I started noticing some new natural search terms in my Google Analytics keyword report. Highly competitive terms like SEO, SEO Blog, and SEO Blogger were bringing me decent Google traffic. But in all honesty my SEO blog isn’t big enough to rank well for these vital keywords. Yes – it hurts, but I can admit it.
I started wondering how I was getting traffic from these keywords. First I thought it must have been traffic from searchers who were digging deep in the search result pages. But from the sudden quantity of traffic I was now receiving, that struck me as unlikely. Most people don’t bother visiting page 2 in Google, let alone page 13 where I currently (and sadly) reside.
Then I thought it might be due to my reader base. Maybe they’re getting personalized results while logged in to Google because they interact with my site from the results page. But, again, looking at the traffic numbers – and not being able to recreate the rankings with the few friends I know who read my blog – I didn’t feel like I figured it out yet.
Then I got excited. Could they be high rankings I actually earned? Are these rankings that were just beginning to populate through data centers? But looking deeper at Google Analytics once again, I found that I’ve actually been getting traffic from these keywords for a few months. I just never noticed. The traffic was slowly increasing for the last 6 months and I’ve been too lazy to dive deep into my lower traffic terms.
Then it struck me. It must be the social results – the beautiful eleventh listing.
These results come from your social graph when tied to your Google account. Though they show at the bottom of the first page (which isn’t nearly as valuable as the top position), they do get a fair amount of attention – especially when associated with a photo opportunity. Not bad free exposure. Even though I haven’t been doing a lot to optimize my blog for these new terms in the last six months, I realized I was actually doing a lot of things in social lately. I’ve been increasing my followers/friends and producing social content about 10% month over month, which is pretty much in sync with the keyword traffic growth. In other words, the byproduct of this social work was more displays of this listing on connected searchers’ result pages.
The “results from people in your social circle” is another step in Google’s maturity into the semantic web (puberty will likely be Google Me). The algorithm that ranks these listings seems a little choppy, but that’s actually the norm with new Google’s new verticals. This is likely to mature, and when it does, I would think a good footing from the beginning can only be beneficial.
If I were a business owner, this would give me yet another reason to get into social marketing. For some businesses, creating a persona and communicating with interested people may possibly become as valuable as traditional SEO link building. Providing content and expertise, and providing it to the social masses may actually get you further than you think, even if it doesn’t relate to PageRank (or necessarily TrustRank). Is this something you can build a strategy around? Maybe. Is it relevant for every business? Probably not. But for some, every little bit helps.