Why Social Is the New SEO

social media new seo

In January of this year, Matt Cutts released a video explaining that social signals do not impact search engine result rankings. For a long time, every SEO behaved as if they did. If this is true — that social signals don’t affect search rankings — what do we do now?

I’m making the case that social is the new SEO. But I need to explain the new social/SEO territory that we’re in, specifically in the wake of Cutts’ announcement.

So, what has changed with social media and SEO?

Let me give you a brief history of Google’s conflicted stance on social signals.

Google’s stance on social media

First, in May 2010, Cutts stated that the algorithm does not use social signals as a factor in search results.

Then, in December of 2010, Cutts revealed that the algorithm does use social signals as a factor in search results.

Finally, in January of 2014, Cutts informed us that the algorithm does not use social signals as a factor in search results.

This agonizing back-and-forth has caused some confusion in the search community. For the last several years, we’ve been operating under the assumption, stated by Cutts himself, that social signals were an algorithmic rank factor.

Our metrics seemed to back it up. The higher our social following, the better our sites seemed to perform in the SERPs. Evidence suggests that the so-called “social signals” were a helpful SEO feature.

And now, they aren’t a factor?

If that is the case, then thousands of SEOs and social media managers have been barking up the wrong tree. We’ve been throwing millions of dollars and thousands of hours into pumping up our numbers of followers, fans, plusses, retweets, and likes in order to improve our SEO.

Now, apparently, that doesn’t work for SEO. Social signals do not impact SEO.

To quote Cutts’ exact words:

Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index so if something occurs on Twitter or occurs on Facebook and we’re able to crawl it, then we can return that in our search results. But as far as doing special specific work to sort of say “you have this many followers on Twitter or this many likes on Facebook”, to the best of my knowledge we don’t currently have any signals like that in our web search ranking algorithms.

Let’s just assume that he’s right.

What should we do about it?

There are several things that we should do in light of this information. First, let me tell you what not to do.

Don’t neglect social!

The whole point of this article is that social is important. It’s the new SEO! It’s one of the most important ways that you can spend your time, efforts, and marketing dollars.

So, maybe these “signals” we loved so much aren’t working. But so what? Social is still a valuable channel for promotion, content, distribution, virality, and sharing. Social is still a crucial aspect for search even if it doesn’t register as one of Google’s many algorithmic ranking factors.

Stay on top of social. More on that later. For now, please remember — don’t neglect social!

Change your idea of “SEO” to include social search engines

SEO is nearly synonymous with Google optimization. When I provide SEO advice, ranking tips, and coaching on SEO, most of the discussion centers around what Google likes, what it does, how it crawls, and why it behaves the way it does.

However, we need to understand that search engine optimization includes the search that happens on social media search engines.

Google isn’t the only search engine out there. Yes, there is Bing, Yahoo, Ask, and AOL. But the amount of search that these engines manage is minuscule compared to Google.

Look at a typical example of traffic generation:

google traffic

This pie graph demonstrates that Google is the dominant source of search engine traffic.

There is a surprising reality lurking behind this graph that we don’t often think about.

Social is a search engine too.

Social referrals don’t register in the graph above because the social searchers have the company’s social page, not the company’s website (with analytics tracking), as their destination.

Nonetheless, visitors who find the company on its social platforms are searching, accessing, and interacting with the company in a very real way.

Social is the new SEO because social networks themselves function as powerful and widely-used search engines in their own right.

Here are the big social search engines and their search capabilities.

YouTube

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, second only to Google. Yes, Google bought YouTube in 2006, but YouTube is still a separate site with a separate search algorithm. Every second of every day, 1,140 searches are performed on YouTube.

There is an enormous amount of content that is indexed on YouTube. With 100 hours of video being uploaded every minute, with 50% of Internet users accessing YouTube, with six billion hours of video viewed every month, and with one billion unique monthly visitors, YouTube is a force to be reckoned with.

And it’s a social force.

YouTube is a video sharing site. Get that: sharing. It’s social.

