Is Social Media Part of SEO or the Other Way Around?
The page is engraved in my head. I see Google search
results up and down it. A map in the upper right hand corner.
Some local results tied to the map in the middle column.
A few paid (sponsored) listings at the top and to the right.
But even with all of this, I don't see much for social
results. Possibly a few social connections made through
Google+ within the past year showing up at the top, but that's it.
So why are SEO experts saying social media is a big part of
your search results?
Recently, in a June 2012 survey by Searchmetrics, experts uncovered that five of the top six correlated items to your search results are social media correlations. The list of correlations included items such as Facebook shares, likes and comments, tweets, backlinks, on-page factors such as h1 tags, titles, url strings, and many more. The only non-social media item of those six is backlinks. So, to say five of the top six factors are driven by social media makes one ask the question, "why aren't we doing social media before we do SEO?" I mean if social media is the most important piece, wouldn't that have a stronger effect anyway? Then you could hit two birds with one stone.
Other reports and studies show similar findings where social media plays the strongest factor. Many believe search engines are only just tapping the surface with social media. It's going to become an even greater piece of the puzzle as time goes on because if people are talking to a brand or about a brand, then there's probably a good chance that that brand is an authoritative figure in their respective space. So again, I ask the question, "why are we not focusing on social media before we focus on on-page factors and link building," the old school SEO person's bread and butter? Don't get me wrong, these items do help with rankings tremendously but may not be as powerful as social media factors.
There's two reasons. Reason one comes with the answer you've heard before: humans are creatures of habit and have a hard time moving away from what they've heard for so long; SEO is based on on-page factors and backlinks -- pretty self-explanatory. The second reason is most likely due to the core of social media itself. It's just so time consuming, and there are so many places to start. It's not something you can do once and leave it for a week or two. Social media is customer service and the passing of information, and the more people get involved, the more social media work you have to stay on top of. This, of course, results in more time and resources spent where the financial gains are not directly tied to the efforts -- an executive teams' dream come true, right? Ha ha.
The evidence, however, is becoming clearer every day. Social media is more than the direct effects of one-on-one conversations. Nearly one in five people have purchased something based on a friend's social recommendation. Once a user follows a brand, the user retention and engagement only goes up, and the mere, consistent branding efforts are bound to have positive rewards. Adding SEO improvements to the list, which are directly trackable via analytics, only adds to the social media fire.