There’s been a great deal of debate among SEO professionals over the past few months about just how much search engines pick up on “social signals” when determining the authority, relevance and most importantly overall rankings of websites.
Back in December Danny Sullivan of the popular SEO blog, Search Engine Land quizzed both Bing and Google about whether they take social signals into account. He found:
“Both Google and Bing have added many social search features over the past year. There’s also been talk about using “social signals” to help rank regular search results. But are either of the major search engines actually using those social signals to rank regular search results? A bit, they tell me. In particular, your stature on Twitter could help influence how a page ranks in web search.”
This left Danny wondering what exactly Google and Bing look for on Twitter and he asked whether re-tweeting content would act as a signal for the original creator and here were the responses:
“We do look at the social authority of a user. We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results. It carries much more weight in Bing Social Search, where tweets from more authoritative people will flow to the top when best match relevancy is used.”
“Yes, we do use it as a signal. It is used as a signal in our organic and news rankings. We also use it to enhance our news universal by marking how many people shared an article.”
So, although tweets and re-tweets can easily be used as a social signal, what about Facebook? Many users are now controlling how much information the general public can see and making certain updates, information and photos private. Surely there’s a lot of information being shared on Facebook that could be relevant but that the search engines won’t pick up on?
Well, according to Search Engine Land, both Bing and Google do their best to find out who’s sharing and liking anyway:
“Yes. We look at links shared that are marked as “Everyone,” and links shared from Facebook fan pages.”
“We treat links shared on Facebook fan pages the same as we treat tweeted links. We have no personal wall data from Facebook.”
Rank Fishkin of SEO Moz and The Daily SEO Blog has recently tested the impact of social signals on search ranking as much as possible in order to see just how important they are.
He found that on the whole there was a strong correlation between websites that ranked well and social signals such as shares, likes and re-tweets.
The introduction of the Google+1 button to all websites in recent weeks is also bound to have an affect on search rankings, as it aims to improve search results via specific recommendations from friends and connections.
The different results and findings are very interesting and regardless of just how much the search engines look for social signals, there’s no denying that improving search rankings is no longer just about keywords and SEO exercises, social considerations are just as important.
So how can you use these “social signals”?
One of the main indicators seems to be the sharing of content both on Facebook and on Twitter as a re-tweet. Therefore, businesses and website owners need to think about creating compelling content that can easily be shared.
The Fuel your Creativity blog explains the six reasons people want to share content:
- Useful / Informative
- Unique / Original
- Funny / Entertaining
Therefore, your website needs to have a very definite content strategy in order to make sure what you’re creating isn’t just interesting to you, but to your readers. This may mean adding more in-depth descriptions to product pages or breaking that lengthy blog post up into an informative “how-to” guide.
Adding buttons that make it even easier to re-tweet or “like” your content will also increase the likelihood that it’ll be shared, so make sure these icons are present and most importantly highly visible.
Finally, you must have an online presence on Facebook and Twitter. Maintaining a strong presence in these spaces increases the chance that another user will share your content. For instance, more people re-tweet your content if they see a blog post that you’ve been tweeting about, as apposed to finding it on the site and tweeting about it themselves. This doesn’t mean plenty of people don’t do the latter, but it just maximises the visibility of the blog post.
All of the new and constantly changing information about how search engines calculate authority and rankings can be daunting. However, it’s something that you should feel excited to understand and not frightened by. If you want to know more about how Google determines raknings and what you can do to improve yours with both traditional SEO methods and social signals, then get in touch with one of the Codastar team and well be happy to break it down for you.
Images via MoneyBlogNewz, Twitter Logos and Icons and Sean MacEntee.
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