Everyone is jumping on the social networking bandwagon to give their online or brick and mortar business a greater presence. SEO gurus have been predicting for some time that social will play a larger role in rankings in the future. This is based on the assumption that if people recommend a site or business, it must be a good one. But, I’ve had a number of experiences when my friend’s opinion steered me in the wrong direction. Should opinions from people who are not experts or experienced in a certain area have such a great impact? I would argue that there is still a missing element from the social voting factor: the authority of the person to cast a valid vote in a particular niche.
The restaurant recommendation: I’m more inclined to believe a restaurant serves good food if a food critic publishes a review than if a friend recommends it to me. I recall a time I was told about a great Italian restaurant that turned out to be nothing but a disappointment. Being Italian, I am very picky about Italian food and thinking about it logically now, I took this recommendation from someone who rarely cooks. Unfortunately, not every restaurant gets reviewed by a food critic, leaving most restaurant experiences up to trial and error.
This is just one example, but I can recall other poor restaurant recommendations and even horrible contractors I’ve had do work in my house. After a few bad recommendations, you tend not to listen to friends’ advice when it comes to certain things.
When Should Someone Be Influential?
One could argue that if someone is experienced working in a certain field, that person’s opinion should be more relevant about that field than someone who does not. But, then you have the competition factor to take into consideration. It’s already known that competitors leave poor reviews for one another. So, how do you create a level playing field? Perhaps that person’s opinion would be more valid when recommending the types of services he/she uses to run his/her business. Let’s say we’re talking about an advertising agency. An ad agency would have enough experience with different copy writers, printers, media outlets, etc. to render a valid opinion on these types of services.
I believe a greater level of sophistication in social networking will be necessary to validate recommendations enough so to give them the greatest influence over rankings. Would the answer require too much personal information or perhaps a test to determine a person’s level of knowledge in a particular area? Most likely, we will watch the search engines test out different variables over time. Chances are the search engines recognize there are certain flaws right now or page rank and back links would have already been out the window.
Theresa Happe works with Name Find, a website that helps businesses find available domain names and social handles to go with them.