If you’re not using YouTube, then you’re neglecting a valuable source of search traffic. Even if that traffic doesn’t end up on your homepage, it’s still enhancing your social presence.

This could elicit a flood of conversions, brand awareness, and social growth that is outside the realm of conventional Google SEO optimization.

Facebook

Facebook has a highly-developed search engine. Its purpose is vastly different from Google’s because it is indexing the content and settings of personal and business identities.

Facebook’s people search feature allows you to tweak your search settings to find individuals that you may know:

facebook search

This is a critical source of searched information because it taps directly into people’s pursuit of human relationships:

facebook people

Specific filter sets allow me to curate the exact results that I want:

facebook filters

Facebook’s search bar allows instant search on any topic, organization, individual, or idea. It elicits thousands of searches daily and a deluge of targeted leads for companies and businesses who know how to work it.

And all of this has no connection to Google whatsoever.

Twitter

Twitter is a search engine too. A big one.

Statisticbrain reports that as of January 1, 2014, Twitter’s search engine manages 2.1 billion queries daily. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Search engine experts have been watching Twitter search metrics for a few years.

Here’s a sample query for “google algorithm.” See what comes up?

twitter search

The first result is promoted. We can discount that one. In the second result, though, we see that there is a “top news story” by Barry Schwartz, posted on Search Engine Roundtable. This is a hot topic, and I can see that it was published just one hour ago.

This kind of search appeals to me because I can get up-to-the minute results. I can even refine my search with a set of filters:

twitter filter

If that’s not good enough, I can use Twitter’s Advanced Search functionality.

twitter advanced search

This is a level of search in a source that is largely unreturned in Google’s results.

But it’s still search engine optimization, just on a different search engine. And at a rate of 2.1 billion searches daily, there is an incredible amount of traffic that can be gained.

Obviously, Twitter search is delivering Twitter-only results. In order to rank on these Twitter search results, you’ve got to:

Google+

Google+ is probably the paramount social network for the new social SEO. Already, Google+ delivers personalized search results on people, companies, organizations, and groups that are in your existing circle network.

google contacts

In addition to personalized results, you’re familiar with the significance of Google authorship ranking. Google authorship is related to social via the social network of Google+, and it already wields an enormous impact upon both results ranking and the CTR of these results.

google results

My conjecture is that Google+ will continue to expand its impact upon search, giving ever-more credence to the statement “social is the new SEO.”

Google crawls and indexes some social pages

So, maybe the number of your followers doesn’t matter to the algorithm. But still, the content on social pages is indexed. Your social pages matter to Google.

Here’s what Cutts said in his video:

Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index so if something occurs on Twitter or occurs on Facebook and we’re able to crawl it, then we can return that in our search results.

This is somewhat vague. The phrase “if something occurs” doesn’t exactly inform you what that occurrence is. Nor does it tell you what kind of pages on social networks are indexed.

Based on this response, I interpret Cutts’ words in the following way. I think what he’s saying is, “We only crawl some social pages, and we only return some of those results.”

From conducting studies of my own, I have found that Google does crawl and return personal Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and LinkedIn pages for individuals. In the case of Facebook, a person’s account will show up in the SERPs only if the accessibility permissions have been adjusted to allow public viewing of certain elements on the page.

My studies have also shown that there is an upside to having social pages for a business as far as Google SERPs are concerned. Companies with robust and optimized social accounts can and will gain greater search benefits from their social media accounts in Google SERPs.

For example, the World Wildlife Fund has its Facebook account listed on the first page of Google for the queries “World Wildlife Fund” and “Wildlife Fund.”

google results

If you Google “Quicksprout,” you will see its Facebook and Twitter accounts in the second and third positions of Google’s SERP.

google results quicksprout

This is a different type of SEO altogether.

Conclusion

Cutts’ video on the role of social media in SEO suggests that future search results may provide tighter integration with social results. It’s evident that the web is an intensely social place.

Maybe the size of your social empire is irrelevant. But your social presence is very relevant when it comes to search.

No longer can we view the algorithm as a sterile and lifeless entity to be gamed, tricked, and cajoled by our clever SEO tricks. We must now realize the enormous impact of the social web.

