How does Social Media Affect SEO in 2011?

In late 2010 Google (and Bing) made the inevitable announcement that Social Media was now part of their elusive search algorithm. Nevertheless, businesses all over the world are still failing to realise the true potential of Social Media presence and are losing out. Here is why it makes sense for the likes of Twitter, Facebook etc. to affect search results.

social-media-trend

As with all Search Engine Optimisation (the art of improving your ranking on Google), the principles are based on common sense:

Google is listening to Social Media because user generated content (e.g. conversations between people online) is a strong indication of what is important and relevant to search results.

And it is a reflection on the forever changing expectations of the average web user.

Many such “web users” have already realised the power of Social Media and how it is a quicker (and sometimes more accurate) news source than the professionals (quick examples include the Christchurch earthquake and UK Riots). These web users also know that reviews and comments through Social Media are more likely to be trustworthy than formal advertising elsewhere. And they would rather know what their online friends/community/celebs think than some piece of marketing on another website.

So of course Social Media is important. But how will it help your brand/business gain rankings in search engines?

Again, more common sense:

If your company name shows up more regularly in Social Media channels, then you are going to gain higher visibility, which should lead to a higher ranking.

Companies that do best are those that become trusted authorities on their specialist topics on channels like Twitter. Google likes these authoritative users. We already know that:

Google will promote links that have been retweeted or shared by “authoritatives” more than those shared by the average person.

You may have noticed I have been silent on blogging so far. Blogs are already well known for their benefits to a site’s SEO and so we do not need to repeat such reasoning. But for the purposes of this post I will state that they are important for helping increase a brand’s authority – by generating interesting, relevant content.

Of course it helps if you are creating backlinks to your own website and not just everyone else’s. But good Social Media content doesn’t just mean optimising your own site but your entire online presence. Let’s take a very simple example – searching “Lady Gaga”. Gaga is almost a brand in herself. Google will respond with her main website first, but then will give you Twitter, Wikipedia, recent news articles, YouTube videos, MySpace and Facebook (in that order). This is similarly true with many other, more complex search phrases… Which indicates that:

By creating appropriately optimised social content, it potentially allows you to occupy multiple positions on the same search query.

All of the above points to the benefits of Social Media on SEO. What’s even better is that Social Media is a relatively cheap form of digital marketing to businesses. It only really involves time, as opposed to other advertising, PPC, etc – which all costs money. Therefore it is now that companies need to take their heads out of the sand and start to recognise that Social Media is not just a fad that will pass.

The trick of getting ahead is getting started.

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