Make social media part of your SEO strategy : Part I

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Social media has completely reshaped the way people connect and engage with their friends – but it has also had a significant impact on the way we share and absorb information, and make decisions.

It’s little wonder then, that search engines – the very gatekeepers of the web – are paying closer attention to social networks in determining how websites and content should be ranked.

SEO, Art and Science

If you have a web presence you’ve probably at least heard of SEO, or search engine optimisation. To some users it’s a crucial part of their online strategy. To others, it’s that thing (whatever it is) that only the most hardcore web geeks faff about with. For a primer on basic SEO see an earlier post, Essential WordPress SEO.

Let’s assume, given that you’re reading this, that you have at least a fundamental understanding of SEO. You know that there are certain strategies employed by web developers and digital marketing experts and bloggers etc etc, in the hopes of pushing a website or page’s ranking higher in search engines. You also know that search engine optimisation is as much art as it is science – and the ever-evolving beast that is the internet forces SEO strategies to be refocused and reformed continuously.

Social Media and the new link graph

Enter social media and networking, which within less than a decade has radically changed the ways in which users engage not only with the internet and information, but also their peers. In recognition of this powerful shift, search engines have begun to increasingly utilise recommendations via platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and (duh) Google+ to determine which websites and pages should be given the most prominent rankings.

Given its reach, widespread and frequent use, and ability to drive numerous links to your site, social media is being heralded as a quick and effective means of increasing the ‘popularity points’ that impact SEO. This infographic from Adept Marketing offers a simplified snapshot of how content marketing, social media and SEO all work together.

Links are fundamental to SEO. Traditionally, search engine optimisation techniques have been based on the principle that the more quality links there are directing users to a specific website or page on the web, the more likely it is that website or page will be ranked in search engines. Why? Because search engines see those quality links, and assume the links are there because that site or page is of interest.

Essentially, when a link is shared by a user, search engines consider that share a ‘vote’ for the linked webpage’s quality, relevance and popularity. This means search bigwigs like Google and Bing are paying attention to the number of shares, likes and retweets your links and content receive. As your social networks share more of your content, the more search engines will deem your content to be important and rank-worthy.

Search engine algorithms are also said to be paying closer attention to social search behaviours – that is, the searching people are doing for specific keywords, businesses, names and products directly on social networks.

So what does this all mean for your website or blog? And what can you do to make social media part of your SEO strategy?

Check out Part II of this post.

Nikki is a professional freelance writer and story teller with a passion for the web and technology. She writes for WP Dev Shed and amongst a roster of other clients.

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