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Organic Search vs Social Media

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social media seoGroupM, the world’s largest media advertising company and internet marketing research company comScore have collaborated on a study which shows in detail the extent to which search and social media (such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook) have become interconnected in the purchasing paths which online consumers take to navigate to the point of sale using the internet.

The two leaders in following consumers in following internet trends and patterns examined consumer behavior patterns when buying electronics, telecommunications and other merchandise.  What they found has implications for search engine optimization which have important implications.  The report showed that regular search is still much more powerful than social media when it comes to a consumer’s who are trying to make the decision what to buy.  In fact the statistics showed that nearly 60% of all online purchases still begin with a simple search.

Social Media and the Power of Opinions

However where social media does seem to be playing an increasingly important role is in along the path to purchase, motivating people to actually make the purchase.  The study shows that social media is now crucial for supporting brand awareness and actually drives consumers into deciding on one product over another similar good or service.  The research shows that where consumers are exposed to both search and social media which are linked to a brand the overall search click through rate (CTR) for that product went up a whopping 94%!

Consumers find social media so valuable because it allows them to get other people’s opinions which then help them to narrow down the wide variety of choices available to them.  According to the research, now a full 40% of internet consumers are now using some sort of social media in order to help them to reach their decision about what to buy.  About half those who made a purchase used both search and social media in conjunction to reach their final decision.

The Synergy of Search to Social Media

Most consumers (58%) still start their search with search and continue to use it throughout the entire sales process.  However things may be changing – 26% of the study respondents said they now only use search during the beginning stages of their research for price comparison as well as finding the most convenient purchase location.

28% of consumers then turn to social media to both discover brands and alternatives they may not have found with a search which are getting positive reviews as well as to eliminate the brands which appear in the search but have received negative reviews from other consumers.

The Stretching Sales Funnel

seo processAn interesting side effect of the increasing importance of social media is the lengthening of the sales funnel to between 57-60 days, a significant increase from consumers who just use search.  In fact the study now found a full 11 measurable digital steps from the start of the sales funnel to the purchase.

Consumers are increasingly likely avoid rushing into a purchase by spending time visiting social network sites to gather others opinions.  And generally speaking they are not just looking at one or two opinions but many in order to get a more comprehensive assessment of the product or service.

The Most Important Social Media Sites

The study documented which social media sites consumers used most for a purchase and user review sites came in first with 30%.  Trailing behind were social networks with 117%, video sharing sites with 14% and Twitter with 9%.

64% of consumers who used social media as a tool when making a purchase were likely to follow a favorite brand while 74% use Facebook fan pages as their preferred method of supporting and engaging with a particular product.

The Implications for SEO

The growth of social media as a powerful force for consumers has no doubt not gone unnoticed by the search engines.  One can already see the importance of social media being incorporated into the rankings as Facebook fanpages, Twitter tweets, YouTube videos and more appear to be incorporated into the algorithm.

For those who are working in an SEO Company this means a change in tactics will shortly be in order if it has not already begun.  Taking steps to optimize websites onpage such as adding video (in particular YouTube video which is owned by Google) as well as off page with Facebook fanpages, Twitter accounts or submission to user review sites such as Google Local or Trip Advisor will become important considerations in order to remain on the cutting edge of SEO Packages.

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