It’s no secret now that social media activity has a wide-ranging impact on search engine results both for the short and long term. While Google and Bing may use social network results somewhat differently at this time, especially since no one can directly confirm their methods for reaching search results, there are a number of key impacts that social media is currently having on SEO. Here are five of them, with insights from thought leaders in our industry:
1. Facebook Shares Correlate with Higher Rankings
Rand Fishkin started to tap into possible correlations between social media and search results in July 2011 when his study found that Facebook shares in particular correlated with higher search engine rankings. He wrote, “Pages that earn tweets + Facebook shares also correlate well with earning links, and send direct traffic on their own – ignoring these services at this point seems foolish.”
While Fishkin expected Twitter to be more powerful than Facebook, his results suggested that Facebook shares were the most important correlation between posts that had search engine rankings.
2. The End of SEO Spam?
If you search for the phrase “social media and SEO” you’ll still be inundated with quite a few “low authority” websites that have been written by authors who know how to max out their search rankings without necessarily gaining an organic following based on their expertise. This situation could be on its way out thanks to social integration into SEO.
Rand noted in another post, “To me, the most exciting part about this is the potential to reduce webspam and return to a more purely editorial model. While people often link to, read and enjoy sources that link out manipulatively, very few of us will be likely to follow a Twitter account, friend someone on Facebook, or “like” something in a social site that’s inauthentic, manipulative or spammy. The social graph isn’t necessarily cleaner, but the complexity of spam is far lower.”
Brian Clark of Copyblogger adds, “sharing on Google+, retweets on Twitter, and to some extent Facebook likes and shares, matter too. Social media definitely impacts search results, and the ‘voice of the people’ is making it much more fair to those of us who create great content. And that’s how it should be.” Social media signals could be the start of a move toward search results that are more useful and authoritative.
3. Overall Popularity on Facebook is Important for Bing
Bing is pulling directly from social sharing results according to Mashable: “Bing announced better results through Facebook data and ‘collective IQ,’ meaning that things popular throughout Facebook (not just among your friends) rank more prominently.” The wider your reach on Facebook in particular, the better your social search ranking on Bing will be.
While Google+ can also have a powerful impact on your search results on Google, the majority of studies at this point suggest that Facebook is one of the most powerful sources for an SEO boost in the search rankings for your website content.
4. Social Media Can Give Your Website an SEO Boost
The social signals that search engines follow don’t always lead to permanent results that will leave you at the top of the search rankings. However, if you can use social media to promote a particular page that is integrated with your website, especially for a limited time promotion, you can structure your links so that your page receives a boost that may even have some lasting results.
This is a great way to drive a lot of traffic to your website and boost your SEO. Ray Comstock of Search Engine Watch writes, “One issue I often see with folks who are using these sites to promote content is that they often promote URLs that are different than the preferred landing pages for their most important keywords. They create a new URL (sometimes a new micro-site) to promote a new piece of content rather than update an existing URL that already has some historical link connectivity.” In other words, ditch the landing page and use your main URL for all social media promotions.
5. Boost Your Local Search
You can use social review sites like Yelp and Google Places to get reviews of your business and to boost your local search results. According to Tommy Landry of Search Engine Journal, “Sites like Yelp and Places are great for earning reviews about your business. It is, as usual, most important to get more reviews from authoritative or influential individuals. It is also important that those individuals provide high ratings on whatever review scale the sites use. If your location is correct on these sites and the reviews start to flow from the ‘elite,’ it will help your site rank locally.”
The most important item on your to-do list for SEO is to generate a higher organic SEO ranking that will last for the long term and drive relevant traffic to your site. Social media sharing and its integration into search engine results certainly changes the SEO game, but these are welcome changes that should prompt website owners to put their best content forward.
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