Everybody knows social media and SEO are connected, but how? The better you understand the nature and strength of the various connections, the better you can focus your efforts on activities that get results.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to sort things out because the social-SEO relationship is becoming more intertwined (some would say, muddled) all the time. In this post, I’ll bring up a few points we’ve been discussing at our agency as we try to respond to the changing environment.
Comments and ideas welcome! We are all learning together here.
Ranked Results versus Display in SERPs
The first thing we’ve been trying to do is distinguish between rankings and display visibility on Google SERPs.
- Ranking optimization is the traditional way of thinking about SEO. We apply a set of activities to specific URLs and domains in ways that leverage Google’s search algorithm and improve the ranking position of particular pages of web content.
- Display optimization applies to making content visible in new/other sections of Google SERPs – personalized search, time subsections, and search subsections such as “Blogs” and “Discussions.”
Google is now giving much greater emphasis to personalized results, at the expense of traditional results. Social content, such as Google+ postings and blog posts, appear prominently in SERPs. As time goes on, it’s likely that Google will give equal weight to content in SERPs that is both subjective (i.e., content that is favored by people in your social networks) and objective (i.e., content that is indexed and ranked according to Google’s traditional algorithm).
So, as personalized results gain emphasis, display optimization becomes more important. Here is an image that shows the complexity of Google SERPs, and how traditional search results are being deemphasized:
In light of all this, here are three strategic points worth thinking about from a social and SEO perspective.
- Social shares – Tweets, Likes, Google +1’s, etc. – carry weight in Google’s ranking algorithm, but as yet it’s hard to establish more than a ballpark impact.
- In contrast, social media content and shares have a clear and significant impact on display visibility. Original Google+ and/or blog content is indexed and displayed in regular, personalized, time-sensitive and social subsections of a SERP. Content endorsed with shares by your social connections is visible. (Original Twitter content has been devalued lately, but I think in the long term it is likely to gain prominence.)
- User behavior and preferences are critical element in devising SEO strategy. The importance of display visibility depends largely on whether a user is logged into Google, and the extent to which a user has an active social media network. If your target market is not logged in and/or has few active relationships, traditional search results are all that will matter to them.
10 Social SEO Action Steps
In terms of focusing on social media activities that have SEO impact, here are things most worth doing.
- Add Google+ buttons to your blog and most sharable web pages. Make social sharing as easy as possible across all popular/relevant social platforms.
- Create a Google+ company page and share your content on it.
- Write keyword optimized, original content on Google+.
- Shares and original content on Google+ matter more if your company page is circled by many users. It therefore may be helpful to make a strong effort to build your Google+ community.
- Encourage people to +1 your content.
- For Facebook and Twitter, having an active social media presence is useful IF social sharing is generating links to your content. Links, not shares, are the more important social media metric from an SEO perspective.
- Content that is unlikely to be shared on social media, such as a company’s About page, should be optimized in the traditional way. Pushing social shares is not worth the effort.
- Content that is likely to be shared, such as a blog post, should, conversely, be promoted heavily through social media activities.
- If your target market isn’t active or interested in social media, focus less on content sharing through social media and more on traditional link acquisition activities. If your target market is active in social, balance the two.
- Measuring traditional rankings is pretty straightforward: what we need are ways to measure display visibility. Any tips for how to do this?
Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, a Chicago-based SEO company that works with B2B firms in a variety of specialized niches, from merchant credit card processing for gas stations to orthodontic web design.
Photo credit: Go Local Search