SEO Gets Social | How to Use Social to Get More out of Search

by David Rekuc on January 22, 2013

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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.

Direct influences

1. Google+

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.

Search Results when Logged into Google+

Here’s a screenshot for the same exact search query when I’ve opted out of personal results.

Personal Results from Google+ Hidden in SERPSee 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 doMake 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.

Gmail Conversations alongside Search Results

 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).

Google Authorship Tags Link your Posts with your Google+ Profile

What to doMake 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 doGoogle 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.

Indirect Influences

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 doMake 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 doBuild 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.

Takeaways

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.

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{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

Prashant
Twitter:
March 16, 2013 at 3:46 am

Well, I also have added my personal Google plus account with my blog to share each post and its getting traffic automatically to my blog though it has no contacts of related niche. But it is getting listed in Google and people are adding me there.

Reply

Sherryl Perry March 16, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Hi Prashant,
That’s great that you’re getting traffic to your site and that it’s getting listed in Google. I checked out your site and blog and you certainly have good content in your niche. (I have no experience with Unix. So, I couldn’t leave a comment for you.) Good luck with your Google authorship.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Tips for Bloggers | Before You Press that Publish ButtonMy Profile

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Taswir Haider February 25, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Nice post & very informative article. It’s all a bit scary how much control Google has now but that’s the game so better to get on board than be left out. Thank you for the post.
Taswir Haider recently posted..Bing Sitemap Plugin: Will it Increase Bing Crawl Rate?My Profile

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Robert February 5, 2013 at 11:55 pm

I am curious about Google Authorship tag. If my G+ account is brand new with little or even no connections with people in the same niche and I use it on my website. Will it bring bad effects? (It has no sign of an authority account :)

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David Rekuc
Twitter:
February 6, 2013 at 9:14 am

Robert, good question, thanks for asking. There wouldn’t be a negative effect on your Search Engine Ranking Positions (SERPS). The worst case scenario is it doesn’t have that great of an effect on your SERPS. However, over time as you’ve used the tag on more and more articles and maybe built a following, the benefits will become more evident.

Even just having your picture next to a post can have a positive effect on your click through rate, and all though its completely speculative, Google likes rich data markup in their search results. I wouldn’t be surprised if you get a little bump just for having any authorship tag on your article.

Make sure you use this testing tool to make sure you’re properly implementing the authorship tag: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets

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Veronica February 5, 2013 at 12:44 am

Thank you for sharing what you know about optimization. I find this very very useful. I\’m looking forward to more of your quality and informative posts. they help your readers alot, especially for someone like me who is still grasping at straws with marketing your content in the internet.

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Calra February 4, 2013 at 2:04 am

There are so many ways in which you can use social networking sites in order to market your content or to optimize what you need to popularize online. Thank you for this very informatoive post. It will help a lot of readers and aspiring bloggers who are starting from scratchand would want to make it big in the world of SEO.

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David Rekuc
Twitter:
February 4, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Thanks Carla, glad you found it helpful. My advice is focus on building relationships instead of links. Once you’ve established some good relationships with influential people links come easy.

Good luck!

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Lee February 3, 2013 at 10:31 am

Hi sherryl
I like reading your posts as it makes me realise I am never using any of the tools available to me to help promote my site to there full potential. Which in the long run is pushing me in the right direction.

So for that thanks lee
Ps even if it does give me more work to do thanks

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Emilia@gazebo January 30, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Your post made me realize how little are the things I know about this topic. I know some about the direct influences you have mentioned like Google+ and Gmail in search, but still this article has provided me more information. I think I have to say thank you for sharing this. :)

Reply

Sherryl Perry February 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Hi Emilia,
Thanks for taking the time to let us know that you found Dave’s article helpful.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Tips for Bloggers | Before You Press that Publish ButtonMy Profile

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Evan January 29, 2013 at 5:48 am

I’m not very skillful in this area and this post was extremely helpful for me. SEO is real black magic to me, step by step I am discovering it… The information is well-structured and balanced! Thanks for a great job!
Evan recently posted..WordPress Hotel Theme Collection 2013My Profile

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Sherryl Perry February 3, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Hi Evan,
Thanks so much for letting Dave and I know that you enjoyed his post. I’ve noticed that you’ve been reading some of the articles here and I’m sure you’re picking up tips on implementing SEO into your blog. As Steve Hippel mentioned in his guest post on SEO becoming a habit, after a while, you’ll simply incorporate a lot of ideas into your blog without even realizing that you’re doing it.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..How To Gain More Social Media Audience Through Photo SharingMy Profile

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Dan Meyers
Twitter:
January 28, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Great information. My main takeaways are the importance of Google+, Google Authorship Tags, and strengthening social media sites to show up in search results. It’s a little scary how important Google+ is getting, but I guess it gives me more reason to get working on it!
Dan Meyers recently posted..What’s your BREAK FREE story?My Profile

