Want to dramatically improve your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts? Then invest more time and resources in your social media strategy.
Why? Because, while we often think of the two undertakings as being separate both tactically and philosophically—SEO is viewed as getting more inbound traffic whereas social seen as furthering direct engagement—they are actually deeply intertwined.
In fact, an analysis by Searchmetrics last year found that social media engagement is now the most important thing when it comes to search rankings. In its report, the company examined the correlation between various factors and search rank, or, as they put it: “What do web pages that are well-positioned by Google have in common and what distinguishes them from lower ranking pages?”
Searchmetrics found the most powerful factor influencing search rank is the number of Google +1s that a page has. Second is the number of Facebook shares, followed by number of backlinks, Facebook comments, Facebook likes, Pinterest shares, and number of tweets.
In other words, all the signals that traditional SEO accounts for (keywords, title, URL length, etc.) are far less important to Google’s search algorithm than number of social shares.
At first, these results may seem a bit surprising. Yet, they make quite a bit of sense when you look at Google’s own advice to publishers: “In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.”
For search engines, “shares” (i.e., social engagements) are immensely useful as signals because they are clear and direct endorsements by consumers. After all, if someone takes the time to +1, comment on, or tweet out a page it means they probably like the offering enough to broadcast it to their friends–which bodes well for the quality of the content.
So what does all this mean for marketers? Two things: First, revisit your SEO strategy to make sure you are focusing on the current important search signals, not those that were valued a few years ago. Second, don’t treat your SEO and social strategies as two separate things. Search is becoming more social, and increasingly if you want to rank well you’ll need to be shared often.
Thirsty for more SEO juice? Take a look at our SEO Strategy Guide for Inbound Content. It’s full of SEO tips and tricks to help you optimize ALL of your online content!