The past two years have seen some major changes in the world of search and search engine optimisation. 2011 saw search giant Google usher in a host of new features and products that made one thing clear - the future of search was social. After launching its own social network Google +, it became apparent that Google was favouring social links and other social signals into their now personalised search plus your world results pages. Results that stemmed from social networks such as Facebook and Twitter also now seem to rank more prominently than they did in the past - forcing SEOs to reconsider the importance and the value of social links in search today.
Links versus social signals
Since the first days of the internet links have been read by search engines as 'votes' - which meant that sites that organically received lots of links back to their site were regarded as trustworthy. These days search engines such as Google have refined the analysis of link data and complex algorithms now evaluate and rank sites based on a multitude of factors. The point is that when it comes to SEO links are valuable and important.
Social signals' role in search
As social sharing becomes increasingly important in the bid to drive traffic and rank content, many SEOs have asked whether social signals such as 'likes' 'plus ones' and retweets are becoming stronger indicators of content authority than links from other sites or blogs. For now, the answer is still no. Although social signals
are gaining in significance - they still do not compare to the 'vote' your site receives when someone links to you.
Using social media to boost your content
One of the ways in which social media has definitely made an impact on SEO is the way in which it can be utilised as platform from where brands can share their website or blog's content. From there the content can either be internally shared via the social network's channels and social signals (through the action of liking, or sharing on Facebook for example) or it can become popular enough for it to earn a link from someone that may have stumbled across it. Essentially, social media now plays a key role in any website's link building strategy. By sharing links and gaining exposure through social signals, websites and blogs can experience increased traffic and ultimately a greater possibility of inbound links.
Keeping tabs on social signals
Since social signals began enjoying a higher level of importance, marketers as well as SEOs started to think about how the effectiveness of these actions can be measured. While it will never be entirely possible to see exactly how or to what extent social signals influence page rank, new analytics tools can give companies a more detailed insight into the undeniable impact of social media on their site's content. Google recently unveiled a new social media analytics tool that gives an in-depth overview of dozens of social signals - which gives marketers a clearer idea of a company's estimated social media ROI.
While social media is certainly not the only factor to keep in mind when it comes to SEO - it is becoming clear that search engines and people are placing an increasing amount of value on it and it would be wise for your company to take notice and do the same.