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Sherryl Perry February 3, 2013 at 4:18 pm

I agree with you Dan that it is a little scary how much influence Google has but there’s no denying it. (This reminds me that I need to become more active on Google+!)
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Thanks to SEO a Newspaper Reporter in Pennsylvania Found my BlogMy Profile

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Ray January 28, 2013 at 6:15 am

I was reading something recently about the Google Authorship thing. From what I understand after your little avatar screenshot shows up in a Google search if someone clicks on your link and they stay on your site for 2 minutes they will see additional results for your site under your search result if they hit back. It said they had to stay on your site for approximately 2 minutes though. Apparently less than 2 minutes wouldn’t show them. I never tried it though. It’s just what I read.
Ray recently posted..How to Manually Install WordPress Step by StepMy Profile

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Dave Rekuc
Twitter:
January 28, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Ray, I’m not sure about the 2 minute stipulation, but Google has confirmed it does effect search results upon returning. Search Engine Land says “for a certain period of time”, so its possible it could be 2 minutes. This is the article I’m referencing: http://searchengineland.com/google-confirms-hidden-benefit-of-authorship-134526

It may be influencing search in more ways than we’re aware as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an increase in CTR for sites with an authorship tag properly installed, rich data often has that effect in search results.

Thanks for the thought provoking comment.

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Rajkumar Jonnala
Twitter:
January 26, 2013 at 5:01 am

Social Bookmarking sites will help to increase the searches. That’s why Google has introduced adwords and Facebook has introduced promoted posts.

Reply

Sherryl Perry February 3, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Have you tried Facebook’s promoted posts Rajkumar? I haven’t really looked into how effective they are.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Tips for Bloggers | Before You Press that Publish ButtonMy Profile

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Jennifer Woodard
Twitter:
January 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Dave,

Thanks for the great article, there was a lot of information that I did not know. I love when I actually learn useful information and I agree that social and seo are intertwined.

Jenn

Reply

Sherryl Perry February 3, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Hi Jenn,
Thanks for letting me know that you found Dave’s post on SEO and social helpful and for taking the time to leave a comment.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..How to Use SEO to Improve Your Website Ranking in GoogleMy Profile

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evan January 25, 2013 at 7:47 am

it makes complete sense to me. I was trying to do all these things but it lead me nowhere. Well, i was not so careful of course. Ok, will start my SEO war (or better piece) from the very beginning! Thanks for the useful tips. Authorship tags rule!!!!!!!!
evan recently posted..Organic ThemesMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry February 3, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Hi Evan,
Thanks for letting me know that you found Dave’s post on SEO and social helpful. A little SEO has been a huge help to me in increasing the amount of traffic that comes from organic searches. Hopefully, you’ll be successful with it as well. Good luck!
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Top 6 SEO and Social Media How-To Posts of 2012My Profile

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Tushar
Twitter:
January 25, 2013 at 4:39 am

Google Authorship tag is being used consistently by the authors to show their best articles on the searches with their photos and bio’s.

Reply

Sherryl Perry January 25, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Tushar,
Since adding Google Authorship to my site my traffic from organic searches has risen significantly. It does work.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..How To Set up Google Authorship & the Rel=Author TagMy Profile

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Dave Rekuc
Twitter:
January 25, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Sherryl & Tushar,

If you’ve set up a Google webmaster tools account, you can actually see some author stats in the reporting. This can help you get a handle on how the authorship tag has helped you, and which pages with the tag are getting serious visibility on Google.

http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ – you can create your account here if you haven’t already.

Glad you’re both seeing great results from the authorship tag. According to a study by Conductor, only 9% of tech blogs implement the tag, so you’re well ahead of the curve :)

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Catarina Alexon
Twitter:
January 24, 2013 at 7:00 am

Great and useful article, Sherryl and Dave. Do a lot of it already but it seems I have to pay a bit more attention to Google+ likes and getting relevant followers there.
Catarina Alexon recently posted..Do you turn customers into promoters?My Profile

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Sherryl Perry January 25, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Catarina, I need to spend more time on Google+ myself. As for Gmail, I have the account that I had to create for Google+ but I don’t use it much at all. I’ve recognized for a while that it’s important for SEO but I still haven’t developed (and implemented) a strategy for it yet. Reading Dave’s article has me thinking about it again.

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Jeri
Twitter:
January 23, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I’m still in the fledgling stages of really understand most of what SEO entails, but I do know I added an SEO plug-ins for pictures, and since I’ve gotten more traffic due to the tags I put on the pictures. The intricacy of all this stuff amazes me.
Jeri recently posted..JeriWB Writes: One Lovely Blog AwardMy Profile

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David Rekuc
Twitter:
January 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Jeri, it is complex and just keeps getting more so. As you’ve seen with the image tags though, a small change can go a long way. Keep chipping away and eventually you’ll have a good handle on the major stuff.

