In January 2014, Google’s Matt Cutts released a video saying that social signals––metrics such as Facebook likes and Twitter followers, which indicate a profile’s authority and influence––do not affect search rankings.
This statement threw marketers for a loop; they had been operating under the assumption that social signals were factored into Google’s search algorithm as an indication of trustworthiness and quality.
We’ve decided to dig deeper into what this means for businesses.
Multiple studies find that between 75 and 85% of agencies feel that social media is either partially or highly integrated into their SEO strategy. However, social signals, like number of likes or followers, have NO power over search rankings. A profile might have the authority or influence, but they can still miss being searched.
Many marketers operate under the assumption that social signals are automatically factored with Google search’s algorithm since they appear to indicate a quality and trust in the company. However, it is time to explore the relationship between social media and SEO. SEO-focused marketers need to think differently regarding social media since social signals have been booted. To begin, let’s explore the background and dialogue around social and SEO for the past several years.
First a History Lesson:
Google’s lack of attention to social signals when ranking a webpage comes as a shock since executives have previously said these signals were factored into rankings. When exploring how Bing and Google look at social signals for ranking, both search engines have admitted that who a person is on Twitter impacts a page’s abilities in regular web searches.
Varying surveys and case studies from 2013 added weight to this idea, so it can be understood why marketers remain annoyed and upset when Google changed their position in just three years. However, regardless of the back and forth, a new idea is emerging: social is the new SEO.
Why you may ask? That is precisely what is being examined here. Read about 5 factors in need of consideration when discussing social on SEO.
- Profiles from Social Media and Rank in Search Engines
Any shares on your social media may not impact search listings, but the social profiles certainly influence the content of search results. As a matter of fact, social media profiles stay within the top results for search listings among brand names. Remember, social media channels become more personal to people over webpages. Plus, they allow companies to show off their personality. Most people immediately search businesses on Twitter or Facebook or at least will click to them if they appear at the top of searches.
What does this mean? No one can doubt that your social media profile matters to Google or anyone looking for you online. Simply having a variety of channels on social media makes your company more interactive, entertaining, and personal. Be sure to have your profiles up to date and full of engaging content.
- If not now, will it ever?
While Google states that social signals will not affect search ranks now, it does not mean forever. Social media is growing in popularity and remains vital for a brand to exist. Since including link-building tasks like guest blogging have made it harder to determine the webpage’s quality, it only makes sense that search engines start looking for other signals for value or authority.
What does this mean? No current indications say social signals won’t start affecting search rankings again. Smart brands keep their authority, or build it, by staying with key social channels and keeps this in mind when determining their SEO strategy.
- Your Search Rank May or May Not Be Affected by Social Links
Social signals based on the authority of your profile can no longer be considered, but what about the links published on social accounts? Are they credible backlinks? If your blog post goes viral, could the new links boost search ranking?
Most marketers feel links for your website within your social media accounts have massive impact on rankings. By including those links in multiple social media networks, you are verifying your credibility for the search engines plus it helps when comparing keyword phrases. Google initially said it never incorporated into their search rank algorithm the number of times a link was tweeted, but now they do. Bing has always said they look through this data. While social signals no longer factor into the search algorithm, Google trolls social websites for data the same as any other site. Therefore, even though a social account cannot impact search rank, if a link is published on the same account it has the potential to be marked as credible and in turn influence a page’s rank.
What does this mean? Google’s lack of factoring in social signals means clues regarding a company’s authority on social media is separate from the amount of times pages become linked to social media.
- Search Engines Find Themselves in Social Media Channels
While Bing and Google remain a prime spot for searching, they are not the end all. Many people visit social media channels to find what they need. Social media is becoming the new SEO because search engine optimization includes any searches that occur within any social media’s search engines.
Search engines within social media work in two ways. First, when active on Twitter, people can discover your company’s new content distribution app when searching for content marketing-related tweets using Twitter’s search engine. Similarly, brands lending themselves to beautiful visual content benefit because their content becomes visible on Pinterest or Instagram using hashtags and categorizing.
Secondly, as mentioned above, if a person needed to check out your company, they’re more certain to open Twitter or Facebook and search for your presence there.
Need proof? Here are some stats are social media searches:
- Twitter sees 24 billion search engine queries each month
- Facebook sees 2 billion searches each day
- YouTube sees roughly 6 billion queries a month; plus, 300 hours of video are uploaded each minute
What does this mean?
Companies need to expand their concept of SEO beyond the traditional like Google or Bing into social search engines. Also, when searches occur for brands on Facebook or Twitter, several profiles can show and the real one can be hard to find. Ensure they are incredibly easy for anyone searching to identify the right one. It could mean deleting duplicate account or clearly labeling each for their purpose.
While Google’s search algorithm disregards social signals, no marketer should take it as a signal to dismiss social’s impact on SEO. Rather, marketers should widen the idea of search and SEO to consider the multiple ways people find content when searching the web. Other considerations should include the positive effects on search ranks from increasing traffic in social and the prevalent status of social profiles on first-page search results.
Remember, the web builds relationships, expresses identity, nurtures audiences, and shares ideas. It is, in fact, social. SEO best practices do not go against what is popular and known. SEO’s intent is to create a web that is not only useful, but an enjoyable experience.