It is easy to dismiss sites like Twitter and Facebook as platforms to ‘mess about’ online. Often that is very much the case, with gaming being one of the biggest uses on Facebook (fun fact: there are now more people playing ‘FarmVille’ on Facebook than there are farmers in the United States).
However research has proven that Google and Bing are both heavily influenced by social networking.
This influence can be split into two key areas; your social graph and trends in popularity:-
A key part of social networking is identifying people you know, or are interested in.
Using these relationships, social networking websites and search engines can map out your ‘social graph’ - a tight group of people, typically fewer than 100 people, that you trust and are your taste makers. These are the people that if they like something, the chances are you will too.If you’ve ever wondered what the ‘Like’, ‘Tweet’ or ‘+1’ buttons are all over the web (and at the top of this very blog post), it is simply a way of telling your social graph that you liked this page. What this means is that if your friend now happened to wonder whether social networking can affect SEO, this page will rise higher than others on search engines because you vouched for it.
The “The Six Degrees of Separation” hypothesis by Frigyes Karinthy states that everybody on Earth knows each other through, on average, six other people. With the dawn of social networking websites it is now believed to be closer to three people. Using this idea of six degrees and the social graph, it is now possible to determine universal trends in opinion and thought.
For example, if 10,000 people ‘like’ a particular page on your website it is clearly a page that is popular and, in theory, search engines should react to that and rank that page higher than one that is not popular.
In effect, this means that in time everybody will see a different set of results on their search engine than anybody else. You will have a personalised directory of all that is valuable to you on the web.
Pretty much. The water is muddied some what by the politics of the companies that run the search engines. For example, Microsoft owns a notable portion of Facebook and so their search engine Bing is tightly integrated with Facebook. Google on the other hand see Facebook as a threat (we’ve already discussed how people spend more time there) and so have given orders to not have any Facebook integration on their products - instead they have launched their own social network called Google+.
Twitter is in the outside looking in - they have no direct relation to either Microsoft or Google. However, Google have not renewed their contract with Twitter where as Microsoft has.
To be candid, we are experimenting with placements in order to strike a balance between this new social signal and the other signals we have honed to determine relevance. [...] Social signals that say quality are pretty straight forward [...] Look to things such as likes, re-tweets, shares, etc. Beyond that, watch for the sentiment surrounding the action. Are people sharing your content via Twitter yet flagging it with #fail? If so, it’s a clue they’re displeased.
- A spokesperson for Microsoft
Google haven’t gone public with their policy just yet, however research by SEOMoz has shown that popularity on Google+ can directly influence your search rankings.
Yes, social networking does impact your search presence. At Red Carrot Ashford Web Design we work closely with our clients to help them understand the best way to embrace social media and SEO in general for their website, audience and industry.
It is admittedly a minefield out there right now, with different companies favouring certain networks but what it comes down to is this:- your website needs to be great. That means an accessible and appealing website design, a fast and stable web hosting package and relevant, interesting content. All of this will encourage people to ‘like’ your pages, and thus you’ll rise in people’s social graphs and search results.
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