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SEO practitioners are constantly on the lookout for the next great way to improve search engine placement for client websites. Over the past year or so, we’ve noticed that not only do social platforms offer a great opportunity to promote content and attract site visitors, they influence how websites are ranked on search engines.

The relationship between online social activity and SEO has up to now seemed a bit hazy. The search algorithms that actually determine website placement remain one of the most closely guarded trade secrets of our time. Still, we can gain some insight as to how to improve a website for search by studying and correlating a variety of SEO and social activity factors. A recent study by Searchmetrics concludes that web pages that rank well on the search engines typically belong to organizations that are active on Google+, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Social Signals Graph

That social signals and platform activity influence rankings may not be a complete surprise. Google let it be known some time ago that it its algorithms will utilize social signals to help determine what content users find valuable. Social media platforms enable the search engines to learn more about the value readers are placing on particular pieces of content, so from these activities, the search engines can make judgments as to value and rank each web page accordingly.

For Google rankings, use of the Google+ platform seems particularly important. Noting in their study that higher-ranking pages most consistently listed Google+ engagement as one of their social activities, Searchmetrics lists Google+ engagement as the top correlating factor in high search engine ranking. Organizations that engage in Google+ activity seem to also have web pages that rank very well for the keyword terms they’ve optimized for.

Google and its social network platform can easily read the social signals from its own network and integrate that information with its ranking systems. As activity and use data is maintained within the Google databases, judgments about content value are easier to produce. Google has been encouraging adoption of its social platform for some time.  What better way to encourage adoption than to reward its users with improved search engine rankings?

Sharing great content is at the core of a successful SEO effort. Letting others know about your great content by promoting and discussing it on social platforms is key to that effort. And if you are not on Google+, it may be time to invest in developing an additional social media presence.

Source:  Searchmetrics; June 27, 2013

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