Have you been hearing rumblings and whisperings that social media is ‘killing off’ SEO, and that in the not-too-distant future SEO will be totally redundant and irrelevant? If so, read on – in this article we look at the real effect of social media on SEO as it stands now, and speculate on what the future of SEO might look like.
How social media is impacting SEO now
- User behaviour changes – internet users no longer just get information by entering terms and words into a search engine box. They also share information, links, reviews, news stories and other web content though social media. And when your trusted friends recommend a brand or product, you are probably more likely to take a look yourself!
- Social signals – while at one time links were considered the main determination of how reliable and trustworthy a website was, these days social signals – likes, tweets, shares, +1s, and so on – have also become part of the mix. While it’s difficult to determine the direct effect of social signals on rankings, they can certainly be vitally important to your site’s SEO performance by improving brand awareness, and helping to drive more traffic to your site.
- Personalised searches – Google is personalising searches through its private search option, and this means that social and internet search results are being tied together. For instance if you are logged into a Google account and have enabled private search, you are likely to get back some page results that have been ranked highly by the friends you have in your Google+ circles.
- Google+ Authorship – use of this option is changing the way pages are indexed on Google. Google+ Authorship-linked content is indexed more quickly than other content giving it a priority over other pages. In addition, the results may include the author’s image – a feature that has been shown to increase click rates.
- Viral content – or content that spreads very rapidly on social media sites. It’s important to note that no content ‘goes viral’ unless it has a strong impact on people’s emotions, and is enthusiastically shared through social platforms.
- Social media links on websites – these links enable visitors to a website to view or join a social community where they can see what others are saying, comment, ask questions and so forth. Social media pages help to display a ‘human’ interactive side to a commercial operation. It also beats ringing up a business and waiting on the line for half an hour to get an answer to a query!
How social media may impact SEO in the future
While none of us has a crystal ball, the way things are travelling now gives an indication of how social media is changing SEO, and what the future will look like.
Most likely, social signals and citations will have more and more influence on search results, maybe even having more effect on rankings than they currently do. Recommendations and reviews by friends are also likely to be integrated to a greater degree into search results. In addition, the rapid increase of mobile device use for social interacting means that information will be shared in smaller bite-size chunks than previously. Most of these trends are already happening, and it appears they are not slowing down at this point in time!
However these trends do not make SEO redundant. SEO will continue into the future, but will evolve and adapt to its environment – in fact SEO is already becoming more sophisticated and providing better quality and more relevant results to user queries. Social media is adding value to SEO, rather than taking over from it. This emphasises the importance of taking advantage of the current changes and trends in order to make your site more visible on the internet, and to attract more traffic.