The Impact of Social Media on Search Rankings and SEOHovey
If you were to suggest that social media was an important factor to ranking websites even a year ago, almost any Internet marketer or SEO consultant would have laughed at you. The idea of social signals impacting search rankings was hearsay at best. Then came round after round of major Google algorithm updates that have been shaking up the industry and have most consultants scratching their heads and running test after test to sort things out.
Google wants to integrate social media signals within its ranking algorithm and there is no denying that fact. Are they there yet? Not quite as far as I suspect they would like to be, but with the introduction of Google Plus in 2011 and their continuing quest for quality content as pushed through in their recent “Panda updates” they are well on their way.
In my opinion, there are two big factors of social media usage that Google will use to help rank websites and content. These include the website owners’ social authority, and the social proof of the content.
Social authority is your credibility as a person in online social communities. How many followers or fans do you have? How many circles are you in with your Google+ profile? When you use these social platforms to share content does the content actually get shared? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself to gauge your social authority.
This authority can be lent out to websites to help them rank. Telling Google that a particular person with a lot of social influence is the face behind a specific website is giving it a lot of credibility, especially compared to a randomly created website in the same industry.
This is a pull-your-hair-out ranking factor as it is incredibly difficult to measure for the analytical SEO consultants. To what extent your social authority plays to ranking your websites I’m still not sure but I can say with confidence that it does and will only increase in importance.
How do you lend social authority to a website?
So you’re active in the social media space, you have lots of followers, connections, fans, and lots of people circling you on Google+ but how do you make sure that Google knows you own a particular website or piece of content on the web?
Add them to your profiles.
Make sure your websites (even the ones you simply guest post on) appear in your website list in Facebook, your twitter website link, your list of sites within LinkedIn, and your Other profiles section in Google Plus.
Use rel=me and rel=author when posting content
This is by far the most important thing you can do to lend social credibility to a website or piece of content. If you want your face to appear in the search engines (and dramatically increase click through) you will want to use the recently introduced rel=”author” attribute. Here’s an example of a search engine listing when you use these attributes (notice my face and “by Adam Bate” that appears right within the search engines):
Instead of rehashing how to integrate this with your site here, check out this great guide. In a nutshell, you’ll need to setup a Google Plus profile and link to the websites that you actively contribute to with the rel=me attribute, and then link back to your Google+ profile using the rel=”author” from each of those pieces of content.
Another social factor I mentioned as playing an important role in ranking pages and content is social proof. Unlike social authority, social proof isn’t tied to one particular person. Instead, it is the measure of how often a page or piece of content was shared within social platforms.
In order to increase a page’s social proof make sure you make it easy for the content to be shared – adding some tweet, facebook like, and +1 buttons to the page is a good start. Also, make sure you are continuing to produce excellent content that is worthy of being shared in the first place.
There has already been a lot of testing in this space and although it is hard to say how much of an impact this has as a ranking factor, there is at least a correlation between highly ranked pages and social sharing of the content.