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Introductions of the Third Kind

by Evan Fishkin

It is with great joy that I make my first post to this esteemed blog. I’ve been reading the works of the Slingshot SEO team for decades (blatant lie) and it is my great pleasure to join them in their Quest for the Holy Grail (Disclaimer: The Holy Grail referred to here is in no way related to the actual Holy Grail. The usage of “The Holy Grail” in this text is in reference to an all-powerful search engine ranking factor). I’ve actually been with the team two weeks now and the most important thing I have learned is that this team is dedicated (And sarcastic. Seriously. No joke. So much sarcasm. Puts me to shame.).

In all honesty, I’m having a fantastic time. Indiana has been beautiful, the team has been welcoming and inquisitive, and the food is a 10 on the awesome scale. Why a 10? There is a Steakery in the mall and we go for frozen yogurt daily. ‘Nuff said.

But I digress. And seeing as how this is a serious industry that doesn’t mess around, it is my responsibility as the author of this article to get to the heart of this post: optimizing SERPs with the social graph.

If I may invoke a Family Guy reference, Bing and Facebook are forming the Legion of Doom and fortunately, Solomon Grundy dropped the ball. While there isn’t a flat out explanation of the signals within Facebook that Bing will be looking at, it does give search marketers a greater focus on a region in which we have been eager to operate on. When universal search became a permanent component of the search experience; i.e., queries consistently returned a mixture of images, videos, etc. in SERPs, SEOs optimized the stuffing out of videos and images (because sometimes you can’t beat Wikipedia and other times you can beat them with an image that defies argument). Therefore, with the further ongoing inclusion of social queues appearing for certain queries, it makes sense that the SEO industry should understand how to use this advancement for the betterment of our client’s campaigns.

So, let’s start with what we can do inside Facebook to generate some social rankings. Friendfluence: Did your friend like something on Facebook? If they did, awesome, now it shows that on Bing’s SERP. How exact does the relevance of the “liked” thing compared to your query have to be? That’s a tough question and unfortunately, we’re not sure yet. However, it’s definitely an interesting question that guides our research.

With vagaries and uncertainties in mind, what are some good general tactics to optimize search with social queues? First, get to 500 million friends. That way you can influence every Facebook user’s Bing results. It will be a difficult task, but I have faith in you your awesomeness is real.  I recommend posting funny videos, example:

Priceless.

Next, crank out some Likes. Put out some offers and deals. Coupons are always good. Maybe try the funny video thing again. Or, create a quiz about how many Baboons you can beat with a dildo. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, *COUGH* mechanical turk *COUGH*, only that you get as many Likes as possible and stay within Facebook’s Terms of Use. Hey, here’s a fun parody: How many Likes does it take to get to the top of a Bing SERP? One. Two. Banned… Maybe the Turk idea was a bad one.

Now, Likes may not be as cool as the old Fans system, but under the new Reging (Get it? (Regime+Bing)÷Shortener=Reging) if you search for Chinese restaurants, and it just so happens that the nearby Chinese joint, Great Wok, has a Facebook page that your BFF Lucy Liked, guess what? Now Bing will inform you that Lucy likes terrible Szechwan Chicken. And Great Wok.

There’s also a cool new feature where you find “people” when you search for “names.” This isn’t really that new; it’s just more efficient and better looking now. Before, you would likely get a search result that contained the listing for the person’s Facebook page. Now, you get the whole Facebook profile right there in the SERP: photo, the mutual friends list, and the location of that specific person. Wait a tick… Nope. Nevermind. Still can’t find him.

Bing hopes these new social factors will influence your dinner plans, your theater preferences, your favorite electronics store, the site you choose to buy your discount shoes from, etc. in a positive manner and have you coming back for more. Bing also hopes you’ll find this melded social and search experience a whole lot more sticky than the now old-school search process of searching all by yourself, without your friends’ images, and comments to accompany you.

In my opinion, this idea has some serious merit. Bing set out to change our idea about the web as a place to search to become a place where we get the info we want (which is not necessarily the same as the info we need) to make decisions. While it sounded dorky and not very salable at the time they launched the idea, we’re all getting a better picture of what they were thinking now that Bing has hooked up with Facebook.

I’m not sure that everyone is going to hop on the bandwagon of sharing all their searches with friends. I’m sure you can think of a few searches you’d rather do on your own… (I was talking about trade secrets you creep). But in general, I think the idea will catch on. Having instant, on-the-same-page access to what your friends think about the places, products, and websites you’re researching makes the process less lonely, more valuable, and a lot stickier. I think we’re all well past the idea that people want to keep their opinions to themselves. As a global society, we pretty much all seem to love sharing our opinions with our friends. The Bing-Facebook hook-up just made that a lot easier for us.

hat doesn’t mess around, it is my responsibility as the author of this article to get to the heart of this post: optimizing SERPs with the social graph. If I may invoke a Family Guy reference, Bing and Facebook are forming the Legion of Doom and fortunately, Solomon Grundy dropped.

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