If you follow SEO, you know that it’s a constantly evolving discipline. One of the latest trends in SEO is social media and it is becoming a larger and larger influence on your search engine results. To properly cover how SEO is being influenced by social media, we have to break it up into two parts: Direct and indirect influences. A direct influence would be something that Google actively uses to rank your site or effects how your site is displayed in search engine rankings. An indirect influence would be something that benefits your site, but not directly through Google’s algorithms. Let’s take a look at how to use social to benefit your SEO.
When Google users are logged into their Google account while searching, Google will use their Google+ relationships to influence links shown. On Google+ I follow Avinash Kaushik, an analytics guru. So, when I search for analytics blog while logged in, Avinash’s blog is the #2 and #3 result on my search. Here’s a screenshot of my search while logged in.
Here’s a screenshot for the same exact search query when I’ve opted out of personal results.
See the number 3 result is a generic Google support page instead of Avinash’s article? That’s because I opted out of social results and the connection between Avinash and I on Google+ is now being ignored by Google’s algorithm.
In short, Google+ connections are directly influencing search results. Building a large, relevant Google+ following is now just as important for SEO as it is for social.
What to do: Make sure you’re collecting a good, relevant following on Google+. And be sure your site is properly linked to your profile, you can find how to do that here.
2. Gmail in search
This one’s pretty simple. Google is experimenting with showing results from your Gmail conversations alongside their search results when you’re logged in to your Google account. Here’s an example, image courtesy of Search Engine Land.
3. Google Authorship Tag
Google’s Authorship tag is a means of linking an article you’ve written to your Google+ profile. The benefit of this is three fold.
- Google uses the authorship tag to try and reduce spam or duplicate content in their search results. Meaning your article will get the credibility it deserves.
- When a logged in user +1′s your article or follows you on Google +, other articles you’ve written are more likely to show up in search results for that Google user.
- The actual search result is marked up with rich data to show the author next to the search result. Below is an example of an article Sherryl has written (and properly used the authorship tag).
What to do: Make sure you’re properly implementing this tag whenever you write an article. Sherryl has already written an excellent article about how to add a Google Authorship tag to your site.
4. Structured data markup
Just like the authorship tag, it’s important to make sure you maximize the visual aspect of your SEO. While perhaps not directly effecting your search engine ranking, it still falls under SEO. SEO is about optimizing what you get out of search engines, not just what ranking you get. The visualization of your search engine listing is part of that. This can be used to mark up listings for reviews, recipes, authorship, events, music, people, etc.
What to do: Google provides a tool to see if you’ve properly set up rich snippets on your page, you can find it here. Use the tool to help configure your site to include rich data in your search engine results.
5. Owned social properties in search results
While these indirect influences don’t directly influence your site’s SEO, they do affect your SEO strategy. Most social sites have an extremely high domain authority and frequently rank well in searches because of this. You can use your social properties to rank highly for a term in addition to your website.
Big companies try to use these properties to crowd the results on their brand terms so bad press can’t creep into their results. Smaller businesses can use social properties to list for keywords they’re unable to with their website. Use a YouTube video, a Slideshare presentation, a Twitter handle or a Facebook page to rank for a term you want to be visible for. While the user experience is more controlled, you’re still positively impacting your overall web presence.
What to do: Make sure you’ve optimized what you can on your social properties to rank for relevant keywords. Use relevant titles and meta information when creating these pages and you’ll be surprised how visible they become.
6. Amplification of message
While not a direct influence, one of the largest influences social has on SEO is using a social following to amplify your message. Once you’ve created content there are 3 ways you’re going to have your content spread.
- Organically – Someone finds your site and content so compelling that they share it or link to it. This is more common with well established sites that have high search engine visibility. This isn’t something to count on for a relatively new or small website.
- Outreach – Once you’ve created compelling content, you find people and websites that are relevant to and you share with them. This is time consuming, but can be useful when done well. Reach out to the right sources, those that will genuinely benefit from your content and people you have some connection with.
- Social – When you’ve established good, credible followers that like you or your brand, they’ll with spreading your message.
A good social following helps you amplify your message, but what makes a good social following? Let’s take a look at the factors that make any given follower a good one.
- Relevance – A helpful or “good” follower must be a relevant follower. Sure, I can get my Mom, friends and a few bots to follow me on Twitter, but what good does that do? Anyone they would share my content with wouldn’t care. Any amplification you get from a source that isn’t relative will be pretty worthless.
- Owned web properties – Your followers must have owned web properties to help you amplify a message. This may not be a website, it could just be a Twitter handle, Facebook profile, etc. But, in order to amplify your message they need an outlet to do so.
- Influence – The best followers are the kind that influence other good followers. They have a following of their own, their following respects them and they like you. These are the people that will really help spread your message and get links.
What to do: Build a good, relevant social following that will help you spread your message. Ensuring that some of your following owns or controls content on a website will ensure that you get links to your content through the its social spread.
The best SEO will always be those that take a wide view at their web presence and try to optimize it. Its easy to get tunnel vision and only chase links or try to churn out as much content as possible, but it won’t get the best results. Developing a good social strategy is key to a comprehensive SEO strategy, the two are intertwined and continue to become more so.
Did you enjoy the article, how will it affect your SEO strategy? Have questions? Please let me know in the comments or tweet me @Ripen_eCommerce.