Gone are the days of easy SEO. A little while back ranking on the first page of Google was as easy as getting some links with your keywords in them as the anchor text. Nowadays there is so much more that goes into Google’s algorithm and it’s getting more and more complex every month. One of the biggest shifts we have seen happen over the past year is more emphasis on social media data. Google as well as the other major search engines are finding effective ways to incorporate social media data into their ranking formulas.
If you aren’t involved in social media you are slowly being shut out of Google’s first page. In a 2011 survey it was estimated that 7% of Google’s algorithm is based on social signals. I think that number is much higher today and it’s expected to climb as Google learns more effective ways to use social data.
The proof is in the SERPS. Some moderately competitive keywords are already showing signs that a website with only a few backlinks but a strong social signal can rank well on the first page of Google.
The domain in the picture above has a whopping eight backlinks total. That’s the entire domain not just that specific page. Yet it’s ranks #9 for a moderately competitive keyword. (1,200 searches per month) The backlinks are not that strong either. What is kicking this page up to the #9 spot is their social presence. Over 1,100 shares on Facebook, 1,200 tweets on Twitter and more than 500 +1’s on Google.
This is not an isolated incident social is the new backlink and companies can no longer ignore it. If you search just about any keyword you will see some pages with an overwhelming social signal. Some signals seem to help in the SERPS more than others. Tweets and Facebook shares seem to influence more than some of the other social media signals. Liking a page on Facebook is a good sign of quality but a stronger signal is sharing. Liking a page shows you think it’s decent but sharing a page shows you think others should see it as well. This is a much stronger vote of confidence and the reason why search engines seem to give sharing more weight.
If your company is behind and hasn’t implemented a social media strategy yet it’s not too late. At the very minimum your company should become active on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google+. Once you start to establish your social media presence, ensure your web design reflects those profiles by adding them into the layout of every page.
While Google+ has taken off too much outside the social media/Internet marketing world it will. It’s slowly gaining some steam and when Google feels comfortable that they have enough people using it they will start including those metrics more into their algorithm.
There are other benefits of having a social media strategy as well. From a branding standpoint it can help give your potential customers more confidence in your brand and help with online reputation management.