The web is comprised not merely of bits and bytes but of people, organizations, groups, causes, ideas, and human energy. We’ve observed that with Apple’s popularization of speech search (e.g., Siri) and Google’s Hummingbird update, even the style and syntax of search has a human, or conversational, element.

As we move forward in the new SEO era of social, the takeaway is this — stay active on your social networks. Pay attention to them, curate them, improve them, enhance them, and remain plugged into this valuable resource.

How are you seeing social media play into SEO?

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Comments

  1. Justin Cener :

    I couldn’t AGREE more! Social Signals provide the same “vote” a backlink did – but more distributed, from the users, and more timely. I can easily see these being the most important ranking factor in 1-2 years.

    Google wants to provide the best search results for it’s users. If a user is liking, sharing, +1′ing, that means they clearly like that page and it should surface to the top of the SERPS.

    • Justin, thanks for these additional points. Thanks for reading :)

    • So cool! Thanks!

      Having genuine positive engagement signals over the social platforms can work as votes(=links value). A strong push for site KW ranks. ;)

      It should couple with clarity (to bots n visitors alike) over proper customer / visitor goal completion/satisfaction of visiting. Amazing light!

      Thanks Justin n Neil!

  2. Another great article Neil, thanks for posting more types of these articles like I wanted :)

  3. Hi Neil

    I guess so the next seo going be SEO social!

    thanks

    claude

  4. Great article Neil. Like you, I’ve seen direct impact over the long term that social does give lift to SERP’s.

    We’ve always made it a point to utilize social to support our search efforts, combining it with our content marketing strategies.

    As Google continues to refine their algo’s social signals will continue to make impact…whether they want to admit it or not.

  5. As always, a great detailed post.

    I find that quite a few SEOs/marketers tend to forget to look past just doing everything for SEO benefit. Take the guest posting “death” post by Matt Cutts a while ago.

    Most people forgot to realize that guest posting was never about SEO and backlinks, but it was always about branding, traffic, and industry authority.

    An example of someone who went about guest posting the right way: Leo Widrich of Buffer. He did some 200+ guest posts, I believe, for Buffer.

    Was he thinking SEO? Probably not. Was he thinking customer acquisition, branding, and traffic generation? Bingo.

    Apart from content marketing and SEO, I’d say that social is the runner-up on what a typical business’s top marketing focus should be.

    Cheers,
    Jonathan

  6. Love the Article, will have to read it a few times to totally digest all this great material.

    Bryan

  7. There is no way Social Media doesn’t count in Search. Google Authorship rank will probably dominate the search results soon and that ranks will be comprised of what? Probably of mostly the amount of shares, Likes and other social media stats you have. Pretty straight forward stuff. Sure there will be other factors, but your name is literally becoming a brand, your company/website name is literally becoming a live brand online with Google’s ability to make social signals into Authorship rank. I bet anyone who sleeps on Authorship rank will regret it.

    Would love to learn more about Authorship Rank!

  8. Thanks for very detailed post.

    Just one question.. Can you tell us how many time you(or your team) spent every day on other social media than Facebook, Twitter and Google+?

    I think f.e. Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest and others..

    I know that these social sites are also awesome for any business, just the point is that most people working on 6-8 social media sites, but they don’t know nothing about none of them..

    So just for better information about you.. :)

    • Jan, great question. I would say we focus on the major social engines. However, we do spend some personal time on the other sites. LinkedIn and Google+ are some big ones.

  9. Great post, once again Neil!
    Of course “social” is the next SEO.
    If we think about it, it’s what The Big G has been telling us all along: design your site for visitors, NOT for bots.

    What proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that humans are interacting with your content?

    Let me be brave, and suggest that “some signals” on “some networks” would be a sure-fire indicator that your content is worthy of being found (cue the SERP-music, please).

    And speaking of dancing – and I hope we all stopped the Google-Dance a long, long time ago, don’t forget what I consider to be #1 Rule of The Internet, through all your online efforts, make the ‘net a better place.

