The big search engines are now using social content to shape results pages. Time to rethink your online marketing?
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These days, two frequently asked question of my agency are, "How does all of this social media content and sharing impact my search engine rankings?" and "Do my social network status updates in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn help these rankings?"
The short answer is, yes, your social activity does have an impact on search results—and, more to the point, so does your company's activity. That's true both for personalized search (when you're logged into Google, for example) and for universal search, which covers everyone who is not logged in.
While most users are now accustomed to seeing blog entries in search engine results, you might be less clear on what other social content makes the cut:
Just because search engines index this content, however, doesn't mean that you're going to easily find what kind of results are turning up in other people's searches.
You have to keep a few important search engine criteria in mind:
Personalized results: If you're signed into the search engine with your user account, the results you see are being customized for you.
Recency and frequency: Keeping your content fresh and current attracts search engine spiders. And when it comes to social content, commenting upon news and trends—especially if others are talking about the subject too—can help improve your chances of being found. That's particularly true if that content reinforces the messaging that search engine spiders find elsewhere on your website or social accounts.
Authority: Sites deemed by the search engines to be more established, well-known, credible sources will appear further up their results pages more often. One factor measured in authority is the number of inbound links from other credible sources.
Relevancy: Search engines try hard to provide you with information they think you're trying to attain.
The integration of social content into search signals the future of traditional search engine optimization. You have to move beyond the message on your website alone (such as a local bakery's "We sell fresh cookies" message) and now broadcast it to the world—using social tools, interactions and conversations. ("Hey Facebook friends: You gotta taste the heavenly new rocky road butter brickle cookie recipe we just invented and tell us what you think!")
So for those of you running businesses and just tweeting and Facebooking random content, remember this: More and more of what you post on your social networks is going to be spidered by search engines. And being more deliberate about what you're sharing can improve your visibility.
Client advocate, digital strategist, and thought leader HOLLIS THOMASES, founder of Web Ad.vantage, helps companies navigate the complexity of the ever-changing digital marketing landscape and develop digital strategies. @hollisthomases