You've probably heard that social media can influence your rank in the search engines, and thus your visibility to searchers. But how does that work? And how can you use it to SEO your site? While we can't directly examine Google's and Bing's algorithms, we can give you some advice based on the search engines' own words.
You can read Sujan Patel at Search Engine Journal for more information on this topic. In examining how social media signals influence your site's SEO, he notes that the search engines still seem to consider social shares to be a “noisy” signal. By “noisy,” he means that one can't just count the number of shares, likes, tweets and so on, and use that number to give you an exact idea of the popularity of a particular piece of content.
The search engines know this. They know that you can go to a number of websites and literally pay people to share your content on social media. If the search engines weren't aware of this, you'd figure that all you need is a big enough bankroll to get to the top of the SERPs. That's not what's happening, however.
On top of that kind of “noise” in the social media sharing signal, there's also the fact that not everyone with a Facebook account uses it. In fact, while about half of the US population is on Facebook, only a tiny fraction of that population – less than five percent, can be called “active users.” This is according to research quoted by Eric Enge on Search Engine Watch.
What this means, according to Patel, is that “these social signals aren't representative of human behavior as a whole.” It seems unlikely that Google would want to adjust the SERPs based on the behaviors of such a small percentage of the overall population – after all, they want to provide the best possible search results for everyone!
Still, there's no doubt that Google and Bing use social media signals in their rankings. What do they look for? In an interview with Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land, Bing stated that “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.” Google also admitted that they use social media as a signal in their organic and news rankings; they find it helpful to see how many people shared an article.
In other words, while these social signals matter, you shouldn't be trying to pad them artificially. The search engines are more interested in the authority of who is sharing what information. You're much better off growing your online social media profile naturally, and making it as easy as possible for readers of your blog and website to share your content on social networks. So don't forget to include the appropriate buttons and ask for the “likes” and “retweets.” Good luck!
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