Once upon a time, Google and the other major search engines used mainly on-page signals to determine search rankings, scanning websites for links to determine which sites were more relevant. But this led to some people using shady link-building tactics to manipulate search results. Today, after years of algorithm updates, there are more ranking factors than ever before.
Links and on-page SEO still matter, but quality content, site usability, and click-through rates are also key. However, in today’s super-social online environment, most SEO experts agree that one of the best ways to improve rankings is by having a strong social media strategy. Basically, if you want to get noticed, you need to get social.
When Google’s Matt Cutts released a video in which he said that social signals such as Facebook Likes and Twitter followers do not affect search rankings, it came as a shock to many marketers. Aren’t social signals a sign of authority and reliability that Google factored into their search algorithm? On closer inspection, it’s not that simple. Although certain social signals don’t directly affect search rankings, being active on social media can have a significant impact.
Many marketers believe that links to your website from social networks help to boost your search rankings. By publishing useful and original content that is then shared across various social channels, you’re demonstrating to Google and other search engines how valuable your content is to users. It also shows which websites should be ranked for certain keyword phrases. In fact, Cutts said that Google does crawl social websites in the same way that it crawls regular sites, so links on your social pages could be counted as quality backlinks and therefore affect page rankings.
Don’t Forget Bing
Bing, the second most popular search engine, has been more straightforward in explaining how their algorithm uses social signals. A few years ago, they said that their algorithm takes into account the number of times a link is tweeted or retweeted, as well as the authority of Twitter users.
There’s no longer any doubt that social profiles affect search engine results. If you perform any search for a brand name, social media profiles are often among the top results. Social profiles are also important to people who are trying to find out more about your company, products, and services. Having a strong social presence builds your credibility and helps potential customers engage with your brand.
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, and other leading social networks now play a crucial part in the way people search online. Social networks are often the first port of call for finding out more about a company. SEO today should incorporate keyword strategies across social media channels to make your company more visible on these networks.
So what should business owners and marketers do to improve their search rankings through social media?
. Publish high quality, unique content. Great content is one of the most powerful ways to get noticed online and encourage more people to engage with your brand and link to your blog or website. Whether you create it yourself, or invest in well-written content, the ultimate aim is to publish useful, engaging, and unique content that people can link to on social networks
. Use Google+ more. Having a Google+ profile and using it to engage with your audience is still one of the most cost-effective ways to boost your search rankings, especially if you’re a smaller business trying to improve your local search rankings. Simply create a branded Google+ page and encourage fans to leave reviews of your business
. Don’t ignore image sharing sites. Images from sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr are all used for images searches on search engines. Just remember to link images back to your website using relevant keywords in the URL, include alt text and title tags, and name the images appropriately
The consensus among most marketers today is that social media plays a significant role in search rankings. Having up-to-date social profiles can clearly influence search rankings, and the power of social content to generate links and drive traffic is beyond doubt. Although Google says that social signals currently have no affect on search rankings, this could change in the future. The best strategy is to continue to produce unique, high quality articles and engage with your audience on social media. This will boost your traffic, strengthen your reputation, and help you reach your marketing goals.