Why an Active Social Media Presence is Important for Search Engine Optimization

As a discipline, search engine marketing (SEM) is made up of several components, traditionally including both search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click marketing (PPC).  Internet marketing, however, is a game that is constantly changing.  With the rise of social networking and social media, it is critical that Internet marketers understand the impact of these channels on search engine optimization and search engine marketing.

Social Media as Content Distribution Channel

Previously, if a company or individual had a blog, post, or article they wanted to get noticed, they might concentrate on SEO, hoping to get better placement in the search engines and boost traffic, getting more people to notice their article.  These days, social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have become new ways of distributing, searching for, accessing, and interacting with content.

This is a trend that is not going to halt or reverse – currently, Facebook users share over 30 billion pieces of content, which includes web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, etc., each month.  Twitter has grown from about 5,000 tweets per day in 2007 to a reported 65 million tweets a day as of June, 2010; because of Twitter’s 140 character limit, many of these tweets contain embedded links to third-party websites.  While not social networks in the strictest sense, social bookmarking and content sharing sites like Digg, Reddit, and Stumbleupon also offer novel channels of distributing and searching for content outside of the traditional search engine.

While Google remains the most trafficked site in the United States, Facebook is already the 2nd most trafficked, Twitter the 7th, and LinkedIn the 17th most trafficked in the United States; according to Alexa, Facebook is the top website in five countries.

How Does Social Media Impact Search Engine Optimization?

Twitter is now recognized as a legitimate information source and distribution channel – it is indexed by Google (tip- try typing in site:twitter.com into Google.  Over 100,000,000 pages are indexed) and the United States Library of Congress even archives all public tweets.  The social web is the future–Google knows this and, in order to stay competitive, Google has been and will continue to integrate social media assets into its search algorithm and search engine results pages.

While Facebook has long been more of a “walled garden” than Twitter, due to the higher privacy expectations of its users, you can’t afford to ignore Facebook’s impact on SEO.  There are two key things to consider when thinking about Facebook and search engine optimization: the first and most obvious is, “How does Facebook impact traditional search engines like Google and Bing?”.

But don’t ignore the second question–how do you optimize your website to appear in the search results WITHIN Facebook.  That’s right – if you haven’t noticed, when searching from within Facebook, after results from Facebook itself are displayed, “Web Results”, supplied by Bing, are also displayed.  This may not seem like a big deal right now, but you can bet that Facebook will continue to leverage its dominance in the social space to try to become a serious player in the search space.

Facebook’s Impact on Traditional Search Engines and SEO

Because this is such a new area and is continuing to develop, it is hard to gauge the direct and indirect impact Facebook and sharing content through Facebook has on SEO.  If your company has a blog or website and post links to that site on your Facebook, does this benefit your SEO?  If you integrate a “Like” button into your website, and visitors use it to share your content, does this benefit your SEO?

Directly – probably not – these links are running through Facebook and redirects, which likely eliminates any ‘link credit’ you might get.  But that said, it is nearly impossible to quantify the ‘indirect’ benefit to your search engine optimization efforts – that is, users who see your link, visit your site, bookmark it, tweet about it, email it to friends, and so on.

Key Tips About Social Media and Search Engine Optimization

  • If your business doesn’t already have profiles on major social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), establish them now.  If you’re not on these services, users who search for you there won’t find you.
  • Keep your profiles active – they’re not going to help drive traffic and improve your SEO standing if you’re not using these channels to distribute content.
  • Don’t ONLY use social media as a distribution channel - one of the most powerful aspects of social networking is that it is bi-directional.  You’ll gain the most benefit by engaging users, not just throwing content at them.

Stay up-to-date.  The web and the technologies behind it are constantly changing.  Make sure you follow and understand developments at Google, Facebook, Twitter and how they impact your social media, SEO, and search engine marketing efforts. 

PPC Summit offers online training in areas including search engine marketing, search engine optimization, and social media marketing.

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Jason Mikula works as a freelance search engine marketing and social media marketing consultant.  He has experience working with pay per click, search engine optimization, and email and web marketing.

Posted by admin in Facebook, Google AdWords, Internet Marketing, Paid Search, Pay Per Click, Pay Per Click Tools, Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, social media on September 7,2010

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Comments:

Question, for sites like stumbleupon is it enough to simply sign up for an account and bookmark your own site? Or is it equally or more important to be an active user of these sites? As a very small business owner I only have so much time to spend on sites commenting, bookmarking, posting, etc.

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Laura,

Like other social network / service, your success on Stumbleupon (or similar social bookmarking sites like Digg) depend on your strength in the community. While you can obviously create an account and submit your own content, you’re unlikely to gain much traction this way.

Rather, your article / submission needs to be viewed, reviewed, tagged and ‘thumbed’ by other users to ensure broad exposure and the traffic that that will drive.

It helps to be friends with other users on these sites, have a broad network, and participate in groups and forums. These tasks are, of course, time consuming, but if you’re looking to use Stumbleupon and other social bookmarking sites as a traffic source, you need to do them.

Let me know if this makes sense or if you still have other questions!

Jason

Would you explain how this works in a little more depth? For example, if tweets and Facebook posts are important for SEO, why don’t they come up in the first 50 in a Google search for common terms, for example “wii fit” or “horseshoes.”

I understand your comment about tweets and Facebook posts getting indexed, but apparently Google’s current algorithm doesn’t show them near the top, so does it really matter? If so, is there a way to prove it?

[...] Why an Active Social Media Presence is Important for Search Engine … [...]

Mktg Manager,

You have a valid point — and one I don’t necessarily disagree with. As I stated in the article, content shared through Facebook probably does not pass “link credit” because of how redirects are used. Regardless, I don’t think anyone would dispute that Facebook is an effective platform for sharing content. The point I was trying to make is that even if DIRECTLY there is little SEO impact from Facebook, there is likely a large INDIRECT impact from users interacting with content, reposting on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, Stumbleupon, etc. These are interactions that are hard to track but do drive traffic and, yes, help SEO.

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