How Social Media Affects Search Engine Rankings

Bing search engine director, Stefan Weitz, recently claimed that traditional search is failing and that search technology itself hasn't changed fundamentally in the past 12 years. Surely a dig at Google’s dominance, but also a strong hint that search will change and incorporate other factors in finding the best results for their users. Will future search still be about content and inbound links? Yes, but with Google reportedly making on average 400 changes a year to their search algorithm, you can safely assume that everything you do online, including social media shares and likes has some sort of aggregate effect on your search rankings.

Search Engines are using social media signals

Google and Bing recently alerted the Search Engine Marketing industry to the fact that they are using social media signals as a factor in ranking websites. Google is using social media as a signal for relevancy, popularity and authority for both organic and news search. Bing is looking closer at the searcher’s intent.

Bing is looking more at the actual search users, to deliver knowledge by understanding user’s intent. Bing wants to deliver the information their user’s want, as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Social media and the user’s perceived authority is increasingly a factor in Bing’s algorithm. How many people you follow and how many people follow your business adds a little more weight to your listing in regular search results. It carries even more weight in Bing Social Search, where tweets from more authoritative people will flow to the top when best match relevancy is used. Clearly a sign of future trends in search evolution.

Google is experimenting with users voting for results to give popular sites more kudos and increasingly better ranking. The "+1" experimental feature allows user to give ‘kudos’ to search results to help other users searching for the same topic find better results. This feature is essentially a powerful recommendation from relevant users, looking for relevant information.

What is your business all about?

Social media has brought a host of changes to search engines, the SEO industry, and online marketing. You won’t find a leading business with a decent online presence that does not have at least a Twitter account, a Facebook or a LinkedIn Group. Rightly so! Potential customers who are searching for information, products or services are looking for signs of authority. They want to know what your band or business represents.

Are you trustworthy, likable, knowledgeable, committed, a thought leader or have some kind of specialist expertise to share? Social media will reveal a lot about your brand and your company. You better make sure you use and manage the social media channels available to you. Make sure you get consciously involved in social media, carefully branding your company, products and services on your your website,  blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media available.

Social media – what actually matters for search?

Our research shows that companies/brands with significant social media exposure rank better than companies/brands without it, all things being equal. If you are competing in a competitive market niche, social media can make all the difference. We believe that it will soon make all the difference, full stop.

There is a strong link between authority and search engine rankings. For example, if your publish articles, posts or tweets and you get listed or mentioned on influential websites, you gain in authority. Multiple re-tweets will help your authority too. Recommendations, reviews and ‘likes’ on Facebook increases your popularity, which is another important social media factor.

Social media also create conversations and buzz which can influence queries on keywords used in favour of your products and services, which can drive search traffic. I.e. you can use social media to influence what people search for.

Social media signals are finally getting integrated with search. Social media is affecting your site’s listing in search engine. Google is paying a lot of attention to Twitter, Quora, YouTube, LinkedIn and other leading social bookmarking websites. Bing is leaning towards Facebook data. Whichever way, social media is having an increasingly powerful effect on your search results. Take note!

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