The way we as a collective society interface with data has fundamentally stayed the same through the generations: We have to search for it. In the past, this has meant opening an encyclopedia, learning the Dewey Decimal system or even running an experiment. But today, we have exabytes of information that a few select outlets have access to: Bing, Google, Ask.com and other niche websites.
As public relations professionals, part of our job is to monitor and influence our clients’ reputation. All one needs to do is set up a news or blog alert for “Insert client name here” sucks. In no time you will see a constant flow of detractors, fanboys of competitors and the occasional piece of valuable feedback. I had the good fortune to spend a day at SMX Advanced, a conference put on by Search Engine Land, which is a top influential outlet in the search space. The conference is focused at SEO/SEM/PPC, but there were some tremendous nuggets for PR as well.
We all tweet, facebook (yes, it’s a verb too), blog and text. We are surrounded by the real-time Web. It is alive and learning about us as fast as we learn about it. But to a search engine, it’s just data. Google announced during the show that its caffeine update was live. Google Caffeine is essentially a real-time index of any document pushed live to the Web. If it is publicly viewable, the Google bot is poised to index it and list it in SERPs in near real-time.
In addition, Bing (and soon Yahoo!) also cull social sites in real time. It has integrated the Twitter firehose to flow in public tweets. Remember, it’s available as soon as you hit send.
Real-time ranking factors
The real-time Web is all about content. Strong content published by authoritative users across active networks is content that search engines love. Search engines tend to skew toward relevancy over recency. Just because a post is new, it is not the best. With Google and Bing hooked directly into Twitter’s “firehose,” both are constantly evolving how they parse this data.
Here, you can see how Google is handling tweets, blog posts and other recent content for SMX Advanced.
The links on the right are dynamic and change to reflect not only current trends, but also authoritative pieces of content. Engagement does not appear to be a major factor in establishing authority for real-time ranking. For some accounts, it is able to rank high because people RT, click the links and otherwise interact with its content.
Author quality, quality of the site being linked to and the “freshness” of the content on that site all have an effect on how links being shared rank.
Other possible factors that affect real-time rankings:
- Recent activity: An active account is a crawled account. This means using it for more than just sending out your news. Sharing other content will keep it spider fresh.
- Keywords in user name: This can be hard for groups such as Education. But a possible best practice is to establish two accounts. One for engaging and one for broadcasting.
- Age: Well-established accounts tend to rank higher.
- Tweet quantity, ratio of follow/followed and lists: These appear to have limited influence on some algorithms but are important to consider.
Real-time content strategies
This is about getting your content found beyond when you have an announcement. We have been championing a digital strategy that utilizes multi-media content when pitching a story. But a blog should not just be a pitch vehicle.
Based on this, it makes sense to counsel your clients to use their digital properties to generate discussion on their respective sites. Coverage is great, becoming an influencer is better. Unify your content and make your blog or your FaceBook page an on-going discussion hub.
Accomplishing this requires one thing: Content. Well, not just content. Content that people want to read. Content that adds value. Content that solves a business problem. So, how do you make sure that you are creating quality content?
- Monitor hot trends. Tools such as Google Insights and Bing xRank can show evolving search trends, who is sending traffic to your site and even what site broke a story so you can be sure to link to those sites.
- Get your fans/customers to share your services. Using solutions such as ShareThis, visitors to a website can quickly share your your content across multiple networks. The discussion point here is, should higher emphasis be placed on niche sharing sites such as the Bing blog being shared on Sphinn?
- Employ content that appeals to social-savvy audiences. The adage “Brevity is Beautiful” applies here.
- Don’t update multiple accounts on Twitter. Instead, utilize the old method of “retweeting.” Establish a main account and let others RT that.
- Don’t create content that is keyword saturated. Some Web crawlers view this content as Spam. Also, spammy-looking tweet streams will be eliminated and using multiple hashtags will cause an account to be flagged
- Don’t use same IP address for many accounts. This is a technical concern. I don’t know how it affects people in the same office using Tweetdeck as an example.
The real-time toolbox
Of course, these tips, tricks and hints would be useless if I didn’t give you the methods to use them, right? Below is a huge list of some great apps and tools for monitoring various social networks, social sharing sites and even forums (yes, forums).
List of apps for monitoring and interacting:
- Google Insights: Custom search trends
- Rowfeeder: monitor Twitter and Facebook conversations based on keywords. Import into a Google Spreadsheet
- Social Mention: pull out mentions and other metrics
- ScoutLabs: Paid solution that combines Social CRM with tracking/monitoring.
- Twitter widgets: Customizable Twitter widgets that can be embedded on any website.
- Friendorfollow: Establishes your follwers/followees for mutual relationships.
- Klout: A standardized measure of a Twitter account’s influence/
- Wildfire: manage contests and promotions. Can track the FaceBook fan ID and allow you to followup.
- Knowem: Username check across multiple social networks
- Digg Alerter: Notifies you when you get votes or hit the Digg front page.
- di66.net: Digg stats
- Big Boards: monitor message boards and forums.
- OMGILI: bulletin board and forum search engine.
For more tools, check out Tony Adam’s presentation from SMX Advanced.
Wow, that’s a lot of information. And I have more. I am more than happy to answer questions as best as I can. There are a few more points I would like to pontificate on at a later point. But for now, let me know what your real-time strategies are.
Special thanks to Stew Langille, Vice President, Marketing, Mint.com; John Shehata, Director of SEO & Social Media, Advance Internet, Inc.; Chris Silver Smith, Director of Optimization Strategies, KeyRelevance and Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine Land for their presentation at the conference.