, finding that social media is a significant source of traffic for 78% of travel websites.

So we decided to look at the social media presence of 100 top travel companies in Google.

This is what we found:

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  • The best ranking social media site in Google for the travel industry is Wikipedia. 
  • Of the travel companies we researched that had a Wiki page, 70% appeared on page 1 (average position of 10).
  • The Facebook page of companies appeared on average at position 17, closely followed by Twitter with average position of 18 and YouTube with average of 20 (however it had a higher overall number of appearances).

So what five things should your organisation do to enhance your social media rankings?

1) Have an active social media presence

Adding content to your social media channel is what drives it. It can't be left unattended for too long and the more engaging and useful content you add, the greater the ranking and interactivity with your fans. This does not mean adding every bit of news you can think of such as the fact that you now have hand driers installed in the bathroom facilities in your head office - you need to be selective. However, it does mean try and post something useful at least once a day.

The bigger you are - the more active you need to be.

In addition, we found that generally, the larger your company, the more you have to work to elevate your social media presence.

This is because more often than not, larger companies have more online articles about them which must be overtaken by your social media presence. Some of the other sites that will appear for your company name may be very well established such as national newspapers etc...

2) Share your content out via your social media channels

Shares, tweets and likes are being factored in by search engines as a way to determine the degree of importance for that bit of content.

3) Include links to your social media profiles on your marketing material

Ok so you have your Facebook page and you are posting all your important marketing on it BUT if you don't have any engaged followers, then who is going to promote your content via shares and re-tweets? Make sure you include links to your company Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn or various pages of your website.

Include sharing tools on your website as well, so your online visitors can share any content they find interesting with their friends.

4)  Think about timing when publishing content on social media

A recent study found that companies that post content on their Facebook pages outside normal business hours see engagement rates that are 20% higher than average.

5) Make it short

The aforementioned study also found shorter is better.  Posts with 80 characters or less have a 27% higher engagement rate. Certain words also encourage engagement, particularly instructions such as "like," "post," "take" and "comment," as does asking a question at the end of a post.

Social media and its influence on search is only going to get greater, and the opportunities that it will bring to your marketing seem limitless.  Now is the time to ensure that your company has a long-term social media marketing strategy and is building a great search engine presence through these channels.

To find out more about what Digital Visitor does, visit or contact Anthony on Twitter (@antrawlins). You can also find him on LinkedIn.

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