People are talking online and, apparently, Google is listening.
No, not an evil eavesdropping way, but rather, in terms of determining search rankings. Instead of relying solely on traditional SEO tools — e.g., keywords, inbound links, etc. — search engines are increasingly picking up “social signals” and incorporating them into their rankings and results.
Considering the sheer volume of online conversations about aesthetics — according to AAFPRS, 42% of patients received most of their information about cosmetic surgery from social media last year — doctors would be advised to tune in, as well.
So what are social signals? As the name suggests, they’re indicators that people are not just passively consuming the content they find on traditional product-oriented websites but engaging with it socially through Facebook likes and shares, Google +1 posts, Twitter retweets and comments on blogs and forums.
And those signals are playing an ever-larger role in the soundtrack of online search. According to Krista LaRiviere, cofounder and CEO of gShift Labs, social signals currently account for 8–10% of the algorithms at Google and Bing and the figure is only expected to grow.
So does that mean you should abandon your SEO efforts? No. It only means that instead of chasing Google rankings through keywords, backlinks and other traditional methods, you should strengthen your online presence through social marketing. And the way to do that is to produce content that Internet users feel compelled to share with the members of their social networks.
As the web becomes increasingly social, users are looking toward the suggestions of their network to provide accurate, timely and quality results for information they search upon, notes business blogger Murray Lunn on AffiliatePrograms.com. What it really boils down to is the difference between results provided by a bot and those provided by human interaction.
Of course, this being online search in the 21st century, it’s safe to say that all search engine algorithms will continue to evolve. But for now, doctors who ignore the clamor of social signals run the risk of being left out of both search rankings and consumers’ purchasing decisions.
1. Thought leaders lead others to think positively about them
As a cosmetic surgeon, you possess information aesthetic consumers are hungry for. Instead of writing yet another blog post about the benefits of familiar procedures, share success stories, offer insights about new trends and let them know you’re interested in their questions and concerns. (Needless to say, you should distribute those posts to any and all social networks you’re on.)
2. Reach out to other thought leaders and authority figures
With social behavior growing exponentially, the search engines continue to refine their algorithms to counter the concurrent increase in noise. One differentiator is “authority,” which you can promote by aligning yourself with other thought leaders. Contributing to highly regarded journals and organizations, responding to questions on targeted social-network sites and exchanging guest blog posts with other doctors can all resonate in ways that generate the social signals the search engines are listening for.