If there is one thing that really hit home for me at the SMX Advanced Seattle conference this June, it's that from here on out search engines and social media will be forever intertwined. Blue Magnet has seen this happening for some time and has been monitoring the evolution of the search engines towards a more social community; however, recent SEO/social media correlation studies that have been performed over the last 6 months are telling. What is eye-opening about these studies is that it's clear that the search engines are integrating social influences into the standard search results.
Get noticed by being social
If I were operating a hotel, I would take this as a clear indication that it was about high-time I started actively participating in social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare and more. Considering the fact that today the practice of SEO has almost become the rule rather than the exception in the hotel industry, how does one edge out other hotel brands with equally impressive, well-optimized sites? I mean, let's suppose I'm a hotel optimizing for "New York hotels" and my biggest competitor is also optimizing their site for that keyword. Both sites are designed with SEO in mind, our meta tags are perfect, we each have thousands of inbound links, our sites both contain valuable, relevant content for our users. How does one hotel stand above the rest? What sets them apart in the eyes of the almighty Google? Well, now it looks like your hotel's sphere of influence and popularity in social circles can improve your ranking for various searches.
The following social media case study by Rand Fishkin at SEOmoz is just one great example of how Google is already integrating social media into search results. In the screenshot below, Rand was not logged in to his Google account when he ran a search for "cupcake madness." Note the top 3 results: huffingtonpost.com, narragansett.patch.com and nbcwashington.com.
Now, look what happens when Rand runs the same search while logged in to his Google Account, which is linked with his social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and others:
Note the NEW top 3 results: huffingtonpost.com, nbcwashington.com and everywhereist.com. Why did everywhereist.com make the cut when it was previously nowhere to be found? It's because this link was shared by a friend in Rand's social network. You can see that Google credits the sharer below the actually search engine listing. If you look just below the site's URL in the screenshot above you will notice that Google has indicated that "Geraldine shared this." Because she shared this link that contained info about "cupcakes" and "madness" and was part of Rand's social network, Google assumes this link is likely very relevant when Rand is searching for "cupcake madness."
So what's a hotel to do?
While this example is not necessarily a hotel-related keyword, as social integration continues to evolve within search results, hotel-related keywords will present the same kind of opportunities. This means that hotels need a social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that actively engages with their communities. In addition, it's in hotel's best interest to publish content online that is worth of being shared across these social networks. The search engines will continue to integrate social media elements into their ranking algorithms; therefore, hotels can get a leg up on their competition in search rankings by integrating social media into their online marketing plans and providing content to their community that's worth sharing.