What matters is community - not just a few fans who like your posts on Facebook.

The internet we know today is nothing what it once was. The amount of data is unfathomable. Search engines have changed; they didn't worry about the quality of what they were indexing as much as the quantity " now they do.

Which means businesses have to change their approach to ranking.

It used to be enough to optimize your pages with headlines and titles, and some inbound links.

Search Wants Good Content

Then there was a shift to unique content; having the best for a niche meant higher rankings.

But coming up with quality content is expensive and time consuming. There were much easier ways to fake the same results:  buying links, building large content farms, focusing on directories, and blatantly stealing content were some of the absolute best ways to build up a ranking in the search engines quickly.

But Good Content Can Be Faked

Google realized too many websites were faking content or relying on less-than-moral means of generating exposure to rank.

So they changed the game, started to rely a bit heavier on social responses: Panda happened.

Social Signals Less So

Search engines have been looking at interactions occurring on social websites for a long time now.

The idea works like this: wherever the crowd says you should go for good taco recipes is likely to be the right place for taco recipes.

Search engines look for key trends in social discussions and rank based on those recommendations in addition to key parts of the already-in-place algorithm they use.

This shift to focusing on social discussion enabled Myspace to jump to the front of the search ranking pages for a lot of topics during 2007 through 2009.

Today if you search for anyone (nearly anyone at all) you're likely to see their Facebook profile, or YouTube page, or things they've posted to their Google Plus profile.

Which Means That

What matters most isn't optimization (though it's still very important) or content (though it's still very important) . What matters is community - not just a few fans who like your posts on Facebook.

We're talking about an active and engaged community who will talk about you, your products, and your content religiously. The Panda update from Google was merely the start of things to come.

Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, and Gary Vaynerchuk have been talking about tribes for a long time now. If you haven't been listening, you're already behind.

So how do you go about earning a community? If you don't have at least 25% of your search and content energy and funds being put into building and maintaining a community around your brand, where do you start?

We'll look at actively building a community more in my next post. For now, take the time to seriously think about the community or tribe that is surrounding your brand right now. How are you encouraging them to participate and building their trust? What benefits do they get for being fans of your business? In what ways could you give them more?