For the longest time there was speculation that events happening on social media websites can affect your search rankings. It was confirmed many months ago to be true by both Google and Bing. Social media has changed how every SEO approaches their job, making the disciplines joined at the hip.
Bing: We do look at the social authority of a user. We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results. It carries much more weight in Bing Social Search, where tweets from more authoritative people will flow to the top when best match relevancy is used.
Google: Yes, we do use it as a signal. It is used as a signal in our organic and news rankings. We also use it to enhance our news universal by marking how many people shared an article.
But how much of an effect is there? And what signals will these search engines be looking at? An important metric for anyone clawing their way to the top of the SERPs is their authority. You aren’t going to go anywhere if you aren’t trusted by or referenced to by other websites/bloggers. Within the social realm, these can be considered your ‘Social Authority’ (Google refers to it as ‘Author Authority’). Let’s look at possible metrics based on what we know about how websites are ranked.
Although Google’s real time search is gone (for now), timing is important and can send a signal on where and when your content shows up. When an RSS feed publishes an article, you will see the Quality Deserves Freshness algorithm (QDF) in action. This algorithm favors fresh, newly published content over older web content. This comes into play when queries see a rapid growth in their search volume. Alternatively, if you were to tweet with a link pointing to an older page, consider this a small vote that piece of content has lasting value.
Keep your sources diverse. All your links coming from a small amount of sources has little value compared against a wide array of linking sources. 100 links coming from 100 pages is vastly more powerful than 100 links coming from one page (or site). While it should be obvious how this applies on Twitter, just remember this as a rule when measuring the value of tweeting a link.
I am sure there is also signal contained within the text of the tweet. The anchor text can tell use why lies ahead on that link. It is also used in determining in what context a page falls under and helps in ranking for specific keywords in a search. The text that surrounds the link can give context, especially if there is no anchor text.
We know Google monitors what links you click on when selecting a site from their results page. They will also monitor if you hit that back button and choose another site. That will tell them that the page you visited did not have relevant content. If this happens often, there is potential for that page to drop lower in the rankings. User engagement can be measure by the quantity of clicks, tweets, retweets, etc. a page receives.
Since both Google and Bing used the word authority when describing how they measure these signals, you can bet a tweet to the same page from two different people will carry different weights. The quantity of your friends/followers makes the tweet that more authoritative. An important note here though is search engines hate spam, and do their best to filter it out. The more garbage they return, the less likely you are to use their service. Inauthentic or ‘spammy’ accounts are likely not to carry any weight. Quality accounts is what is important. There are companies out there that offer services to help you increase your follower account to make your company more authoritative. I would be wary of this until you know exactly how they plan to accomplish this task. There are some big names out there that are essentially ripping of their customers without them know, and it gives us all a bad name. Just writing that annoys me and reminds me I really need to devote more time to scripting something that tracks these companies and their tactics.
Much like the engines’ analysis of the editorial nature of links, consideration of whether a social user is engaging in following/follower behavior purely out of reciprocity vs. true interest and engagement may be part of authority scoring. If you have 100K followers and follow 99K of them, but the engagement between you and your followers is slim, you’re likely not as authoritative as an account with 100K followers + 5K following, but those followers are constantly engaged, retweeting, liking, sharing, etc.
Focusing on topics related to whatever service you provide is true in SEO, and is true in social engagement. The patterns in your postings could very well be a signal on whether you should be considered an authority on a specific niche. This could be subject-specific, such that when a prominent SEO tweets links to news related to their favorite football team has less impact than when they tweet links to a resources on inbound marketing. This is probably also true when an account can be attributed to a specific site. It is likely that the engines can associate a social profile to a specific site, business, blog, whatever. That would tell them that someone else tweeting a link to this post is more valuable than me doing it myself.
I don’t necessarily think any of this information should change your strategy in social marketing (unless you subscribe to that spam-bot model; shame on you!), but this is knowledge for your tool belt when developing upcoming marketing campaigns. All of this data used correctly has the potential to reduce web spam. While people often link to, read and enjoy sources that use tactics that are frowned up, very few people follow or friend someone in our social realm that is ‘spammy’. This allows, for the time being, another great way to find great content and weed out the junk.
Organic marketing. I just love the marriage between the art and science of it and how it evolves at such a rapid pace.