SEO - Social Media - Blogs - Internet

It is no longer a question of if social media affects search engine optimization, but how? Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past few years, you have seen social media grow into increasing importance and near ubiquity. From the early days of My Space to the meteoric rise of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to the recent new comers such Pinterest, social media is here to stay. But the question is how does it play into your overall SEO strategy?

The Social / Search connection is still in the early stages of the game and is evolving quickly. It will likely change considerably over the next couple of years. So, stick with the fundamentals and keep your focus on your audience.

Start with a Good Social Strategy

So, where to start? You should start with a good social strategy. While a discussion on social media strategy is for another day, you should start with setting up your profiles and Fan Pages in the various Social Sites. This includes setting up a Facebook Fan Page, Google+ Business Page, LinkedIn Company Profile, and a Twitter account for starters. You’ll want to focus your efforts on the sites where most of your prospects are. This might require some experimenting and research, but it can provide invaluable insight.

How The Search Engines Interact With Social Media

Once you have your profiles set up, it is good to have some understanding of how the social media sites interact with the search engines. Two important concepts are: Social Media Signals and Personalized Search.

What are Social Media Signals?

Social media signals are “signals” that the search engines use to help assess the value of particular content or website. These are still in their infancy. You should expect them to evolve as search engines get better at understanding these signals and assessing their value.

There are different types of signals that the search engines might use. Examples would include sharing signals such as “Retweets” on Twitter, or shares on Facebook or Google+. There are also simple quantitative signals such as a Facebook “like” or a Google +1. These signals can also factor in the “Authority” of the people sharing the content based on things such as the ratio of followers to the number of people a particular person follows.

For instance, if you hire Victoria the professional organizer to help you organize your house and she does a great job, you might tweet about that and give a link to her website. That tweet would act as a social signal. If you had a ton of followers, then that tweet might even be viewed with higher importance because you had more authority.

What is Personalized Search?

In case you weren’t aware, not everyone sees the same search results for the same search. Your search results can be influenced by outside factors, such as your search history, your location, whether or not you are logged into your social media sites and your connection of friends. The search engines have realized that people will tend to trust recommendations from their friends and have begun to integrate those into their search results.

Google introduced “Search Plus Your World” and extended their search personalization. While previously it was primarily based on your search history, they expanded it to take into account results based on social connections in your Google+ account. So, when you are logged into your Google account and perform a search, if anyone in your circles has +1’d or shared an article, it is more likely to show up in your top results.

Bing also recently introduced a similar concept in connection with Facebook. If you are signed into Facebook and perform a search on Bing, you will see a list of your Facebook friends “who might know” and can ask friends for ideas about a search.

Social Media and Your SEO Link Strategy

Social media also plays into your overall SEO strategy through link building. Generally speaking, most social media sites will include a “nofollow” tag on any outbound links. The “nofollow” tag is html code that tells the search engines that this link should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine index. However, these links still come into play. As discussed above, they can provide social media signals. But they also can help make others aware of your content and encourage additional sharing and linking back to your site.

Next Steps: Leveraging Social Media

Here are some steps to keep in mind:

  1. Set up your social media fan pages and profiles
  2. Be active in the social media where your target audience hangs out
  3. Develop great content that people would want to share
  4. Make it easy to share your content and encourage sharing
  5. Engage your audience
  6. Share other articles and items of value with your audience, not just your own

Conclusion

While Social Media is still in its infancy, I believe it is here to stay for the foreseeable future. It is important to claim your space and engage your audience. Your Social Media efforts can help you build links, improve quality signals, and influence personalized search results. It is an increasingly important component for your overall SEO strategy. Have you started implementing your social media strategy yet?