Social networking is probably the most revolutionary thing to happen to the internet since the invention of the internet. But one of the most interesting things about it is that it has largely grown up outside the influence of search engines. That is, until recently, most social networks were either completely closed off to search engines or were simply ignored by them. That’s a shame, considering that millions of links are shared daily through social media. That’s means your website was probably missing out on all the SEO love from the links being passed around social media. Thankfully, these things change, and search engines catch up.
One of the ideas passing through the SEO services community right now is the way that social media can affect SEO. As mentioned before, networks like Twitter and Facebook have been fairly closed off to search engines, but that is changing. Recently, both Google and Bing announced that they are taking into account publicly available Twitter and Facebook feeds in their search engine results and page ranking. But their announcement in the form of an interview over at Search Engine Land, wasn’t all that clear and was full of veiled comments. So everyone is still—basically—guessing at what that means and what impact integrating social media feeds will have on search engine ranking and SEO.
Hundreds of SEO professionals and enthusiasts are out there right now testing Bing and Google social search functions and integration to figure out exactly how a tweet or a Facebook share will factor into your site’s SEO. But while they’re doing that, Jennita over at SEOmoz, published a cool little case study about the power of a Tweet—shortly after the change to Google’s algorithm was made. In the study, Smashing Magazine, tweeted a link to a user guide on SEOmoz’s website. Soon after, SEOmoz realized that they were ranking on Google for “user guide”—not something they ever intended to do.
Having one tweet boost your traffic temporarily is nothing new. A tweet by an influential person can really get people jumping over to your site to see what’s going on. But this simple tweet seemed to have more power than a little traffic boost. It seemed to drive traffic for a sustained period of time and actually affect Google ranking far past a one-time boost in traffic. As a result, she says:
There seems to be some long-term, nascent value carried by tweets in addition to the short-term effects. If this is consistently observed, expect a lot more SEO activity around engaging and incenting tweeting to key URLs.
Other experts tend to agree and led one to conclude that Twitter might be the next, number one place to do link building.
But regardless of how tweets and status updates may or may not directly affect your website search engine optimization, using the social landscape for marketing (Facebook marketing, Twitter, marketing, etc.) can have an extremely positive effect on your site traffic and SEO.
Both Google and Bing aren’t clear on how links on Facebook and Twitter affect page rank, but they are very forward about their enthusiasm for new social integration features that allow users to get “personalized” search results.
A while back, you may remember that Bing and Facebook struck a deal whereby Bing could use Facebook’s public feeds in search results. As a result, if you are logged into Facebook and searching Bing at the same time, from time to time you may see a section at the bottom of your search results page that displays items related to your search that have relevance to your Facebook friends. Also, take into account that with new Google profiles. You can tie your social network accounts to your Google profile and receive personalized results that show you when a friend of yours shared a news article on Twitter, Facebook, or more.
Although, Google and Bing are clear on the fact that these features are simply for informational purposes, giving you a better search experience—not directly boosting page rank—they can have a very clear impact on your site traffic and SEO by acting as implicit endorsements to people who have their social search features enabled.
That is, imagine you shared a link about Iran through Twitter. If one of your friends has tied their social media accounts to their Google profile and they search for “Iran,” they could see your picture in the results, letting them know you shared content on that website. This little hint, this little bit of information, serves as an implicit approval of the website or article, and your friend will be more likely to click it than other search results.
But how can that boost SEO? If links to your content are being shared by a large number of people, they are more likely to show up in these social search engine results, driving more traffic to your site and boosting your SEO.
But in the end, any traffic to your site is good traffic to your site. So regardless of how much social media could boost your SEO, you should be out there participating in social media marketing and spreading your name and brand in as many social circles as you can anyway. The simple fact of the matter is, that any way you can get visitors to your website will be good for your page rank and your SEO—these announcement from Google and Bing simply sweeten the pot to do something you should already be doing.
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