For a long time, every SEO practitionrs behaved precisely as what Google thinks. However, if Google said that social signals don’t affect search rankings (as explained below), what we are supposed to do now?
We believe that social is the new SEO. However, what has actually changed with social media and SEO? Let’s take a look at a brief history of Google’s conflicted stance on social signals.
Google’s stance on social media
First, in May 2010, Matt Cutts stated that the algorithm does not use social signals as a factor in search results. Then, in December of 2010, he revealed that the algorithm does use social signals as a factor in search results.
Finally, in January of 2014, Cutts stated that the algorithm does not use social signals as a factor in search results.
These confusing back-and-forth statements have caused some confusion in the search community. However, let’s take a look at Cutt’s statement below:
For the last several years, we’ve been operating under the assumption that social signals were an algorithmic rank factor.
The metrics seemed to back it up. The higher our social following, the better our sites seemed to perform in the SERPs. Evidence suggests that the so-called “social signals” were a helpful SEO feature.
And now, suddenly, they aren’t a factor? If that is the case, then thousands of SEOs and social media managers have been barking up the wrong tree. We’ve been throwing millions of dollars and thousands of hours into pumping up our numbers of followers, fans, plusses, retweets, and likes in order to improve our SEO.
Now, apparently, that doesn’t work for SEO. Social signals do not impact SEO.
To quote Cutts’ exact words:
Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index so if something occurs on Twitter or occurs on Facebook and we’re able to crawl it, then we can return that in our search results. But as far as doing special specific work to sort of say “you have this many followers on Twitter or this many likes on Facebook”, to the best of my knowledge we don’t currently have any signals like that in our web search ranking algorithms.
What should we do about it?
Well, no matter what happens, you should never neglect the power of social media. The whole point of this article is that social signal is important. Eventually, it’s the new SEO. It’s one of the most important elements that you can spend your time, efforts, and marketing budget.
So, maybe these “signals” we loved so much aren’t working. Now what? Well, social is still a valuable channel for promotion, content, distribution, virality, and sharing. Social is still a crucial aspect for search even if it doesn’t register as one of Google’s many algorithmic ranking factors.
Stay on top of social. More on that later. For now, please remember — don’t neglect social!
Change your perception of “SEO” by including social search engines
SEO is nearly synonymous with Google optimisation. Most of the discussion on the Internet centers around what Google likes, what it does, how it crawls, and why it behaves the way it does.
However, search engine optimisation includes the search that happens on social media search engines. Google isn’t the only search engine out there. Still, while there is Bing, Yahoo, Ask, and AOL but the amount of search that these engines manage is minuscule compared to Google.
Look at a typical example of traffic generation:
This pie graph demonstrates that Google is the dominant source of search engine traffic. There is a surprising reality lurking behind this graph that we don’t often think about.
Social is a search engine too!
Social referrals don’t register in the graph above because the social searchers have the company’s social page, not the company’s website (with analytics tracking), as their destination. Nonetheless, visitors who find the company on its social platforms are searching, accessing, and interacting with the company in a very real way. Social is the new SEO because social networks themselves function as powerful and widely-used search engines in their own right.