    It’s not about gaming a bot and making a dime – it’s all about building a demonstrable following (cue Seth Godin) – and keeping that following appropriately engaged.

    Then the snowball slowly starts a-rollin’!
    Happy days.

    My parting thought, before heading out for the weekend: a “click” is a user you can help, not a statistic. Help them (and help them spread the word…)

    Peace!

  10. We don’t blame Google for the YESs and NOs do we? Though they control a greater share of the pie, that’s just an aspect of the Internet – search

    If one can’t be found on Google, one should be found on Social platforms.

  11. I agree, If its not a factor now it will be a factor eventually and we should be working towards what is going to be relevant for years to come.

  12. I have always believed the social media has a lot to do with SEO. Thanks for the insight Neil.

  13. Spammers can’t do social – well, not in a way that’s believable to avid users of social media — and for this reason, we should all do a happy dance. Social takes a lot of time and spammers hate things that take time. To be truly social, you need to be personable and most spammers are misanthropes. So when Matt Cutts says social signals aren’t a big factor, I chuckle. I don’t believe him. IMHO Googlers and other tech wizzes ARE finding and testing ways to blend social signals and SERPs. So, I say vive la social signals, mostly because I detest spammers.

  14. Great post. Have always seen that social signals improve your SERPS and users view of your site I’m sure they will be used more to rank site in the future

  15. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for your Social/SEO article.
    I liked your ideas to use social (even if it is not taken directly into account by Google in ranking a website).

    Just a couple of thought to add.

    I agree that Matt Cutts’ ambiguity about social signals consideration is a joke. Maybe it is a part of his strategy of confusing SEOs.

    And maybe they tested their algorithms and understood that they were not ready yet.

    Anyway, I’d believe they are working on it. Otherwise, if Google does nothing, other search engines will make Google swallow the dust sooner or later. And Google need to do something about it.

    So the story with social signals is not over, I think :)

  16. Wow, I love the way you come up with so much good information in a post. I have been telling clients that work on Facebook doesn’t seem to make much difference. I actually had one client that had a full time person doing nothing but taking care of their facebook account. I looked at analytics and saw they were only getting 8 hits per month from facebook, and their conversion ratio was about 1%. Their conversions were worth about $300, so in one year they would pay $40,000 for a $300 sale. Not very good business.

  17. Hi Neil,

    Thank you for another great article highlighting some points on a very hot topic. Aside from wanting to engage and socialise on social platforms, I can see real benefits in the way content is indexed, shared and through various analytic tools, the effects this does have.

    Thanks again for discussing this important area

  18. Hey Neil, I have been preaching the same message about social business and how social effects search since 2009. With Apple’s recent acquisition of Topsy it’s writing on the wall of whats to come. Thanks again for all your continued insights. Congrats on being a new uncle! Justin

  19. Hey Neil, well written and very detailed information on Social. It’s interesting that people are still trying to game Google. I gave up on the Google dance about 2 years ago when I figured out that no matter what you try to do to game them, they game you back even harder.

    I have since said to hell with trying to rank for Google and just give my audience what they want. Screw keyword research, and all the SEO games and tricks and just go with the trends in my niche and let the chips fall where they may.

    Guess what? Since taking that approach and focusing my efforts on giving my audience what they wanted and I stopped worrying about SERPS, my traffic literally quadrupled in less than 3 months and has been steadily rising since.

    I believe in Social for sure because to me social is another way to direct traffic to my site and increase my readership and subscribers. So hell ya social is a big deal, but not for any real SEO purpose but for getting eyeballs on my pages and that is really the bottom line.

    My take away is stop to worrying about SEO tricks and games and just do what you have to in your niche to drive quality traffic to your sites and the money will follow.

    • Steve, great points. However, I would have to say that a good mix of SEO & Social is the best formula. You shouldn’t neglect one, but rather have them both work in conjunction.

