Up until recently, the volume and quality of links to a site played a key role in determining a website’s authority in search results. Many website owners therefore invested heavily in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to achieve first page rankings, often ignoring social media completely. But over the past few years, Google has made many changes to its ranking rationale, one being to increase the importance weighting of integrating ‘Social Signals’ into its search engine algorithms.
This is hardly a surprise, considering the growing popularity of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest, and what better way to determine organic relevance in search than for Googlebots to scan tweets, posts, +1s, Likes and shares of internet users?
The most notable algorithm updates include the initial Google Panda updates in February 2011, which focused on the quality of marketing content website owners publish online, closely followed by the Penguin Update in April 2012 which addressed unethical link building techniques. The recent Penguin pandemonium has resulted in the SEO community reassessing a number of SEO factors including the importance of social signals and their impact on rankings.
What are Social Signals?
Social signals refer to the number of tweets, likes or +1s a page or website receives. Many industry professionals believe that when a landing page or website receives a high level of Likes, shares or +1s then Google will place more trust in it and therefore rank it higher. Who you are socially, your authority, and the authority of those who talk about your company, all play a role.
Some SEO professionals have even suggested that social signals are gradually replacing links in terms of importance within Google’s ranking algorithm in the wake of Panda and Penguin updates. One thing is certain, social signals are set to gain more power over time.
What Does Google Say?
Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed that social signals will have a huge significance in Search over the next 10 years at the recent Search Engine Land SMX Advanced 2012 Conference in Seattle, Washington. However, Matt warned delegates not to write the epitaph for links just yet!
How Can You Integrate Social Media into Your SEO Strategy?
There are a number of measures you can take to incorporate social signals into a search engine optimization strategy. The following tips illustrate how you can achieve a Social SEO Strategy:
• Write interesting unique content which excites the reader to click and share
• Encourage reader comments on directories or review sites
• Encourage interaction and debate on blogs and social networking sites
• Include social bookmarking and share buttons on all webpages (including the deeper pages of your site for more engagement)
• Set up an official company Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ account
• Run Facebook competitions, photo sharing competitions or offer prizes for ‘best comments’
• Optimize Pinterest photo comments with important keyword phrases (but don’t over-SEO!)
• Try guest blogging to promote your brand name
• Consistently publish website content such as optimized blogs and press releases to social media channels
• Create a branded video campaign in the hope of it going viral
• Ask employees and other trusted partners to help get the ball rolling by sharing, liking and re-tweeting
• Connect and build strong online relationships with authority social media users and significant, trusted, authoritative sources
The Final Word
Overall, it is about striking a balance. Social signals are more important than ever and it’s extremely probable that their prominence will continue to develop over the next few years. However, you still need to get the basic elements of SEO right by providing fresh, unique content of a high quality and to optimize your website efficiently – get your technical SEO right. In terms of your Content Marketing Strategy, a combination of SEO and Social Signals will provide the best opportunity for future success.
About the author: Article by Lea Glover. – Digital Marketing – The Web Bureau