Does Social Media Affect Search?

Google’s algorithm updates have informed the public that good search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t just about on-page optimization. Public relations now plays a big part in getting ranked higher in search engine results. Quality links from sites that have greater domain authority, such as top tier media outlets, produce higher rankings in search engine results.

Now that we know that PR can affect search, we want to define where and how social media comes into play. Google may place a high value on social media links, or they may not even matter. Can social media really affect search?

The answer is yes and no. I recently listened to a webinar hosted by Spin Sucks and presented by Andy Crestodina titled rather bluntly “How Does Social Media Affect SEO” that offered some insight. 

Correlation versus Causation

First let’s talk about correlation versus causation between social activity and search results. Basically, the more social activity that is taking place around a piece of content means the chances are greater for engagement and re-sharing of the content. This increases the likelihood of earning more back links to a website, but it does not directly cause the website to rank higher in search results.

Direct Relationship

There is a scenario where social media can directly affect search, but it involves Google Plus. Google Plus can drive personalized search results if a user of the platform has personalized search turned on and is logged in. Say there are two Google Plus users. Let’s call the users Pat and Meg; they are in each other’s Google Plus circles. If Pat “plus ones” or shares a page about a certain topic, perhaps about Dallas, it will then be filed by Google as a “Dallas page.” Since Pat and Meg are connected, when Meg searches for the term “Dallas” the original page that was shared by Pat will rank higher in Meg’s search results.

This example proves that social media will directly affect search results. But the likelihood of this scenario occurring is like finding a magical unicorn. Everything must be perfectly aligned. Users must be connected on Google Plus and interested in the same types of content. And really, how many people are actually using Google Plus as a networking tool to connect with others? We primarily use it for SEO benefits.

Indirect Relationship

DeathtoStock_SlowDown3When everything doesn’t perfectly sync up, there is another way for companies to use social as an SEO tool. The webinar shared that the best way to get information high in search rankings is to connect with content curators and then get them to share your content.

Wait. Doesn’t this sound familiar? Personally, this has been one of my top objectives since day one of media relations. I connect with journalists on behalf of brands with the goal of securing media coverage with a link back to my client’s website. I’m not sure if I was waiting for an easier or more innovative shortcut from the webinar. But when you think about it, it makes sense.

This principle of connecting now extends beyond journalists to bloggers and other content curators. If content curators are talking about your content and including the right links in their material, then these can count as quality links, with hopefully high domain authority. It’s also helpful if these content curators share your information on their social profiles. You’re essentially getting thought leaders to be your champion. Which leads me to the latest update.

The Latest Update

While I was in the process of drafting this blog Twitter and Google made a major announcement that is a breakthrough for social media and search. Although all of the details haven’t been released, Twitter and Google came to an agreement for tweets to appear in Google search results. The change is supposed to take place in early 2015. Originally, Twitter pages were treated like any other page in a Web index. If something occurred on Twitter, Google could crawl it, then return that information in search results. With the new agreement that step is no longer needed.

This change has major implications for marketers but also creates a lot of questions.

  • Will brands start stuffing tweets with keywords?
  • Will promoted tweets appear in search results?
  • How will deleted tweets be handled?
  • How far will the reach of Twitter grow?

One can predict that savvy marketers will flock to Twitter advertising and that the platform will continue to grow. After all, Google remains the number one most-trafficked website globally. We’re staying tuned for more updates. In the meantime if you’re interested in influencer marketing for SEO, give us a call. We’d be happy to chat about it.

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MCC creates the right mix of communications for today’s audience – from traditional advertising and public relations to highly interactive digital communications, engaging social media and powerful search engine optimization. With such a broad range of communication services, it’s easy to think of MCC as the big agency that does. With the passion of the little agency that could.

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