There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks, about probable changes to the way that Google ranks search engine results. The general belief is that mentions (links) to your site from social media sites are starting to play a bigger role in where Google ranks you.
Because of the secrecy that surrounds Google’s algorithm, it’s not possible to say definitively what kind of additional influence this is having on search results. However, it now seems increasingly likely that links from places like Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Linkedin etc may be carrying influence with Google. This post on Mike Moran’s SEO blog by Chris Angus, explains the impact of social networks on SEO nicely and in plain English too (Kudos Mike.)
Whilst the number of pages / sites linking to you is still the key factor in your overall visibility, it seems that mentions on social media sites are starting to be used as a form of additional verification. It has been clear for some time that Google understands the importance of the communications shared across social networks. This is why they added Tweets and shares from other networks, in their search results some months ago.
Failings with the current system are obvious. A good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) provider can get a site of average value thousands of places above a poorly optimised site, with great value content. This is why so much superb content goes undiscovered and why we often find results for searches that are disappointing. Clearly, Google is keen to try and address this issue, though I can’t see their latest initiative changing things much.
Good SEO providers are already adapting their strategies and incorporating social media as part of their SEO mix. As soon as Google changes their algorithm (or it is believed they have), the SEO guys change too. These SEO’s are masters of testing and measuring. If they see that incorporating social media or social bookmarking is boosting search rankings, they simply add it to their SEO tool kit .
Bottom line: Today AND for the foreseeable future, great content backed up with solid SEO are a vital part of gaining visibility for your site. High value content will keep people coming back for more and encourage them to recommend you, but they need to find you in the first place. Embracing social media has always been a good idea, but perhaps even more so now.