  20. I agree Neil that social signal gives boost to our website ranking. More signal you send the more chances your website ranked well in search engine.
    As per my observation, I noticed that if you performs well in Google + and collect many followers or if your post get more popular on google+, it gives you an instant boost in ranking rather that Facebook and twitter.
    :)

  21. Thanks for the post Neil. I suppose Google would be very daft not to integrate the platforms where the discussion is taking place.

  22. It definitely makes sense to expand our view of SEO to include social!

    Doesn’t Pinterest refer more traffic than google? We need to look at Pinterest and other social platforms as additional search engines that we should optimize for.

  23. Awesome post, Neil. I have been saying that the new SEO is content + social + search. SEO is not like it used to be. Things have definitely changed. I like your approach when talking to clients, when you say you discuss what Google likes, because ultimately, that’s the bottom line.

    Google crawls and indexes a website, and they want to be able to do that easily. However, they cannot determine popularity and importance by reading your website code (they actually can by analyzing bounce rates, page views, etc. but read on). That can only be done by the users of the website. The more socially active you are, the better content you have, and the more your followers/audience engages with your website, Google will start seeing you as an authority figure on that topic that has relevant information for the user to search for and a higher importance and popularity value.

    Those are my thoughts.

    Great article, Neil!

    • David, great points. There are so many signals that are subtle. Creating great content is one of best things to do if you want to do well. Looking forward to hearing more from you :)

  24. Great article, sharing this with my team.

  25. Good point – especially the Youtube part. Everybody who’s thinking seriously about SEO should consider that into strategy.

  26. Great points… Lot’s of detail – thanks for putting the time into this. You cannot argue with the fact that Google+ posts appear directly in search results.

  27. Obviously there will be a boost if you perform in social I could see that in my case studies and I recommend everyone use g+ and pinterest rather than others .thanks for great sharing Neil

  28. Great article Neil and all good suggestions, BUT we should all be paying more attention to BING. Especially since your Google share graph is way out dated. According to ComScore as of January 2014 Google only controls about 66.1% of the search traffic not 89% Bing has 18.1% and Yahoo 11.2 % AND since Bing & Yahoo now share almost everything we can call it 30%. Can anyone say Merger??
    here is that comscore link http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Press_Releases/2014/1/comScore_Releases_December_2013_US_Search_Engine_Rankings

  29. Superb post Neil, i liked the way you interpret words of Matt on ‘Social Signals’ and showing interesting stats about Twitter’s daily searches. (Its really huge volume, i was not aware of)

    Yes, you can see Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and other social links on 1st page of Google for the branded search term of any individual/company.

    Conclusion:
    Social stuff matters and of-course its adding some what social values, so don’t neglect it.

  30. Great Article as usual, loads of information to process in here.

    I don’t know much about SEO (and that’s the main reason I read your articles. To learn a bit more).

    That said, in my personal experience, social signal do not impact my ranking on google that much. So Cutts might be saying the truth about it.

    Otherwise I can’t explain why one of my articles (a very detailed, good quality one) went viral on facebook and has been shared 5.2K times in less than 1 month but still doesn’t rank that high on google (stable on page 4 for many keywords), whilst another one with just 260 likes on FB and some G+ shares is ranking 1/ 2 on google first page for many keywords (and sending me quite some money).

    What I’ve noticed is that popularity on social media is important for brand awareness, traffic and engagement. But in my niche (travel) the traffic coming from social DOESN’T CONVERT AT ALL.

    I earned 99% of my money from the article with 200+ shares and not a single penny out of the viral post.

    Yes, people loved the article, they reshared it everywhere on the net, including official national organizations facebook pages with millions of followers, and I made sure to include some good affiliate links that i know have a high CTR in the article.

    Nothing happened. Not a single click. The money still comes from google search obviously.

    The social might be the next SEO, but will this convert into sales? probably not on my niche.

    I even tried to boost the post that is giving me good money through google also on facebook (targeting the audience as much as i could)

    Results? all I got was an increased amount of likes and shares on FB, a few more social visit to the website (not many compared to google), and no conversions. ZERO.

    Maybe I still don’t get the potential of all this. Maybe I am missing something here, but looking at the numbers and figures, google is not using shares and likes in the algorythm, and even if being social is important, it doesn’t convert as well as google does.

