In a word – yes. Although some internet business strategists like to disparage social media as a medium that’s full of tire-kickers and conversationalists (compared to real, valuable buyers), there’s growing evidence that suggests your social networking profiles could play an increasingly important role in determining your site’s position in the search engine results pages.
The following are some of the mechanisms at work that make social media participation a good way to help boost your search engine rankings:
Social Media as a Ranking Factor
In the past, Google, Bing and the other search engines have been reluctant to give any weight to backlinks and mentions occurring from within social networking profiles. However, as the size and influence of these sites have grown substantially, it’s only fair that they be considered in the algorithm that weights the SERPs results.
And in fact, both Google and Bing confirmed in a recent Search Engine Land article that social signals are being used to determine the order of the results the search engines display. When asked whether or not Twitter tweets play a role in their ranking algorithms, Google responded by saying:
“Yes, we do use [tweeted links and RTs] as a signal. It is used as a signal in our organic and news rankings. We also use it to enhance our news universal by marking how many people shared an article.”
Similarly, Bing confirmed:
“We do look at the social authority of a user. We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results.”
Since the influence of social signals on search rankings has now been confirmed, it makes more sense than ever to focus on building an engaged, thriving social media profile. But that’s not the only reason to do so…
The launch of the new Google+ social network finally allowed Google to tie together a number of its services – including search, the Google Reader, the “+1” Button and others – in a meaningful way, called personalized search. Now, instead of seeing whatever Top 10 results would ordinarily be displayed in Google as a result of the natural search algorithm, users might see content that’s recommended by friends and contacts from within their social networks.
For website owners, this is obviously a mixed blessing. Although it may make focusing on traditional SEO in order to rank in the natural SERPs less important (as your hard-earned ranking might be bumped in your prospect’s searches to make way for their personalized results), it also opens up new opportunity for marketers who are willing to engage socially.
For example, say that you have always shielded away from engaging in social networking, while your competitor has taken a more active role in implementing these new marketing methods. While you’re still relying on traditional SEO to land you in Google’s Top 10, your competitor – who has substantially more social networking connections easily breezes past you. Because he has more contacts in whose search results he can appear, he is able to pick up additional traffic for multiple keywords, without having to go through the arduous process of optimizing his pages.
So what does this mean for internet business owners? Well, it’s simple, really. If you aren’t already engaging with social networking, now’s the time to start. You don’t need to run out and spend hours a day on every single social media site that’s out there – instead, spend a little time analyzing where your audience hangs out by searching for your target keywords on each site and focusing your efforts on that site.
(Be sure to check out our article on how to “Automate Your Social Media Investment” for more tips on how to balance the demands of social networking with the other items on your to-do list.)
And if you are already active with social networking, now’s the time to step up your game. Don’t sit back and assume that you’re good to go just because you’ve set up your profiles. Instead, make sure you’re actively investing time in reaching out to new people and engaging them with helpful information in order to get the most benefit out of this new form of technology.