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No one can doubt the power of social media. Not only does it make transnational communication much quicker and easier, but it also matters now in SEO.

According to Matt Cutts, social signals do matter in SEO. Google particularly counts the links shared on Twitter and Facebook. In one of his video blogs back in July 2012 he says, “Yes, I can confirm, we do use Twitter and Facebook links in ranking, as we always have in our web search rankings.”

This makes a lot of sense. Twitter feeds, for example, are an excellent gauge of real-time trends. Considering that Google wants to keep providing updated information to its users, it only makes sense to take notice of links that are currently making rounds across the social cybersphere. There’s also the logic that a person shares a website on social media because he/she finds the content useful and valuable. It’s basically the same logic behind search engines using link profiles as one of the most important factors for determining Page Rank.

There are many different factors that are also considered here. First is the volume of shared links. Second is the volume of links shared in a given time. Was there a surge in social shares within a span of days (in short, did the link become viral or not) or weeks? A high volume of shares over a shorter time period is surely more significant (and relevant for ranking) than a high volume of shares accumulated over a year or so.

Third and most important is the authority of the people sharing the links.

According still to Matt Cutts, a single link shared by a recognized authority in a niche has more weight than multiple shares by non-authority social media users. Again, this is very similar to link building. Inbound links coming from authority sites or sites with higher PR have higher value. Theoretically, fifty of these links can boost a website’s link profile more than a ten thousand mediocre links.

Now these are just the technical advantages that can be delivered by social media signals—basically, how search engines interpret a website’s social stats. How people themselves respond to various social activities is also an important matter.

The Human Factor

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The human response to social media posts can also help increase your website’s traffic and contribute to its ranking. Posts on social media can inspire a direct, active, and immediate response from the people who see them.

Take for instance viral videos. They don’t always contain very relevant or even valuable information (in fact most of them are purely for laughs and nothing else). Nevertheless, they inspire this knee-jerk reaction of people sharing the content. If you look at it in a link-building point of view, that’s a ton of links being produced and spread over the social sphere; possibly across social media platforms, even.

The frequency and scope of social sharing also directly affects your website’s traffic. What do you do when you find a link that sounds interesting or was shared by someone you trust? You click it and open the webpage. That’s instant traffic for your website. Now, multiply that to the number of times the link has been shared or viewed, and you get the estimated surge of traffic for your website at a given time.

Going viral gives a website both high volume and high frequency of shares. So naturally, a positive human response would translate into optimal ranking signals.

Internet marketers often need to adjust their tone and style of promoting when they are on social media. They need to consider the atmosphere and manner of interaction that is considered acceptable in social media platforms. Casual speak, for example, is usually more effective than very formal and impersonal manner of speech.

Social Media Signals Do Not Render Other Ranking Factors Insignificant

Although social media signals are now considered important factors for ranking, this doesn’t reduce the value of other ranking factors like website authority, quality, Page Rank, and link profile. Having very good social media statistics will not make your website rank if you neglect to improve or maintain high standards of website quality, for example. Besides, seeing a shared link on social media and clicking it is still on the earlier levels of the conversion funnel. If people aren’t satisfied by what they see, they will leave in mere seconds (resulting to high bounce rates) or refuse to go beyond that page.

Earning the favor of your target audience goes back to the basics of content production: maintaining content quality, organizing website structure and sitemap, reducing page loading time, improving user interface, etc… These are the reasons why people share links to people who share their interests.

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Posted by Mary McLean

Mary McLean is a blogger for Philippine-based outsourcing provider SquareFish Inc. She has been working actively with the company to develop its content and Internet marketing strategies. Mary blogs about SEO, content creation, social media, and some of the latest IT-related topics. You can find her on Google+.

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