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Dave Rekuc
Twitter:
January 23, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Susan, I see from your blog you’re definitely making good strides towards creating a good relevant following. Your blog has a lot of engagement and you’re putting together a nice twitter following. So, it looks like your work is paying off, keep at it!

One thing I wanted to mention, I checked your latest article with the Rich Data tool from Google and I noticed your blog doesn’t have www, but you have it listed with the www in your Google profile. This little tool will help you catch things like that: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets – just enter a article URL.

Just a friendly tip, hope it helps. Thanks for reading!

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A.K.Andrew
Twitter:
January 23, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Absolutely fantastic post. Incredibly helpful information. It’s all a bit scary how much control Google has now but that’s the game so better to get on board than be left out. Thank you so much for the post. I will def. be paying much more attention to who I’m following on G+ as well as following yr other suggestions.

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Dave Rekuc
Twitter:
January 25, 2013 at 7:51 am

Thanks A.K! It definitely can be a little scary how many things on the web Google has their hands in. Best of luck with your SEO.

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Susan Oakes
Twitter:
January 23, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Good tips Dave especially about optimising. Apart from the keywords it helps brands have a consistent message across all mediums. I have read a few articles about the growing importance of social share however as it can be scammed as links used to be manipulated do you think Google will do anything about it for ranking?

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Kelly Wade January 23, 2013 at 2:05 pm

This is all really good information all though it kept tripping me up when you were using the word social to take the place of the term “social media”. I think the most useful tips here in terms of blogging have to do with Google+ and how to optimize your SEO with an account on that site. Its true that social media is becoming a larger player in the realm of websites and visitors/customers. Good article.

Reply

Dave Rekuc
Twitter:
January 23, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Thanks Kelly, sorry for the confusion with saying “social” instead of social media all the time. I guess the reason I refer to it as social is I meant the article to cover anything that refers to your own private network effecting SEO. Gmail is a good example, not really a social media site, but still has to do with you talking to a friend. I should have been more clear, thanks for the feedback.

Glad you still found some useful info in the article!

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Sherryl Perry January 25, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Hi Kelly,
What I found useful in Dave’s article is his mention of Gmail. I honestly don’t actively use it but having read this, I’m convinced that I should. I also need to be more active on Google+. I’m aware of the impact that it has on SEO yet I still haven’t made it the priority that I should. It’s a good goal to have in 2013.

Thanks for weighing in on this.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Commenting On Blogs – What Strategy Works for You?My Profile

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Susan Cooper
Twitter:
January 23, 2013 at 1:45 pm

SEO is such a challenge for a newbie like me. I have been working hard to do all that you mentioned. The biggest challenge is, as it is with all things new, it’s the time it takes to do it right. Things like this post do help short cut that.

I have been working to improve my G+ presence and will view the link you mentioned. I know it can really help. :-)

Reply

Sherryl Perry January 24, 2013 at 10:55 am

Susan,
You’re doing a wonderful job of incorporating social media into your site. As for SEO, the next time I’m on your blog, I’ll keep SEO in mind and if I notice anything that I think would help you, I’ll let you know.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Top 6 SEO and Social Media How-To Posts of 2012My Profile

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Dave Rekuc
Twitter:
January 23, 2013 at 7:05 am

Thanks Leora! Even though I tackled it last, building a following may be the item that has the largest impact on this list. People often think virality only has to do with content, but the reality is, having a strong following to spark the sharing of your message is just as important as great content.

“Thinking like your followers” is excellent advice. Provide genuine value that they’ll be interetsted in.

Glad you enjoyed the article, thanks for reading.

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Leora
Twitter:
January 23, 2013 at 6:24 am

I especially liked your section on building a social following. Many of my clients don’t spend much time on this – I’m often the one saying, remember to add keyword tags to the videos! One has to think like the follower in order to get the follower to be interested in what the business has to say.
Leora recently posted..6 Online Ways to Get Your Creative Juices FlowingMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry January 23, 2013 at 9:12 am

Leora,
I like your advice to “think like a follower too”. One thing I’ve run into with clients is a fear of being social. I had a discussion with a woman who insisted on using a company logo for her profile pic and she would not reveal her name. She intentionally wanted to keep it impersonal. I tried to convince her that people like to do business with people they like and trust but I was not getting through to her.

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Dave Rekuc
Twitter:
January 23, 2013 at 9:26 am

Sherryl, I’ve definitely run into this myself, sometimes its difficult to break down preconceived notions from clients. I always try to use an example of someone who does what you’d like them to do REALLY well. Competitors really hit home with this if you can find one, but, if not any successful company will work.

For an example of the benefit of transparency, I would point them to Conversion Rate Experts or SEOmoz. Here’s a recent article from SEOmoz that’s insanely transparent and I think it goes a long way in establishing trust for their brand: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/announcing-mozs-2012-metrics-acquisition-of-audiencewise-opening-of-our-portland-office

Using your own site as an example is a good tactic too :)

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