June 8, 2010, 5:21 PM

Social media’s Google juice

Facebook and Twitter can help retailers boost search results.

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Ice.com has learned how blogs and pop culture can create a buzz that draws in consumers and helps impress Google's search engine crawlers, Pinny Gniwisch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at the online jewelry retailer, said today at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition.

Ice.com paid bloggers to write about the outfits donned by celebrities at the Oscars. The retailer then offered product descriptions of jewelry that was similar to the shiny rocks worn by movie stars for the awards ceremony.

Gniwisch spoke during a workshop session entitled "Coordinating search engine optimization with a social media plan." He and Eric Papczun, vice president of SEO and feed for Performics, a search marketing, display advertising and social marketing firm, gave retailers more than a dozen tips about how to best use social media to improve search results.

Among the advice:

  • Create Wikipedia pages for brands or key products.
  • Add pictures to the photo-sharing service Flickr, even if they offer a behind-the-scenes look at the company.
  • Create a custom channel on the video service YouTube, which is owned by Google.
  • Promote contests where consumers create videos that celebrate the brand or products.

Retailers also should blog about their brands and products, and update those blogs frequently, Gniwisch said. Such efforts can pay off as news breaks, even if retailers cannot anticipate the developments. For instance, Ice.com saw traffic increase to its site after Al and Tipper Gore announced they would separate. The retailer had posted an item about Tipper Gore's jewelry.

Another key for retailers hoping to do more with social media is to use Twitter, Facebook and other outlets as a way to listen closely to customers. Ice.com has some 40,000 Facebook fans after four months of a presence on that site, and Gniwisch said that up to 25% of their posts concern customer service. More generally, Papczun advises retailers to monitor Twitter for negative tweets about products and brands, especially as those messages can end up in Google minutes after being sent.

"Resolve problems before a massive Twitter conversation makes it to the search engine results pages," Papczun said.

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