    So my hope is that Cutts changes his mind and includes the social signal in the algorythm, that way people would have much more benefit from spending hours growing and engaging the audience to just get traffic that doesn’t convert.

    My 2 cents obviously, based on my personal experience. I would be more than happy to read a case story that proves me wrong.

    Ps: sorry for any mistake on this comment but English is not my first language.

    • Clelia, this is a great and in-depth comment and all your points are awesome!
      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I am sure once you hit that engagement formula you will see that things change. Please let me know if you need any help along the way :)

  31. Before I read this article about social media being the new SEO I knew something about it’s readers: They are intellectuals. You see, a 3 to 1 Tweet to Facebook share is a key indicator. It’s really simple: smart people share smart ideas on twitter. And smart people share popular ideas intended for an average audience on Facebook.

    As a web user I judge social media shares as a determinant if I will read an article. Any 10 FB shares to 1 Tweet is 80% bounce-rate for me.

    • Jason, that is interesting observation. Do you take into account retweets and all the obvious garbage tweets. NOT of this author but in general?

      The time it takes to research, not just view the numbers posted on the page, you could read the first few paragraphs of any article, view the info graphs and figure out 1- if the author knows of which he speaks 2 – is it something i am interested in.

      also many people DON”T Tweet but do use Facebook as a legitimate marketing platform to keep readers involved. i think you would actually miss out on some very good , informative and entertaining articles using your algorithm.

    • Jason, those are great points. Audience perception is very important. Demographic targeting is something a lot of companies and brands do.

  32. We took our FB fan page from 20K to 150k fans (54K TAT) in the last 14 months and have seen no SEO bump – I don’t buy it

    • Mitch, are you getting a lot of engagement. That is the most important metric :)

    • Mitch, I did a quick scan of your store & facebook page. Two points I think would help you.

      Facebook page – you have posted a lot of great pictures of the Parrots of the world BUT NO CONTENT & every link back to your store goes to the same HOME page.

      Store Page – even worse You have no CONTENT just images and links. No Alt tags at all on the dozens of pictures.

      If you want to leverage the Facebook page to get value then you need to have some printed words on your Store Home Page. and start posting articles or maybe tips on the Facebook page that link to Content pages on your Store.

      With the amount of Fans that you have you should be getting more Bang for your buck. Just my free unsolicited opinion.

  33. The NUMBER of Twitter or Facebook followers may not be a ranking factor, but the activity and engagement those followers generate for your content certainly is.

    And more engaged followers = more activity = higher rankings…

    …so to my redneck brain it seems like social signals are still a ranking factor.

    P.S. Given how easy it is to game follower numbers, Google would be stupid to use that as a ranking factor. Activity, on the other hand, is hard to game without a butt-ton of buy-one-get-one-free cards at Mechanical Turk.

  34. Thanks for your insight on social being the new SEO.

    It’s not how many likes or followers that effect the algorithm but the rest of the benefits of potential social sharing etc.

    I really liked your in-depth explanation showing social in the search engines.

  35. Hey Neil –

    Great points about being social!

    Those social giants you talked about being, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, and Google + are great ways to generate traffic and leads for your business. I would add Pinterest on there as well.

    I mean you’re talking about easily some of the top 10 most visited sites in the world, and most of the time people simply focus on getting ranked in Google.

  36. Great post Neil. This reminds me of another great post by Eric Enge. They actually did a study on how Google+ impacts search rankings. And here’s what they found

    1. Google+ shares do drive discovery.
    2. Google+ shares probably drive indexing as well, with some possibility of error in this stage of testing (links we don’t know about).
    3. No evidence of Google+ shares driving ranking.

    (Original article: http://www.stonetemple.com/measuring-google-plus-impact-on-search-rankings/)

    Let’s take Upworthy. The site is primarily based on social shares. How much do they care for SEO? Titles are much much longer even to 116 characters. Same description in most of the pages i.e. “Things that matter. Pass ‘em on.”

