Will Customer Opinion Overtake Search?
Right now showing up on page one of the organic search results is the holy grail of small business online marketing. Any business that spends significant time consistently producing keyword rich, educational content, draws links, and is active in numerous social network can eventually gain some real traction when it comes to search results.
For about five years rating a review sites like Yelp! and Insider Pages have been slowly bubbling up and impacting search results and buying decisions. More and more people are relying on search results combined with reviews. In other words, they might find you on page one and that was good, but then they find some so so reviews on CitySearch and that could kill the deal.
While ratings and opinions have dramatically impacted purchases made at hotels and restaurants, they haven't had nearly as big an impact on other industries. After all the the searcher needed to use these rating sites and the reviews, while carrying some weight, were from strangers.
This past week Google added something they are calling Social Search. (Here's the official Google announcement) For now Social Search is opt-in (you need to activate it in Google Labs), but when activated you will start to see the opinions, blog posts, tweets and reviews from your friends and those you follow in other social networks at the bottom of the regular Google search results.
If this feature becomes standard, which I think it will, a surfer looking for a good place to get a pair running shoes on a business trip can do a search and not only get results for the stores in the area, but also opinions and recommendations from friends. Do you think those recommendation, up or down, will carry more weight than those hard earned SEO results — I think it's highly possible they will.
Getting great search engine placement and results is still essential. Paying attention to what your customers are saying, helping them say it, participating in real time conversations good and bad, and monitoring and measuring every mention may just become the new SEO.
If you would like to see what this looks like you will need the following
1) Google account
2) Google personal profile with some elements of your social graph added — Gmail contacts, Twitter profile, Facebook profile (This is where the Google gets the content to show)
3) Social Search enabled through Google Labs
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John Jantsch has been called the World's Most Practical Small Business Expert for consistently delivering real-world, proven small business marketing ideas and strategies. John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, award winning social media publisher and best selling author Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine .
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