Google Real Time Search – Impact on Small Businesses

google real time searchGoogle introduced us to Real Time Search last week and this has been met with a lot of questions. What Tweets will show up in real time? How will this effect businesses who are and those who are not engaging in social media? How will it effect PPC?  Where do the searches show up? The biggest question is what impact will this have on my small business? Small business owners are met with limited resources and adding any additional hours into their day is nearly impossible. But can a small business ignore real time search?

What is Real Time Search? As per Google

“… new features that bring your search results to life with a dynamic stream of real-time content from across the web. Now, immediately after conducting a search, you can see live updates from people on popular sites like Twitter and FriendFeed, as well as headlines from news and blog posts published just seconds before. When they are relevant, we’ll rank these latest results to show the freshest information right on the search results page.”

In other words, your tweets from Twitter and new blog articles will be appear as “Latest Results.” The latest results are featured in 2 ways.

a. On the search results page below the “News Results” (if there are news results). This appears for very hot topics that are getting a lot of activity.

b. “Show Options” menu: the list of All Results, click on “Latest” and the live search results will appear.

What does this mean for small businesses?

1. Customer Experience.  Consumers are much more savvy and they are going online for more information.  A quick Google search will provide them possibly more information about your company than you might have thought. A business cannot control what a person tweets about. As we see in this example, tweets are posted when they mention a topic, business name, a name, etc.

real time search

image courtesy: Lifehacker.com

Most tweets, blog entries and company mentions will show up under “Latest” and not on the main search results page however if a consumer wants to see more information about you, they have the this at their fingertips.

2. Reputation Management.  Not every business is on Twitter or have a blog and nor do they belong. However, ignoring your “Latest” news completely presents a problem. If a consumer is singing your praises or worse a bad comment is written and you do not respond, you are adding fuel to the fire. That customer has been given a chance to continuously go on and on about your company/brand whereas the praise singer, just got deflated with no feedback from you to continue. Failing to monitor your reputation online could result in some missed opportunities or a decreased company image that leads to reduced sales.

3. Spam. Yes there will be spam as spammers are going to jump on this like ants at a summer picnic. While Google will make every attempt to try and control this, the current algorithm for posting in real time makes that nearly impossible. How does this affect a small business? Spammers very well could keyword stuff tweets to get ahead and push your company lower on the tweets area.  This is going to happen, there is no control right now but the key is to try and stay ahead of them.

4. Search Engine Optimization. This is still a yet to be seen however will real time search improve page rank? Will keyword laden tweets that are tweeted over and over from different accounts that push a company to the top of a searched term make a difference?  Will this be seen as spam?  The keyword laden tweets will give great results for the company for a specific term especially for those high difficulty to rank terms and even if for a short time if  your company is a top of the tweet, you may reap some rewards.

Real time search is not just the posting of tweets. It also posts company mentions from blog articles.  So if your company has a blog, you may want to check out your “Latest”.

In small business branding we have to consider social media marketing as an extension of your brand in the same way that we do traditional advertising.  For some businesses, it is a time of uncertainty once as just when you were able to commit to social media or not commit, they go and change the rules of the playground.  As stated earlier, not every business needs to be on twitter as a “crickets” account is worse than no account at all.  But at this time can you just still ignore the social media community?

The good news here is that if you are able to squeeze in an extra hour as a small business owner, you can go and see what terms are popular in our industry and see what is being said about you to see if you need to go full steam ahead in 2010.  I say that most will need to as social media marketing has just started to make a big impact and getting in now will make a world of a difference in a year or so.

Thoughts?  Is real time search just a new way for spammers to make some money? Is this the new keyword stuffing that we got away from?

photo credit: dullhunk