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SEO and Social Media: A Symbiotic Relationship

Insights February 21, 2012

In the beginning, search results returned information that appeared almost schizophrenic to the layman user. It had trouble deciphering language; didn’t always think logically, and on many occasions, returned queries that failed to meet user intent.

Like any technology, it had to evolve and react to forces around it to become better. Search companies like Google recognized that in order to fully comprehend what their users were searching for, they would have to pull data from throughout the web to gain insight into search behavior. The gap between early search engine ranking signals and search intent was significant enough that users were frequently dissatisfied with results. Likewise, content was manipulated to bring search results closer to the top for competitive terms, and quality suffered as a result.

As search has evolved and de-valued those signals that are too-easily gamed, it has brought users much closer to the unadulterated results they seek. Further, with the introduction of major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, search also cannot, and should not, function without some form of accountability to its users for signals and recommendations from across the social graph.

Today, these platforms serve as social therapy for the spammy, schizophrenic past where search has grown from, leading it in a user-specific direction and helping it deliver more relevant results to a particular person. The user relies upon the engine to deliver accurate information, while the engine relies upon the user’ social graph to continue to refine their listings. Their relationship is inevitably symbiotic, and companies should be wary of this. In other words, nobody should pursue one without the other, and here’s why:

Social Signals

Though major players have yet to fully commit to their weight on the record, social signals are becoming increasingly important in organic search. With a stranglehold on the social media market, Facebook plays a huge part in the way people interact on the web- as does Twitter. Shares, likes, mentions, tweets and re-tweets are all measurable via Social Plug-In Analytics in Google analytics. But more importantly, the newest member of the social media team, Google+, utilizes a clickable +1 button, which can demonstrate the popularity of one such item, whether it is a blog post, image or video. These items that you’ve “+1” or “liked” will certainly play a major role in search, whether you like it or not.

Recently, G+ was integrated directly into the search results, allowing users to refine their results within their own social graph. This means search engines can return results based on what a particular user has shown interest in addition to results that have been interacted with from around their social circle. And it doesn’t end there; if you’re signed in, you can also locate people within your circles.

Let’s say for instance that you’re looking for “John Smith.” In the pure results, you’ll return 79,000,000 results featuring information on Pocahontas’ boyfriend and other people named John Smith. On the other hand, assuming you know the person and you’re signed into a Google account, you’re more likely to find them using this feature. Google would love for you to think of them as universal search to your entire world considering that folks are increasingly storing their media, contacts and information on the web. While Google has yet to be extended a whole-hearted invitation to any third party social media data, G+ is slowly breaking market share into other social media platforms as a place for people.

Branding and Feedback

Social media pages are critical for brand engagement- something they make pretty simple. With a company or fan page, you can reach thousands of new and old customers, and distribute news about upcoming events, giveaways, and products. Likewise, you can interact directly with folks and answer questions that would normally be found in your website’s FAQ section – Like anybody wants to take the time to find or read that! This is real, living, breathing engagement, and engagement is one of the keys to successfully reaching a broader consumer base. Let’s face it; people want to know that you’re real and that you’re reaching out from a real and reliable source.

It’s all supplemental of course; just because you don’t have a FB or Twitter page doesn’t mean your website won’t rank well. But if you’ve already got the #1 spot, why not grab more managed-content search engine real estate for branded terms in the #2 position.


Industry trends point to the fact that building traditional link profiles is slowly becoming less important, notably because of social signals. But in addition to their recent integration of Google+, Google has also supplied webmasters with the ability to channel authority through journalistic authorship. If implemented correctly, the rel=author tag allows people to view author information in natural SERPs. Essentially, this gives Google a little better understanding as to who did what and whether or not it can be trusted. For those familiar with Google feature rollout patterns, this should infer that authorship would play a role in how search results are positioned, specific to their trust and authority. Given that author profiles are linked directly to G+ accounts, this means that social media activity is directly affecting search.

So What Does it Do For Me

Thinking outside the web for a moment, information has always been passed through real life social interaction, and this information isn’t always something readily available.  For instance, if you’re curious about a social rumor, your local news site probably isn’t the best place to locate that information. However, your queries may be easily answered via your own social intraweb.

Likewise, social media continues to take pages out of the book of search. Our friendly (although frequently confounded) search spider fosters social media with the ability to properly implement pages and rank them in search.  In essence, both are taking care of each other.  And without this understanding, there’d be no relationship at all.  Yes, it’s somewhat of a primal approach, but it’s undoubtedly true. They both need each other, and every individual or company requires both.

Social media allows for 79,000,000 results for “John Smith” to be filtered through not only a particular user’s past experiences, likes, dislikes, and web interactions, but that of their entire social graph, as well. It is the heartbeat of human understanding that cannot be found in traditional search algorithms.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, traditional treatment for schizophrenia involves that of behavioral techniques and psychosocial therapies. More specifically, this includes social skills training – Ironic, right? Nevertheless, social media patches the divide between assessments inferred by a search spider and those inferred through human behavior. It has slowly closed gaps between loose associations and given users a way to exercise their decisions based on signals outside of traditional SEO.

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