Any SEO campaign cannot afford to ignore social media. It has become a basic part of a SEO plan and thus, you have to take part in at least some section of it if you wish to rank with Google. An online business today must use social media in some way to achieve success.
Let’s take an example to illustrate the efficacy of social media. If you are searching for a local business’s working hours, a Facebook business page will provide you great, quick results. Indeed, it will be easier than going to the company’s official website and then tracking down its business hours. The Facebook page does it for you instantly!
Other statistics are also revealing. Jeff Bullas reports that the combined number of visits of Facebook and Twitter (809 million and 416 million per month, respectively) are less than the visits on Google+ (1.2 billion), which shows how Google+ has grown and how important it has become. And TechCrunch reports that between the first and second quarters of 2013, Facebook’s mobile users numbers worldwide went up from 425m to 469m, as much as 10.3%.
Some experts say these figures are based on inconclusive methods of calculation. But debating them will make little sense or any difference. What really matters is to find out the actual changes that affect searches as well as the real changes that have taken place.
One thing that cannot be debated is the manner in which social media affects the decisions that customers make. A Search Engine Land 2012 study states that 72% customers have as much trust in online reviews as they do in personal recommendations. It also states that 50% plus customers said that good reviews online raised the chances of a local business getting buyers. And E-consultancy’s figures, 88% check out reviews before making up their mind to buy or not to buy, also prove that social media has an effect on conversion rates.
We can thus say with some degree of conviction that social media does have an impact on search and that it is an essential factor in SEO. All search engines are looking at the peoples’ reaction to what you are saying on social media and the number of likes you get, the information that is being shared, whether you are a huge influencer in your niche and so on.
Another aspect of social media is that employers too are watching it carefully to assess their potential employees. The Independent Voter’s Network has stated that one out of ten young people have not been given the jobs they applied for and were interviewed for because of what they had posted on their social media network. It could have been something radical or racist or not politically correct, or something that their likely employer thought was offensive. Google is watching you too! But the reason they are doing it is to ensure that their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are clean. Their aim is to eliminate spam. If you are being racialist or churning out ads on your Facebook page, Google will see it. You will scare away search engines and your SEO effort will come to nothing.
How Social Media Impacts SEO
In May 2013, the Google Penguin update changed the face of SEO forever. Hundreds of thousands of websites were outlawed for making use of black-hat methods. When Google changed its algorithm for SEO, the world of search engine optimization turned on its head.
Let’s see how social media impacts SEO post-Penguin. Your website must be stronger than other websites; that is, it must have higher rankings. A stronger website gets you higher up in search results leading to better visibility and finally enabling you to attract more visitors for your services/goods. To attain this level your site must have greater authority.
Let’s see how this authority is calculated. There are some precise factors that are considered by search engines when calculating authority, but SEO experts don’t know exactly which metrics count the most. Google does not specify its metrics that determine authority, but in its Webmaster Guidelines, it refers to some factors that matter more than others. Like using good content that will help users and shunning nasty/sneaky techniques like hidden text, doorway pages.
How to Recognize High Quality Content
Some SEO experts say that terms like Search or Content Optimization will be more appropriate terms than SEO, for content now has to be high quality and must also be directed at human beings, not engines. Apart from seeing various ranking signals on-site, robots also look for other signs on social media like link content sharing and brand mentions. Social media has been playing an important role in SEO for quite some time, but now greater emphasis is being placed on it. Here is how it plays its role:
- Engagement: Likes, Re-Tweets and shares are an indication of fresh and interesting content. Generally only content that is good is shared and talked about. Googlebot likes shared content and both the frequency of the shares and the authority of the persons sharing, plays a significant role in SEO.
- Linked Content: Rel=”author” enables Google to track all your linked content and credit it to one original source. Theoretically speaking, this must stop sites that syndicate content benefiting by being wrongly credited as the primary source.
- Mentions: Mentions on social media tell search engines that you are authentic and authoritative and that you have engaged followers who like your content.
- Backlinks: Backlinks do matter. Enforced black-hat tactics are not as effective as before. Now the emphasis is firmly placed on organic backlink building; the kind of backlinks that are generated due to content sharing on websites like Pinterest or re-blogging.
From the above we can conclude that if your content is not being actively shared, engaged with or talked about, then chances are that people are not finding your content to be of much value. Then, as far as ranking signals go, it will send a strong message to the search engines. And if sites similar to yours are being shared and talked about, then, all other signals being equal, the site creating less of a social buzz will lose out and its visibility in search will drop sharply.
Which Network to Use?
The norm is, spend one hour daily on social networks and choose two or three of the five highest rated ones – Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter. The choice will be both personal and professional and will also depend on your kind of business or product and service. A tip: the obvious choice for professional individuals is LinkedIn. If you have to select just one, go for the Google+ which is the most important network for search listings.
In a bid to transform Google+ into the site that gets together all its social analytics and measurement, Google recently introduced a total redesign of Google+. The giant search engine can naturally track Google+ in full. Google will thus have access to vital data about the things that people really love and share besides the responses of all brands. As it can measure social media data from Google+, Google can correct disproportionate importance that links are given, and social media signals can replace them as a vital aspect of the ranking algorithm. For instance, if there’s a site with many thousands of links which were probably bought via an ad campaign and if that site doesn’t have any social media engagement, is that site’s ‘popularity’ for real? Tracking social media helps Google get a true sense of the things people are really talking about.
Social media will keep on growing. This is pretty certain due to the exponential growth of mobile devices. This fact is born from the Hubspot blog report which claims that 15% of time spent on internet from mobile devices is on social networks. Since this means that people want to connect with one another, social media can help you build up the like and trust with likely clients that will help your business. Also, according to the Hubspot report, marketing leads emanating from social media are twice those coming from direct mail, PPC, trade shows or telemarketing. The report also claims that conversion rates on social media are 12% more than normal conversion rates.
*Tthis is a guest article by Alan Smith*