The Real Relationship between Social Media and SEO

The relationship between Social Media and SEO Guest post by Brad Shorr from Straight North.

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:

Complex Google Serps

In light of all this, here are three strategic points worth thinking about from a social and SEO perspective.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.

  1. Add Google+ buttons to your blog and most sharable web pages. Make social sharing as easy as possible across all popular/relevant social platforms.
  2. Create a Google+ company page and share your content on it.
  3. Write keyword optimized, original content on Google+.
  4. 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.
  5. Encourage people to +1 your content.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Content that is likely to be shared, such as a blog post, should, conversely, be promoted heavily through social media activities.
  9. 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.
  10. Measuring traditional rankings is pretty straightforward: what we need are ways to measure display visibility. Any tips for how to do this?

Brad Shorr 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

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  • http://www.BlogAid.net MaAnna

    Super post Brad and really appreciate you distinguishing between ranking and visibility. I think Google has bet the farm on G+ and will be pushing it more as a ranking factor too at some point, perhaps in a way that is similar to how they weight backlinks now.

    I have both a personal and biz page on G+ but can’t access the biz page via iPad, which has kept me from using it. The app is crap and it doesn’t even work in desktop view. Hoping they will address that issue for biz owners on the go. Personal profile works fine on iPad with app or desktop, so I’m getting more active that way. That will be fine until they decide to make the same distinction as Facebook and rule out marketing from a personal profile.

    Do you think they just care about it working on Android and putting the millions of iDevices on ignore?

  • http://twitter.com/bradshorr bradshorr

    Hi MaAnna, Thanks for the feedback and insight on the mobile apps. It’s so early on in the development of G+, it’s really hard to say what Google’s strategy is going to be for app support. You’d think supporting Apple would be a no-brainer, but Google is going out on a lot of limbs with their business model overhaul … so who knows? Personally, I like Google and use many of its products, but if Google makes me choose between Google and Apple, bye bye Google. 

  • http://rmctech.net/ Ryan Critchett

    I enjoyed this one, Brad. It makes me think more about encouraging shares, to encourage links. I’m heavily immersed in some hefty seo/social.. inbound marketing right now and I’ve been realizing more and more, that just like your approach, you have to approach this stuff like a technician! Troubleshooting, testing, etc. 

  • http://twitter.com/bradshorr bradshorr

    Hi Ryan, Our SEO team definitely spends a lot of time testing and tweaking. Do you notice that Google seems to be getting more communicative about algorithm changes? Seems like there are a lot of things changing, and changing very rapidly. 

  • http://www.logoguru.co.uk/pages/logo-design-contest.html Logo Design Contest

    Brilliant writeup. Great to learn from you which really interovates the meanings of social media and seo and liked to read their relation. Thanks

  • http://www.Blake.co.za/blog Sarah

    A great post, i didn’t not realize that SEO and social media were so close. Some brilliant SEO action steps. 

  • george

    looks great

  • http://twitter.com/bradshorr bradshorr

    HI Sarah, I hope you can put them all to good use and discover a lot more! Thanks for reading & commenting.

  • http://avgjoegeek.net/ avgjoegeek

    Even though I run a tech/gaming blog? I severely lack any interest in Google +. I know how important it is… but it seems I get more interest through Facebook and Twitter. 

    I’ll have to start spending more time trying to develop interest there. Thanks for this!

  • http://eSeek3r.com Craig Desmarais

    Thanks for the great seo/social tips! Google+ may never kill Facebook but it will probably always have an element of importance with the search results.  

  • http://twitter.com/UniversalPlaces Universal Places

    Gran POST, Muy a tener en cuanta 

  • http://www.rancorinfotech.com/ MLM Software India

    I have been noticing important of social media from past few months, where your most liked and shared page on  social media automatically gain higher ranking on SERP without doing any link building.

  • http://twitter.com/organichat craig daniels

    Brad some good stuff in your post, thanks.. I am confused by the Facebook – Google relationship in relation to search.. Is Google seeing anything we do on FB such as content or links to the outside world?  My impression has been that they don’t, so how does FB content and links rank within their results…   Thanks Again..

  • derfranzose

    A really interesting post. I have seen  a lot of things concerning the SEO and the Socials Media, you gave me a complet answer now. Thanks a lot! 

  • http://www.flintstonemarble.com/ Shanon Foust

    Google is now giving much greater emphasis to personalized results, at the expense of traditional results. 

  • http://www.tubaraoleilao.com.br/ Idella Arce

    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.

  • http://twitter.com/bradshorr bradshorr

    Craig, Great question. Here’s a recent post that explains the Facebook – Google issue pretty well I think -http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2012/04/03/facebook-seo-content-strategy

  • http://twitter.com/organichat craig daniels

     Thanks Brad that clears it up nicely…

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    It’s important to make it easy for people to share your content.  Include social share buttons to all of the networks that are most relevant to your audience.  However, don’t go overboard.  Too many buttons can be distracting.  

  • http://posseaudio.com/ Marlys Mahan

    the better you can focus your efforts on activities that get results.

  • http://brettboone.com/ jacken

    In light of all this, here are three strategic points worth thinking about from a social and SEO perspective.

  • http://www.ertekaz.com/ seo Riyadh

    The 10 SEO tips is only for Google +? There are more other Social Media Websites like Facebook, Twitter ,LinkedIn and so on.

  • http://speedtocontact.com/ Brian Montavon

    Interesting post. I’ve been thinking about using Google +,  but I’m concerned about the lack of traffic. 

  • http://www.digitalkeydesign.com/ Digital Key Design

    Great points to consider with your Social campaign.

