One of the most popular topics in the digital marketing industry of late is the relationship between social media and SEO. These two mediums present tremendous opportunity for brands, so it’s fairly obvious why marketing professionals seek to understand how these complement one another.
For months, there had been a lot of speculation and many research about whether social signals impact your search engine rankings. In January, Matt Cutts ended the debate on the impact of social signals on organic rankings. Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, made it perfect clear that Google does not use social signals from Twitter and Facebook in their search ranking algorithm.
This is a textbook Statistics 101 example of the difference between correlation and causation. There is clearly a correlation among brands that rank highly in search engines and those that are heavily involved in social media. However, we now know that this is not a causal relationship.
More than ever, Google is placing paramount importance on connecting users with the most relevant and useful content. Recent algorithm updates, such as Hummingbird, Panda, and Penguin, are proof that Google is looking to evolve how it evaluates websites based on solving an authentic human need.
So you need to create quality content that is valuable to and sought-after by your audience. But if no one sees or reads that content, your efforts are wasted. Publishing and promoting that content so it is seen/read by as many people as possible is crucial and that is where social media helps your SEO. Links remain an integral part of the rankings algorithms for all major search engines. The more people that see and share your content, the more likely it is that content will attract links from reputable sources.
That doesn’t mean that the purpose of social media is simply to push out content to support SEO. Social media and SEO have always been about your community. The most successful campaigns encourage engagement, sharing and active participation. Your brand should be on social media to connect with your audience, not to be a firehose promoting only your own content. It is important to strike a balance with your audience and share your content insofar that it encourages discussion.
Unlike many old, outdated SEO tactics, the links you get from social media are from real interactions. All of Google’s recent updates and changes are about real authentic links that are earned. Someone saw your tweet, post or article and interacted with it. They linked to it. They shared it with their followers, some of whom will link to it. These links are earned, not artificially generated to manipulate search rankings.
A recent report from MarketingSherpa shows that social media is used by 74% of marketers to help promote content that supports their SEO efforts, second only to webpages themselves (which 80% of marketers responded to using). In fact, social media is now more popular than blogs (68%) in terms of supporting SEO initiatives.
Additionally, a survey by Ascend2 & Research Underwriters found that 38% of business that have a SEO strategy they consider “highly effective” reported integration of social media and SEO tactics as a primary success factor.
A BrightEdge 2013 Search Marketer Survey indicated that 80% of marketers in the search industry believe social sharing will become more important in ranking in the future. Even Cutts acknowledged how Google treats social signals may change in the next decade as they are “more likely to understand identity and to understand the social connections between people.”
It is hard to ignore the breadth of information created and shared through social media every single day eMarketer study shows that on average, Americans spend 6.8 hours per week on Facebook, 5 hours on YouTube, 4.3 on G+ and 4.2 on Twitter. 75% of them log on to Twitter & Facebook every day. Smart marketers will recognize that this is where the web is trending and focus on creating integrated marketing campaigns rather than exclusively SEO and social media campaigns.
Social Media is one of the most effective ways to build an audience and share your information that will get people to engage and share that information. Although Google has emphatically declared that social factors currently do not influence search rankings, there is clear correlation between the signals. Social media is an opportunity to reach more of your audience, which in turn creates more opportunities to secure links that will directly influence your search ranking position.
See also: How Social Media Can Affect Your SEO
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