    Ultimately as you mentioned Google isn’t the only search engine there are others too and there are other traffic drivers too. So go viral.

  37. Great post Neil!

    I’ve thought this for some time. I 100% agree that social “likes” count for a lot, despite what Google says. Then again, I don’t put much weight (truth) in what MC says anymore. Tune the guy out at this point lol

  38. Great article, Neil. I am just a small town freelancer, but I did put links to you and this post on my website blog.

  39. Dear Neil I conclude 4 things from your Article:

    (1) Social Media is very important Don’t Neglect that

    (2) Do add some value in your sharing because your discussion and sharing some time gives you a good Ranking

    (3) Generally We think that YouTube is a Video Search engine but we should not forget that it is a video sharing (social sharing) site too.

    (4) Facebook, Twitter etc social media platforms works as a Search engine too.

    Dear Neil I want to share my personal experience with you and all my dear online marketers.

    Before few month I started a discussion on LinkedIn “SEO is not dead, It is a rebirth of seo do you agree?” I got more than 75+ comments on that and get a huge response. Because of that my discussion get a No.1 Ranking in Google.com on my keyword “Rebirth of seo” and it is still on No.1

    So I try to saying is that Add lot of value in your discussion. Don’t just throw your sharing in social media.Don’t use social media platforms for just time pass activity do some logical and creative work on that.

    It is a great article Neil. Thank you for sharing the Great information with us :)

  40. Akram Pathan :

    Hi Neil,

    I am one of the biggest fan of yours. You have been doing excellent job by serving us with such wonderful posts.

    I am looking for a favor, like how to search “niche audience” on social network sites to connect them? What steps should be under taken for a start up business. Any tips please or a healthy suggestion if you consider this as one of your upcoming post. :)

    Thanks in advance bro.
    Akram Khan

  41. Neil, the very fact that blogs rank and social media enables shares should be proof enough that social media IS the new SEO and nobody can afford to ignore it. Ask any blogger. Engagement and interaction, two things that Google loves are made possible by social media. Ya know, I blogged for almost 8 years (since 2003) with barely any comments. The only thing possible back then was actually visiting other blogs (which I did) and because blogging itself was fairly nascent and most of us did it rather casually, we did not know better. With Twitter and Facebook almost taking over our lives now, we understand the value of interaction. And of course Facebook and Twitter results show up in search for any search phrase.

    Today if my blog is popular and I get decent traffic – I’d say a lot of credit goes to social media!

    I love how you’ve presented your insight – Thank you. I always enjoy reading your posts!

    Love, Vidya

  42. Yesterday I read an article by jeff bullas about social media being the new SEO I couldn’t but just agree with him and reading your post again this morning, I will say for me you just nailed it.

    We all know that great and valuable content gets shared all over the internet using social media, and google ranking and authority is about how valuable and useful your contents are, I see no reason why cutt should disregard social media in page ranking.

    Well looking again from another angle, I think google is trying to avoid what initial happened when backlink was a major criteria in ranking with the social media “likes and share”.

    Whether social media activities directly leads to page ranking or not, the fact still remain that the way you connect with your audience through your content affects your authority, your traffic and backlink all which leads to a better page ranking on the SERP.

    Neil thanks for the post. I am new to SEO and content marketing but I think am learning fast standing on the shoulder of giants like you.

  43. Neil, I’m huge on social not only because of its SEO benefits but also because it Google proofs your campaign. My almost 28K followers on twitter and 5 K friends are going nowhere, as long as I proceed according to my intent, to help them. If Google updates things again I’ll be fine; my social traffic remains strong. Good insight!

  44. Hello Neil,
    Your sharings are alwats amazing. You point out the things, people mat neglect. Well, I hava a question in mind. As I search, I find that Google is giving value to Twitter and Facebook URLs, it’s not giving so much value to the content. Even you have duplicate content. It may appear in Search Results. If the URL was exactly according to the query. Is URL the most importnat thing for search results? Specially for Social Media. Am I right?

  45. Thanks for the nice exlanation about social media, But as you said should we stop creating link building from now and start foucussing more on building a strong presence on social media?

