Google in Bed with Facebook and Twitter

Earlier this month, Google and Bing revealed that social media (Twitter and Facebook) does in fact contribute to organic rankings (regular search results). But then again, that was hardly unexpected. So after validation for the marketer wears off, where does this leave restaurant marketing?

So what did Bing and Google disclose? Primarily, what your restaurant accomplishes on Facebook and Twitter is not only confined to the world of social media. Through evaluating posts on Facebook and Twitter, Google and Bing figure out author authority (or social authority, in the case of Bing), one of the criteria (or breed of signals) that impact search results. Along with that, Google and Bing also attempt to determine the quality of the post. Twitter is better for this than Facebook as it isn’t conducive to influence search because search engines don’t have access to personal information, so they are limited to Facebook Pages (meaning info like Friends, Wall Posts). As it releases much more information, particularly links, Twitter, though, is a rich source for social media. But there are many caveats. These limitations haven’t been discussed enough nor have how it should change our online restaurant marketing strategies.Definitely, a lot has been said on the subject. On the whole, commentators have rashly seized these admissions and shoveled on unsupported conclusions (sometimes with warnings but sometimes without), pretending that the keyholes Google and Bing gave us were actually windows. We need to put this all in perspective—Google employs an algorithm with 200 more than different signals. Bing doesn’t lag far behind in complexity. And online marketers already have advocated social media as imperative to an online marketing presence. The lesson here, however, is not about social media per say.The disclosure by Google and Bing of an ingredient of their algorithm is substantial, especially as it is not readily apparent why they would divulge such information. What it says to me, in essence, is that this information undermines current search engine optimization practices (an industry they have in the past distanced themselves from), echoing Google and Bing’s agenda to develop a search engine that matches user expectations and facilitates user satisfaction.

So by looking at in a different light, it does make sense. Currently, search engine optimization, which is currently thought of as a component of website design, functions on manipulating what your restaurant has control over (your website and its content) to conform to the search engine algorithm.

Including social media does something entirely different and is less susceptible to normal SEO practices that may give a website a disproportionate advantage compared to real-world conditions. Granted, I feel somewhat uneasy about this as it tolerates less mobility for a restaurant who takes the internet seriously, but I doubt it will rid the internet of online marketing innovations that affect search results. Now, perhaps, they may have to be substantive (blogs, helpful content, etc.). More on this later.

Still, motivating customers to take action in order to promote your restaurant is online (and traditional) marketing, and more indirect than what we had before when a website would be the only thing considered in search. That is because customer’s behavior on Facebook and Twitter, especially what they link, cannot be controlled only channeled. Unlike before, if it continues down this path, as I believe it will, search engine optimization will no longer be able to stand apart from online marketing.

This may not happen overnight. Even as one should always keep the fundamental principles of how search engines work in mind, more and more search engine optimization is about making advances on all online fronts (links, blogs, content, etc.). Sure, basic things like the URL, the setup of the webpages, etc. will not go away. Only eventually its importance, to varying degrees, will diminish. Google, for example, sent out QR codes (bar codes that smartphones can read) to 100,000 businesses with the hope that customers would scan them and provide another source of information for Google search.

Yes, this does not signal the end of search engine optimization. But it is what I think the beginning of the end of SEO as we know. Old tactics become much harder as Google and Bing have migrated from the design/content of the website to how other people interact with the website.

Basically, the future holds that the internet version of “word of mouth” will eventually have a big influence on search; in areas where people consistently use links (social media). This has already happened to search in terms of Twitter. Twitter, with the function of retweeting, allows search engines to evaluate how much authority an author has. There is no way to make people tweet and retweet a link to your restaurant. With a good online marketing strategy, you can set up all the conditions to have customers promote your restaurant.

Essentially, all the tools in online restaurant marketing are interconnected. Search engine optimization connects to website design/content which connects to blogs which connect to social media which connects to links and then we find ourselves back at search. Anything missing in this chain jeopardizes the effectiveness of all of them. This overwhelming task should not be dealt with piecemeal but as a complete online marketing strategy. In terms of online restaurant marketing, it’s all converging, whether we like it or not.