  • SEOXY

    Not a bad post at all. Hitting on some key elements in the new SEO world. However, can we coin a new term instead of “display optimization” ? How about “search disbursing”..”search distribution”? I got it!
    “SERP Distribution”..

  • http://www.graphicdesignblog.org/web-design/ Web Design

    Impressive article. Great to read it! Some very interesting concept clear to know about social media and seo related stuff. 

  • http://www.endlessrise.com/ SEO Reseller

    Since the Search+ update, a lot have been fixing their Google+ accounts because of its benefits to a website’s visibility on the search results. When you take a look at the results page, it makes you want to be on number one just so that it would be easy for the people to see you. Some don’t want to scroll down anymore when they search for something over at search engines.

    = Gerald Martin =

  • http://www.creativepundits.com/about_us.html seo in california

    thanks for providing such an informative and interesting post..Keep sharing knowledgeable stuff with us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lynn-Brown/1425926990 Lynn Brown

    It becomes more clear lately how important personalization is for both the business owner and those people searching for information.  I think you make a lot of great points here Brad on how SEO and social media go pretty much hand in hand.  I like to believe that if you just be yourself, understand your audience and take time to create your community — any business will start to develop a keen sense of what specifically works for them and their customers.   I’m looking forward to sharing your article!

  • http://twitter.com/david_smet David Smet

    Hi Brad,

    Great post!
    To measure display visibility, you can use the “Search engine optimization” tab in Google Analytics (or in the Google Webmaster tools). This report displays the number of views/impressions your website is getting for different search term.
    Seems like a good indicator for “display visibility”, no? 

  • Wfh100

    Thanks but what I cant find an answer for is why my website features higher in the serps when im logged into, for example Google?How does that give a true reflection of my ranking?

  • Mjayy21

    Great article on how social media and SEO tie together! I will be keeping this in mind.

  • http://cyberlinkmedia.com/ Vasko Tashevski

    Great post Francisko!

    The future of web marketing involves the right mix of social media + SEO +  content marketing.
    SEO is far from death. Brands must look for a strategy that puts it into to work together with social marketing efforts in order to respond to the specific goals: drive targeted traffic and increasing visibility.

    Regards, 
    Vasko

  • http://twitter.com/AceLukman Ace Lukman

    SEO goes hand in hand with social media, thanks for laying out these points in this post. Content focus is what I’m headed for these days as it puts both strategies into use.

  • http://www.contentforconversions.com/seo-strategies-for-2011/ SEO Strategies

     What do you think about trying to get DoFollow links with Facebook accounts on blogs? Worth it, or does Google still not count DoFollow’s from FB?

  • http://www.glitters.com.au/ Abbey Cintron

    Gnerate traffic and convert to leads and sales.

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    The better you understand the nature and strength of the various
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    get results.

  • http://www.americanfinancesolutions.com/ small business loan

    Everybody knows social media and SEO are connected, but how?

  • http://www.itechcode.com/ Amit Shaw

    Thanks +Brad for sharing this awesome tips with us.

  • http://garlandjohnsondds.com/ dentist Kettering

    personalized search, time subsections, and search subsections such as “Blogs” and “Discussions.”

  • http://www.ertekaz.com/ar ارتكاز

    This is very informative. 

  • http://www.squidoo.com/katie-kieffer Katie Kieffer

     I have been trying to figure out the relationship even more.  Your explanation is helpful.  I have signed up for a lot of the social hype sites to get more +1’s, Likes and such, but I am not sure yet how much that has made an impact.

  • http://www.gervaisgroupllc.com/ internet marketing

    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.

  • http://socialturnon.com/buy-facebook-fans/ socialturnon

    Carry weight in Google’s ranking algorithm, but as yet it’s hard to establish more than a ballpark impact.

  • http://buildachurchwebsite.com/ church websites

    Thanks for your informative post. Giving really useful information for creating website and also for seo purpose….

  • Vitalintelligence

    Very useful and important stuff for SEO purpose.

  • http://www.saathivacreations.com/ Web Development Company

    thanks for sharing really good information. 

  • http://www.sellwithppc.com/ Frank

    Great post! Esp about Google Plus. Will take to make online presence through Google Plus as well.

  • http://www.tisasnapbackshatsshop.com/monster-energy-snapback-hats-c-70.html Monster Energy Hats

    I’ll bring up a few points we’ve been discussing at our agency as we try to respond to the changing environment.

  • http://www.changeisbeautiful.com/ Ciera

    The better you understand the nature and strength of the various
    connections, the better you can focus your efforts on activities that
    get results.

  • http://terminationattorney.net/ Altha

    The first thing we’ve been trying to do is distinguish between rankings and display visibility on Google SERPs.
     

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    Comments and ideas welcome! We are all learning together here.

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    The better you can focus your efforts on activities that get results.

  • Rasedul Hasan Khan

    Great post! It seems like Google is giving more weight on G+ day by day. Have to use it more.

  • Lee Swales

    Great post Brad. I’ve just had a look at the same issue from a South African perspective and you make some very good points. Going forward, the relationship between social media platforms such as Google+ with traditional internet search vehicles will be the key. For what its worth, my view is here: http://regulatorylawsa.blogspot.com/2012/11/search-engine-optimisation-seo-notes_22.html

  • Vanita Gunther

    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.

    http://www.cushease.com/

  • sergianos

    Very nice article. i have a blog: http://www.pokerbooksdvd.com/blog/ . Can anyone help me how to improve the “social”?

  • Ivette

    It’s more than you could imagine. Thanks for the advice, it’s always a pleasure to read about google. Anyone could tell how google will look like in 2018?
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  • cishemant

    Really, these days the social media is the integral part to get the traffic, you can not ignore social media with the Search Engine Optimization.