Search engine optimization is a constantly evolving field, responding both to changing consumer online habits and Google’s search algorithms to elevate the significance of content over other things. While Google has been on record stating that social signals do not contribute to search rankings for SEO, companies are still investing heavily towards integrating their social media strategies and SEO, finding that both benefit from the exposure.
Even though Google doesn’t factor social signals into ranking, SEO-focused marketers should continue to improve integration between the two digital marketing techniques, and this article highlights just why this is important.
Search rankings may or may not be improved using social media
Google has specifically stated that social signals are not, for them, an indicator of a certain profile’s trustworthiness and authority. However, they remain mum regarding the significance of links originating from social sites – are they credible backlinks? How much weight do they have? If a certain post goes viral on Facebook or Twitter for instance, will it get a higher ranking in organic search?
SEO marketers believe that backlinks from social media platforms to your website can have some impact on search rankings. Because social media is the platform through which content can be most easily circulated, links from sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google
+ among others can improve search engines’ perception of the worth of your content.
An interview with Google and Bing to investigate the significance of social links revealed that once again, the former doesn’t attribute much to social links for content, but the latter definitely does. Search engines like Bing consider not only the number of tweets and retweets a link has raised, but also the authority of Twitter accounts sharing that link.
Google’s Matt Cutts however mentions that Google also crawls social sites for data on search queries in the same way that other websites are crawled. That means the content occurring in social sites that is considered relevant to a query will be returned in search results the same way as other results. There is therefore a small possibility that social signals e.g. number of links to a specific site can still have some effect on search rankings in organic search.
Search engines rank social media profiles
Social profiles without doubt influence the content of search results, even though social shares or links may not. As a matter of fact, Google returns relevant social profiles very high on their ranks, such as for queries listing brand names. What’s more, the right-hand sidebar displays Google+ profile information right at the top of the page.
Social media accounts may seem more personal than websites, and are a great way for searchers to gain insight into a company’s personality. In fact, I typically go to a company’s social profile if I want to learn more about a brand that I’m not familiar with. Therefore, if social profiles come at the top of search results for a brand name query I enter, I’m just as likely to click on them as I would their website.
Social profiles are important for people searching for your brand online, especially those of the younger generation. Your social accounts can add the element of engagement, fun and personality to a brand whose official website is just so ‘serious’ for lack of a better word. Do not discount the significance of a Google+ profile in particular, even if it doesn’t seem to be as popular a platform as other social sites.
Social media platforms also have search algorithms
Gone are the days when Google, Bing and conventional search engines were the only sources of information about various things. Today, people use their social media accounts to search for things just like they would on Google. Search engine optimization should therefore include searches taking place in these social profiles.
Brands that by nature have attractive or catchy visual content can benefit greatly from promoting their presence on visual social platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Be careful to use the correct hashtags and properly categorize your boards and pins so that they can be found easily. Of course, this doesn’t dispense with the need to have active Twitter and Facebook profiles, where your audience is likeliest to start searching for you.
Start by running a quick search of your brand to find out how potential customers and searchers see you. Then, redefine your concept of SEO to focus, not just on conventional search engines, but also social media search engines. Ensure that your users can identify your official brand page by deleting duplicate accounts, or, where they must exist, clearly labelling the purpose of each page.
Google may still consider social signals
Even though Google doesn’t consider social signals as part of their algorithm right now, this doesn’t mean that they won’t in future. Google is constantly updating its algorithms to include valuable signals that will help them provide the most accurate information for search queries.
The significance of social media to a brand’s online presence is not likely to decline in the near future, especially because certain quality indicators like guest blogging have become less reliable in time. Therefore, it’s not utterly ridiculous to postulate that Google may hunt other signals for authority and trustworthiness, namely, social media. Smart brands should continue building their social profiles as part of the SEO and online marketing strategies. After all, it certainly cannot hurt them.
Bing is a valid search engine
When I asked for suggestion from Garry at BigDropInc he suggested “Even though many consumers use Google for search, there’s a significant proportion using Bing”. And Bing considers social signals quite highly in their search ranking algorithms. Bing looks at your social authority as a brand – how many people follow you, how many you follow – and these add some weight to your listing in search results pages.
As the second most-used search engine, you should be very interested in what they have to say, and tailoring your own strategies to fit into what they need. As their market share becomes more significant, your brand will enjoy the fruits of this in bucketfuls.