How Effective is Social Media for SEO – Is it all about the Rankings?

There is quite some debate surrounding the extent to which social media activities should currently complement your SEO strategy. According to Marketing Sherpa’s 2010 Social Media Benchmarking Report nearly 70% of marketers believe social media to be effective for improving rankings (scoring it 3 out 5 or higher) but is it purely about the rankings?

The Increasing value of Social Media

With search engines indexing more and more social data almost on a minute-by-minute basis, the increased value of social media from an SEO perspective should certainly not be discounted. Just last month, Bing and Twitter hinted at the continuation of their deal which allows Bing to display Tweets within search listings. Even with the loss of real time search in Google, the development and investment in Google+ shows commitment to a signal source which will become an increasingly significant factor in influencing Google’s search results over time.

Search engines must react to the most relevant signals they can in order to ensure the quality of search results returned to end users. In this case, using social signals are the next logical development for them when considering how they should identify and rank content. The content that users share, discuss and endorse socially is an ideal indicator of relevance. As a direct result, SEO strategies have already begun to include social activity in a targeted attempt to increase rankings.

Social isn’t just about gaining links

It is important to understand that social media isn’t purely about gaining links but is about providing valuable content, interaction and engagement with your customer, client or prospect base. As a result, any social media strategy needs to seriously consider the SEO opportunity, but should not be guided by it.
Defining the success of Social Media however cannot be based on the weighting that search engines give to social media activities alone and how these affect keyword positions. If social media is about providing valuable content, then it is the potential for fans and followers to share and link to this content which makes it such a valuable asset to SEO; building links to your social profile pages and your website in turn. This valuable social content also drives traffic and builds your company profile, brand and image in the wider context, demonstrating benefits over and above making gains within the rankings.

So in response to the proposition, yes, social media can be (and will become even more) effective for SEO, but being short-sighted about its benefits and not integrating as part of a wider strategy is ultimately, a mistake. If you can develop an integrated social media strategy, it is possible to gain significant advantages from your social media space, not purely for SEO but for your branding, lead generation and client nurturing efforts.

 

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