Ever since the online world was stormed by social networks of all sorts, right from the ubiquitous Facebook to Twitter to little less known likes of Pinterest, their role in affecting Google rankings has been questioned, examined, and discussed by experts and enthusiasts alike. Should social media be a primary part of your SEO strategy? If yes, what are the various social signals that affect the SERP?
The talks about influence of social media on search engine rankings go as long ago as 2010, when the leading search engine specialist and editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan suggested in his insightful article that Google and Bing have added many social search features over the past year. Back then, there were only two social media networks that everyone cared about, and that were Facebook and Twitter.
Fast forward to the current era, and you will be surprised to know what Google thinks about the social signals, particularly about Facebook and Twitter’s role in increasing search engine rankings. When Google’s spam engineer Matt Cutts was asked in his webmaster video help whether Facebook and Twitter signals are a part of the algorithm, here is what he replied:
Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index so if something occurs on Twitter or occurs on Facebook and we're able to crawl it, then we can return that in our search results. But as far as doing special specific work to sort of say “you have this many followers on Twitter or this many likes on Facebook”, to the best of my knowledge we don't currently have any signals like that in our web search ranking algorithms.
So, Google’s stance is pretty much clear with this reply, and that refers to not considering social signals from Facebook and Twitter while doling out query results.
So why is everyone including social media in their SEO strategy?
According to a Searchmetrics study it was found that the impact on rankings come from
● Number of Facebook shares
● Number of likes on Facebook page
● Number of followers on Twitter
● Number of people have you in their G+ circle
● Number of tweets mentioning your brand name or including a link to your website
In addition to these measurable and tangible social media metrics, there are other factors that have an indirect impact on the search rankings such as increased citations, improved brand awareness and new brand reviews on various review sites such as Google Local, Yelp and others. Besides, customers that have become familiar with your brand through social media are more likely to become repeat visitors, have a greater chance of staying on the page and better engagement in the form of comments and UGC (User Generated Content).
Google+: A social experiment that has SEO benefits
When Google started Google+ many thought of it as a competitor social network to Facebook. However, little one had a clue that Google had different plans. An inseparable part of the Google platform, G+ actually serves a greater purpose. This post at Moz, describes in very clear terms how Google+ is passing SEO benefits to websites. Thus a social networking platform now has become one of the most important medium for improving the SEO of your brand. With Hummingbird, one thing that has become clearer is Google’s better preparedness for processing social signals.
The future of social signals for SEO
Even if Google is not extensively using social signals now, they certainly intend to use them in the future. Here are some reasons for the same:
Social media is fast becoming the de-facto medium for consumers to connect and interact with their favorite brands. Present day millennial are tomorrow’s influencers and all of them have a presence on at least one of the major social networks. People already spend more time of social networks than search engines and there is no way Google can ignore this consumer behavior while deciding a brand’s trustworthiness and reliability, because in the end, Google’s main mission is to deliver the best results to users.