While social media and SEO campaigns are typically kept separate, they have plenty in common when it comes to funneling opportunities and leads to the marketing and sales team at most companies.
In this session at SMX East 2016, the day one session “SEO & Social: Let’s Dance” featured three approaches for how social media and SEO are linked.
What Does Google Say? (And Do We Trust That?)
A great way to figure out what exactly goes into Google’s search algorithm is to just listen to what Google is saying! Back in December of 2010, Matt Cutts said that “yes, I can confirm we do use Twitter and Facebook links in rankings.” This caused a flurry online that the two were directly related. In the session, we were warned to take everything Google says with a grain of salt though, and to listen or read carefully. In that statement, Google made no comment on how they use the links (and nothing about the content). Studies have historically shown a high correlation between social engagements and rankings in Google search, but as data-junkies, we all know what can happen if you trust correlations too much!
Flash forward a few years later and Google refined their statement, with Matt Cutts stating in January 2014, “we don’t currently have any signals like that in our web search ranking algorithm” (referring to links and signals from social media networks). He elaborated more on why people have seen that correlation between social media and SEO success: “Sites that get lots of shares are so good, they likely also earn signals that do affect rankings, such as links.” Said in another way, if you’re investing in quality campaigns on social media and doing well engaging with your audience, you’re also probably doing things that are link worthy.
So How Is Social Media Treated In the Organic Search Algorithm?
Next in the session, we walked through certain statements or myths about social in relation to SEO and broke down their validity.
Social media posts are treated like any other web page.
Google has stated this before (and we’ve seen it as true, as one post or tweet can and has ranked individually in the SERPs). That said, not all that is indexable is indexed. Google indexes only a fraction of tweets (< 5%, and they have a partnership with Twitter to give them direct access to every tweet!).
So, while in theory every Facebook post or tweet could rank on its own, it’s clearly not. And that’s because each page carries its own content and authority, like any web page. A page that has one tweet (~140 characters with a few links or retweets, depending on how viral) may not stand up to battle against a 2,000 word blog post with .org or .gov backlinks).
Google needs to feel secure in the identity and validity of what it ranks.
Right now, Google doesn’t feel secure about that relationship with the social media networks (one example gave is that Google was blocked from crawling/reading Twitter for 1.5 months and had to scrape from other sources!).
Google also is able to trust websites that have been around for 5, 10, 15+ years with an associated brand and local directories and citations validating the site. To them, they can trust certain sites. On the flip side, the social web has millions of people creating multiple accounts and identities—and Google doesn’t know who to trust.
Google obviously invests great resources in developing and fine-tuning their algorithm and is extremely careful in what they choose to use and trust as a ranking signal. Which is another indicator that social is not a direct ranking signal. (At least not yet).
Google cares about authority; that comes in to play for social media too.
We know that websites carry Page Rank and domain authority, and that’s a major ranking factor for Google. And we know that Google can index social media posts individually, but it considers whether it should trust the accounts. So how do those merge and account for authority in social media? The session shared case studies that using Moz social authority signals, accounts with high authority can see individual posts showing up in the index, but profiles with lower authority may not see that boost.
Google does rely on social to discover new content.
Search engines are becoming more “real time” (both seen in AMP page roll out and Twitter tweet carousels being featured in the search engines). Social media helps gives the search engine clues to what is hot right now and search trends—and can fuel newer searches based on viral stories or recent events.
So…Does Social Impact SEO?
From all things Google and what is shared in the industry events (like SMX), you should be on social media, but not for search rankings. Social media should be used to build your brand and drive qualified traffic and engaging conversations.
With that, keep in mind, we don’t do anything isolated. If you’re building your brand and getting your product or service out in front of your audience and people who matter, you’re doing the things that should lead to impactful results and improvement of your SEO. As we’ve seen in the general industry of digital marketing, think about the relationship between all your campaigns and how they can each help each other (even if right now, it’s not a direct causation).
The Speakers for “SEO & Social: Let’s Dance!”
Mark Traphagen, Senior Director of Marketing at Stone Temple
Maggie Malek, Head of Social Media at MMI Agency
Don Willis, Director Sales and Marketing at Storage West Self Storage
Follow Us at SMX East 2016
Curious as to what our team is up to in the Big Apple for SMX East 2016? Follow them on Twitter @bluecorona or on our blog. Be sure to check out more SMX Live Blog posts from our team and the official conference Twitter (@SMX) and hashtag (#SMX).
About The Author: Hannah is the SEO Team Lead at Blue Corona. If she's not busy daydreaming about the training session for her team, you can find her improving client conversion rates and planning her next trip.
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