The lines between SEO and social media are quickly diminishing as search engines begin to use links from Twitter and Facebook in their ranking algorithms. Recently, Google and Bing both confirmed that links from Twitter and Facebook carry some weight in determining a page's rank in regular search results. To date, the effects of links in tweets and links in Facebook posts are still relatively small. However, SEO experts agree that search engines will likely increase their use of this data over time.
Measuring social influence
For marketers, perhaps what is more interesting than the engines' use of the link data itself is how value gets attributed to a particular link shared through social channels. To help formalize this concept, Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan introduced the idea of "SocialRank," defined as a user's determined authority on Twitter or Facebook. How this authority is derived is still speculative; however, several experts predict that the following components likely influence such a ranking:
- Quantity of fans and followers
- Followers to following ratio
- Quality and importance of fans and followers
Social rank is important because it affects how much value search engines prescribe to a link within a user's post. For example, a link in a tweet from Barack Obama will likely have more influence on rankings than a link in a tweet from an average personal Twitter account.
Building and leveraging social rank
Becoming a social authority and creating a meaningful network of users are not easy tasks. Most brands have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, yet few are investing the resources to truly build influence. Building influence is not something that can be automated; it relies on developing real relationships with customers, publishers, and other influencers in your particular space to establish credibility. To ensure that you are on the right path toward strengthening your social rank and building your network, focus on the following:
- What do your users care about? Provide users with information they want, and consider using photos and videos for a more engaging experience.
- What are some specific questions you can answer for customers? Gather these questions and answer them in an article or blog post.
- What information or insight do you have that is unique? Are you in a particularly good position to sound off around a trending topic? Leverage these assets or information, and be one of the first on the scene around a particular topic.
- Identify influencers in your industry and follow them on the relevant social media channels (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).
- Interact with their posts and content by "liking," sharing, retweeting, and commenting.
- Share your content with these users specifically by tagging or linking to them in your post.
- Include a call-to-action in your post. What do you want people to do? If the goal is to have people share or retweet the post, ask them to help you out. Leverage contests that are relevant to your brand to generate shares and retweets.
- Attractive visuals, videos, and interactive content, especially content that can be personalized, can help increase the potential for the content to be shared.
As your site gathers links from trusted social media accounts, your search engine rankings will increase for specific search terms related to your content. Note that traditional SEO factors, such as on-page SEO and external links from non-social media sites, will continue to play a large role in affecting rankings. However, link value from social media sites can mean the difference between being on page two of search results or page one.
Companies with a long-term vision should invest in their social authority and relationships online by delivering valuable content and genuinely engaging with users. Doing so will not only help build brand awareness and reinforce brand affinity, but also provide SEO benefit as authoritative users begin linking to content on your website.
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