December 22, 2011, 10:12 AM

Google is forcing retailers to be fresh when it comes to search

The latest change to Google’s search formula makes social media more important.

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Under Chinese tradition, 2012 ushers in the Year of the Dragon. For retailers and marketers hoping to boost their natural search rankings in the coming months, this new year could be dubbed the Year of Content.

That’s because the latest update to Google’s search ranking algorithm—the changes are commonly called Fresh—emphasizes fresh content such as news updates, articles, blog postings and the like, according to search experts, retailers and Google itself. And those changes will effect 35% of searches, Google says.

“Google is getting smarter about how it crawls pages and updates rankings,” says Seth Besmertnik, CEO of Conductor Inc., a web marketing firm that specializes in search engine optimization, the art and science of moving up in natural search rankings frequently referred to as SEO. “Now Google is so fast, it wants its rankings to reflect that. Retailers will have to rethink pages that don’t change.”

Mike Miller, Build.com’s director of organic search, says he expects the effects of the freshness update to really kick in around April or May, after Google finishes testing the changes. But retailers are already anticipating a fresher world of search.

For instance, Ellen Burgan, Internet marketing manager for Drs. Foster & Smith, says the Google update, with its emphasis on new content, drives home how important a social media campaign and retailer-produced blogs are for retailers. “Social will have a stronger influence on SEO as we go forward,” she says, “but a huge stumbling point is the time it takes.”

While Drs. Foster & Smith already engages consumers on Twitter and Facebook, the update will require even more posting and communication via those social networks. It also underscores the importance of paying attention to Google+, the search engine’s own social network, which it launched last summer. A strong social presence, one that demonstrates a loyalty among consumers that can translates into links, is another sign of good content, and therefore another way to earn the good graces of Google, she says.

Build.com is No. 80 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. Drs. Foster & Smith is No. 115. Matt Stelter, assistant manager of Internet marketing, for Drs. Foster and Smith, will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in a session entitled “The Last Click Shouldn’t Win" on June 6 from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

For much more on how retailers should react to the Google changes, read the January issue of Internet Retailer.

 

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