Google’s Latest Update has Implications for all Social Communications Online

social networks

Search has always been a part of the social communications mix, but with the emergence of Google+ and one of Google’s recent Panda updates we have seen an increase in the convergence of these digital worlds.

Many brands are looking to spread the risk of new updates from Google and associated implications and are rightly looking to spread their search strategy across as wide a mix of platforms as possible.

With the emergence of Google+, social media is ever more being considered as a result of the social signals that are being generated by gestures (likes, follows, shares etc) and content alike.

When developing a campaign we look to make sure that content and communications are aligned with the brand’s search strategy, but this is only once the over-arching strategy’s foundations have been laid – we are not in the habit of creating a Pinterest account for it to sit dormant.

The most recent round of Panda updates has sent the SEO community into somewhat of a spin, but it has also had an impact on more social search aspects.

Having just returned from Blog Camp UK 2012 we saw first-hand the reaction and concern from bloggers to these updates; the issue comes as a result of some PR and SEO agencies' approach to search and the expectations from their relationship with bloggers.

There is clearly some guidance (if not governance) that needs to be considered here in order that transparency and integrity can remain in the blogger-brand-agency relationship.

No Follows

Content and relevance need to be at the heart of any relationship between bloggers, brands and agency. This should not only be the case on the side of the agency working with the brand but also the bloggers as only if this feeling is mutual will integrity be maintained.

A problem has arisen where bloggers have been asked to include certain keywords and links within their posts by agencies. Google’s webmaster terms and conditions have always stated that any such ‘paid for links’ should be associated with a disclosure statement and ‘no-follow’ attached to the link, but it is only now with the most recent updates to Google’s algorithm is this update actually impacting negatively on search results.

It seems now that Google is using a clever little algorithm to work out what is paid-for content and whether the associated disclosures are being applied. In instances where it deems content is being created as part of a campaign then it is applying a filter penalty to the blog or site concerned and in the most severe cases de-indexing the site completely.

Transparency and Value exchange

Our feeling is that these new updates are actually a good thing for social communications as it forces agencies to make sure that the content on offer is of value and interest to bloggers. Agencies should not be simply interested in generating back links but more focused on the creation of brand ambassadors and advocates as ultimately peer endorsement is far more valuable than simply generating search indexed content (another relevant debate at BlogCampUK was around where does my traffic come from; search engines or word of mouth?).

Moving forward

The way in which clients, agencies and bloggers adapt to Google’s changes will define the social communications' space. There is a lot of scaremongering around the Google changes at present and agencies are still asking bloggers for paid-for back links.

We will be updating our engagement policies to include our thoughts on links and the use of keywords, reflecting Google's changes. We will look to submit these guidelines to various credible sources within both the search and blogger field in order to accredit the approach. It is hoped that this transparency will reassure both clients and bloggers alike as to how we have and will be operating, and perhaps provide guidelines for the wider social communications industry in how to respond to the Google changes. We would welcome any additional thoughts and input people have to offer around this issue.

Photo (cc) Kexino