Google is sending out mixed signals (no pun intended) about the importance of social media to its
algorithm determining the ratings of their search results. Officially, Google has stated publically that they do not use social signals in search ranking but the company has said in the past that sharing posts is a reflection of the quality of the post.
Google has also brokered a deal with Twitter where they show tweets in a ‘real time’ search and have gained access to Twitter’s data feed to keep search results updated. So, on one hand, Google says that social signals don’t affect search ranking, but, on the other hand, use number of shares in social media to influence Google twitter searches. Which is it?
A Tweetstorm of data
First off, there are limitations to what Google can quantify. The company uses search bots to gather the data for their algorithm, but the web is a vast realm that even Google can’t afford to search constantly and comprehensively. Using Twitter as an example, there are over 500 million tweets per day and Google ‘sees’ each Tweet as a separate web page. With that much sheer data, much of it re-tweets; the changes that can occur between the first search bot visit and subsequent ones can shift the search results in entirely different directions.
As of mid-2015, Google was still indexing less than four percent of the tweets on Twitter. Even with improvements to search bots, the sheer volume of tweets means that the vast majority cannot be indexed and would have zero impact even if Google was using them to influence search rankings.
Not official, but it has an impact
Where the impact of social signals can be felt is in referrals and backlinks. Every time someone follows a link to your site based on something they read on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other social media site, it does affect the Google algorithm. Even with no direct effect on search rankings, social media is a strong driver of trends and these trends can have an outsized effect on the Google rating.
The indirect impact also improves your brand recognition and strengthens your in-field authority. The more hits your web site gets from social media, the more authoritative it appears to customers, collaborators and competition.
But it’s Google
Without clear understanding of the impact of social signals, it is difficult to assess just how much of an impact social signals have. Although there is no doubt they have some impact, quantifying the results is difficult, if not impossible for most businesses.
Until Google clarifies how social media can drive page recognition, the industry has to extrapolate connected events and try to understand where and how social media and the Google algorithm interact. This process is made up using one part statistics, one part science and one part art. Without hard data from Google, SEO consultants have to work backwards from rises or falls in the SEO rankings to discover the causes behind them.
If, for example, your ranking on Google’s search engine rises from sixteenth on the list to third, in a specific geographical area, two days after one of your backlinked companies released a new blog on to social media that includes a link to your information – even without knowing there was a direct impact from Google – it can be interpreted that there is a causal link. Put simply, social media affects SEO without having an impact on Google.
Using social signals as part of your overall strategy
There lies the crux of the issue. Since social signaling is not an accepted part of Google’s SEO, but it has an indirect impact on the Google ranking of your page, you need to find a way to incorporate social signals into your SEO campaign without relying too heavily on the notoriously fickle social media crowd to reward your efforts.
What is trending on Twitter can change on the hour. A full day is more time than a Twitter cycle usually lasts. Hit hard and move on. If you can catch the rising tide of a Twitter phenomenon or adapt to the natural cycle of Tweets, you can create a surge in interest in your product or idea – or a collaborator’s idea – to generate a higher rank for your SEO campaign.
Continuing with ongoing social media campaigns may give you a reward through the Google algorithm, but quantifying the impact will be difficult without specialized knowledge and training. That’s where the SEO Services come in.
Leave it to the experts
There is a very good reason that competent, knowledgeable SEO experts are in high demand. Trying to figure out how and why social media affects the Google algorithm is a great example. Just because Google says they don’t use something, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an effect. Trying to determine a viable social media strategy that complements your SEO campaign can be confusing, at best, and an utter disaster if the link between social signals and SEO optimization is misunderstood or misread.
The myriad changes in the Google algorithm over the last two years will also have an impact on social signals. Unfortunately, most expert bloggers and traditional sources have little understanding between cause and effect when it comes to social signals and traffic. They either dismiss it entirely or rely too heavily on social media to drive SEO campaigns.
Finding the balance between too much emphasis and totally ignoring social media is difficult. The lack of detailed tools to discover the impact makes it harder, Guessing and praying could work, but there are a lot of gray areas in the Google algorithm making reliance on a higher power to bring you success problematic, at best.