Social media connects all of us, and with the exception of those who stay largely off the social media grid, it permeates our lives increasingly. One aspect of life that social media has begun to impact in economically-significant ways is SEO. Though it’s already started to have an impact, social media and its social signals are poised to play a larger part in SEO in 2014. At the intersection of Facebook/Twitter/other social media and search engines is a veritable gold mine for your business – provided you understand that intersection and commit to using it wisely.
1. Social Signals are Proven to Influence Rankings
So how, exactly, do social signals impact your site’s SEO ranking? Plenty of studies have been conducted, and, while results aren’t entirely consistent, many suggest that popular response to your brand’s Facebook and Twitter presence makes a difference. According to Searchmetrics, topping the influence chart is the number of Facebook shares your brand has. Facebook likes and comments are an important factor, followed by tweets mentioning your brand or website. It’s been found that the number of people with you in their Google+ circles also makes a difference.
It’s worth noting that other sites – LinkedIn, Pinterest, Yelp, Google Local, etc. – can and do impact the effectiveness of your company’s online/social media presence. Not as much research has been conducted on their direct impacts, but positive exposure (good reviews on Yelp or Google Local, for instance) are always helpful.
In our changing social media climate, it’s likely that social signals will continue to become even more important for SEO rankings. Here are six reasons why, come 2014, social signals will have a larger impact on your brand’s SEO:
2. Consumers of Tomorrow use Social Media Heavily
Today’s twenty-somethings got used to Facebook and Twitter as children and adolescents, but kids of today have been steeped in social media. They’ve had their baby pictures Facebook-posted ASAP and have had social media accounts since they could type. Facebook and Twitter are shaping an entire generation of media-savvy users who recommend brands using social networks. On the whole, people already spend more time on social media than they do on search engines. As these media-savvy kids and adults network, the total activity on Facebook and Twitter increases. Every share or like that involves your business impacts your SEO ranking.
Though links and content are still the biggest SEO factors, the growing importance of social media makes it very likely that, in the not-so-distant-future, social signals will eclipse links as the dominant SEO ranking factor. SEO changes with people and time, and the increasing dominance of social media makes it a difficult force to ignore.
3. Google Is Getting Smarter
Links used to be the dominant factor in SEO, but social signals have begun to take over as the world becomes more media-savvy. Similarly, keywords used to be a main factor. In a largely-successful effort to weed out poorly-done, keyword-stuffed articles from the top search engine results, Google now actually penalizes articles with too many keywords. Real people know keyword-stuffing when they see it, and now SEO does, too. By relying on human-generated signals like those found in social media, SEO is able to rank search results more like an actual person would. Good SEO practice changes with the times, and with the times shifting in favor of social media, it’s likely that SEO will start to rely even more on signals from social media sites.
4. You Trust Friends More Than Search Engines
Most people trust a personal recommendation more than they trust the recommendation of a search engine. Recommendations used to be largely by word of mouth, but now, many people recommend businesses online through social networks. As social media activity increases, more people are sharing pages of businesses they care about, and they may even be making recommendations in comment sections, etc. Search engine analysis, by treating Facebook shares as recommendations, is able to identify which businesses have the largest percentage of satisfied customers. Facebook recommendations and shares (and especially Google +1′s) are quickly becoming the new positive Yelp review.
Social Presence Is the Future of Your Business
Statistically, the most successful businesses have a strong social media presence. Being present on Facebook and Twitter leads to brands having better conversion rates, better brand loyalty, and higher sales. This leads to a positive cycle of reinforcement: more social presence leads to more shares, likes, recommendations, etc. This boosts SEO ranking.
Success means being visible to your customers, and when the vast majority of your customers are on social media sites, it makes sense for your business to be there, too.
5. Social Media Increases Indirect Impact
Even if you’re skeptical of the impact social media signals have on SEO rankings, social media presence has a sizable indirect impact on business success. When your brand, business, etc. has a powerful social media presence, visibility increases. Visibility increases brand awareness, and this of course leads to more inbound links. The increase in exposure and visitors makes it so there are, in all likelihood, more satisfied customers who are (hopefully) writing more positive reviews in other social media circles like Google Local and Yelp. Having positive exposure like this can increase traffic to your site. It tends to decrease bounce rate, lead to increased time spent on your site, and lead to more repeat visitors – all good things when it comes to SEO.
6. Social Media Personalizes Your Brand
In a world saturated with advertising and various forma of media, it can be difficult to establish a connection with consumers. This gets more difficult if you’re a major corporation. Historically, little mom-and-pop organizations have made some of the most memorable connections with their customers. How? Customers felt connected to and appreciated. They could put a face to the brand name. It’s this same phenomenon that makes many people choose community-owned coffee shops over corporate ones – baristas know their names, make drink recommendations, etc.
How do you translate this sort of personalization to a social media presence? Having a presence on a variety of platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, even Pinterest) and then posting regularly gives a “voice” to your company or brand. You might not be looking across a counter at your customers, but interacting with them through social media personalizes your business and makes it seem less abstract. No matter how big your business is, it takes one person to type out a post or a tweet. Those posts or tweets give one human voice to your business, and that distills even the biggest businesses into relatable media presences.
Social media is already affecting SEO, but what we see now is just a glimmer of the influence social media is bound to eventually have. It’s been predicted that brands that utilize social media will surpass those that don’t use it, because social media grants a vast exposure that traditional media simply cannot give. Giving your company a real, believable presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other social sites helps you to interact with customers the world over on a personal level. As interactions between customers and between businesses and clients proliferate on social media, they become defining factors in vital SEO rankings of 2014 and beyond.