In the early 2000s, web search was mostly limited to search engines and online directories available at the time. But we have come a long way since then.
Optimizing for search remains important today. But users no longer solely rely on traditional search engines to look up information.
I believe it’s time for SEO professionals to think beyond Google and search engines and start looking at search holistically.
Beyond Google: The reality of today’s search landscape
As the competition online increases, the best way to do right by our clients is to ensure we’re working to improve their visibility, not just on search engines like Google, but also on social media platforms where their target audiences are searching.
Nowadays, a substantial share of web searches happens on social media platforms. More than social networking, these websites and apps are where many of today’s web users knowingly – or unknowingly – search via hashtags, trending topics and the like.
While we’ve gotten used to the term “SEO,” it’s about time we talk about “search optimization” instead of the limiting concept of “search engine optimization.” Search campaigns should focus on overall search presence rather than only giving importance to search engine results.
Yes, there is already a concept of social media optimization (SMO). But this generally refers to creating and sharing content on social media with the goal of making it viral.
What I am talking about is optimizing for searches done by social media users within social media platforms that have search functionality.
The mere fact that social media platforms have search features that are constantly enhanced is compelling proof. Brands must take their presence on social media search seriously – and as search marketers, our strategies should help set them up for long-term success.
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Social search: What it is and why it matters
“Social search uses elements of user behavior, implicit and explicit, to improve the results of searches inside and outside enterprises. Such elements are typically stored as metadata, making social search a type of metadata mining. It also enables users to disambiguate results from their queries more effectively,” according to Gartner.
Showing up in social media search results is vital for brands. Here are 12 reasons why.
Social media platforms have allocated decent budgets to further improve their search functionality. Because of this, social search results will likely improve as well over time.
People are spending more time on social media than on search engines. Though Google search is still of great importance, the use of social search has increased alongside social media usage.
Gen Z users in the U.S. spend ~5 hours per week on Instagram.
Social search results have many filters like hashtags, services, companies, jobs, events, people, etc. Hence, the results are more refined and targeted.
Social platforms also focus on local business discoverability.
Social media search results show interaction and reflect word of mouth in the form of comments, likes, shares, follows and conversations.
Studies show that people trust what other people (clients, customers, and suppliers) have to say rather than what business owners display on their websites.
While search engine results typically surface optimized webpages, social search mainly focuses on relevance and engagement.
Since social media search results return content from posts and interactions of social media users, there is less spam than typical search engine results.
Quality content becomes more valuable when people talk about your products, services and brands on social media, and when these conversations and feedback appear in social media search.
Search engine results generally provide information. Social search results can be influential.
People of all ages get easily accustomed to using new trends in social media, but understanding search engines and adapting to advanced techniques on search engines can be more challenging.
Searching on social media platforms
To get a better idea, let’s explore the search features of popular social media platforms, such as:
There are many ways to use the search function on Twitter. You can:
Find tweets from yourself, friends, local businesses, well-known entertainers, global political leaders and many more.
Search using search queries or use hashtags.
Follow ongoing conversations about the news, products, services, or any other personal interests.
Just like traditional search engine results, Twitter search results for users who are logged in differ from the ones who are not.
Advanced search is also available when you’re logged in, letting you get customized search results for specific date ranges, people, and more. This makes it easier to find specific tweets.
The platform also has a FAQs page about search results displayed on Twitter.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network on the web. It is a platform for anyone looking for varied career opportunities, including people from various professional backgrounds, such as small business owners, students, and job seekers.
LinkedIn members can use the platform to tap into a network of professionals, companies, and groups within and beyond their industry.
LinkedIn search has great filters to help narrow your search for more relevant results. You can use filters like:
Additionally, the platform is widely used by job seekers and recruiters. HR professionals use it for headhunting and background checks on applicants.
LinkedIn is surely a social media platform, but with a focus on professional interactions, as well as knowledge-sharing.
From a search perspective, people use LinkedIn for professional development and seeking job opportunities. Hence, being found in the search results on LinkedIn is crucial.
In 2021, there were 1.21 billion monthly active users on Meta’s Instagram, making up over 28% of the world’s internet users. By 2025, its user base is expected to grow to 1.44 billion, accounting for 31.2% of global internet users.
Hence, sharing innovative content regularly and using the correct hashtags can surely boost the chance of your profile showing up on Instagram search results.
Instagram content is usually in the form of images, videos, live conversations, reels, and stories. (And there’s a shopping feature, too.)
As a rapidly growing platform, you simply cannot ignore this social media platform – especially if you want to be in front of Gen Z users.
Instagram interactions are measured in likes, shares, and follows. If your client is in retail, fashion, food, baby products or grooming, then this is a place where their prospective buyers are searching for options.
YouTube search prioritizes three main elements to provide the best search results:
Optimizing for YouTube search is like optimizing a website, but here the content is in video format. Thus, your video title and description have to be very relevant so that they can match the search query of the user.
On YouTube, prospective buyers can discover your brand. You can also create videos that answer frequently asked questions customers may have after buying your product or service. Hence, making it a great platform for sales and after-sales.
Optimizing for search beyond search engines
People are no longer limited to searching on search engines and online directories. Multiple tools are at their disposal to satisfy their need for information.
Thus, our search campaigns should not merely revolve around showing up on search engines like Google – but for every type of search, regardless of the platform.
In the past, we have seen how the search on directories became redundant. The future may see popular social media platforms having more sophisticated search capabilities – and people using them more than the actual search engines.
To future-proof our clients’ businesses and set them up for long-term success, start optimizing for search where their target audiences are – not just on Google but also on social media platforms.
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