  46. Really like the way you put this content together. Social is the new SEO is very correct in every sense. These days, companies without social following / proof, means no real connection with its audience.. Social proof probably the most powerful way to influence people. However Google decides, the web is a social place and most not be ignored.

  47. Great article Neil!

    I don’t think it can be denied today that social media is critical to promoting a website and engaging with your audience. I’m only beginning to focus on social media presence and I can already see the benefits.

  48. Hi Neil

    Keep share a such a very helpful information

    Many Thanks

  49. Hi Neil,

    Epic article it is! Yes, there was confusion surrounding this whole social media signals aspect so far. But this article has cleared the clouds for me!

    I like the way you treated the major social media sites as search engines. And then there is the fact that social sites can always be of help to a blogger by getting more referral traffic to his/her blog.

    And if the content is good enough, maybe it goes viral on social sites and get loads of traffic! :)

    Anyway, social media won’t be ignored by me, not at least after reading this article! :)

    I found the link to this post on Kingged. I’ll Kingg it there so that more people get to know of this awesome post and read it!

    Arun

  50. Neil — A terrific post that acknowledges the importance of Google but gets to heart of how important our social experiences and interactions.

    My primary network is LinkedIn. I can tell you that I know many people who have gotten business through LinkedIn and others who have gotten excellent jobs. For example, one colleague was contacted through LinkedIn by the world’s largest global asset manager and she was eventually hired to head their social media efforts. Another colleague happened to peruse a company’s page and within a few hours the company contacted him to say they liked his profile and he would be a perfect match for a job opening. He took the job with a 60% increase in salary.

    We all need to understand why we’re using social media and what our goals are. The goal isn’t to have the greatest number of followers or likes, it’s to achieve your goal of establishing your authority in your space, or to search for a job, or to connect with potential clients that you search on the network.

    I think we all need to calm down about SEO and not get hysterical if we see a drop in visitors to our websites once in a while.

    • Jeanette, great points. I love your insights on the whole “being patient” thing. It’s very important to do all the right things all the time so we don’t get caught in these hysterics.
      Looking forward to hearing more from you :)

  51. Impeccably researched, shedding a whole new light on social media and its value. Thank you, for this perspective, from both myself and my clients.

  52. Neil, I entirely agree with the post. Social is important and it does play into SEO.

    However, I believe its Google+ that Google wants to take the main stage. In that case, it would not officially consider other social signals as a factor, like FB and Twitter. I also believe that Google is wanting the “conversations” or “blog commentes” to also come aboard Google+ and it’ll want to reward as ranking factors.

    In regards to social following, it can always be acquired by purchasing them, so that should not be a ranking criteria. In fact, G+ is the only social share button that you can use only once per person on a post, that count is more reasonable, however, that too can be purchased.

    The point is that Google does not consider “Social as the new SEO” but it wants “Google-Plus to be the new SEO”.

    Afterall, we must not forget that Google is a company and it wants to rule the search industry and protect its interests as well as try maimize its profits by creating markets for its own products.

    New Social Signals = Conversations + Shares (on Google+)

    What are your views?

    ~ Harleena

    • Harleena, I think you bring up some very interesting points. I mostly agree with what you have written. I think an underlying thing people don’t understand is Social is SEO because it’s a way to share and move content around various channels. It’s like link building because it allows you to get people to your site and generate a buzz for the pre-existing content on your site. Thanks for the great feedback as always. Looking forward to hearing more from you!

  53. You know what Neil,

    Sometimes I start to feel that Google might “mislead” us by sharing wrong clues about how they rank or not rank sites.

    The truth is, we all know little bit about ranking websites (and folks like Neil know lot) and the search ranking landscape is constantly changing.

    Every case study reveals some strong points. To be specific to this post about social media’s importance , yes social media is super important. Otherwise many of us wouldn’t have discovered many sites. It’s as simple as that.

    Why can’t it be our site. So we should never ignore social media and after all it’s already bringing referral traffic (so it doesn’t matter much whether it’s improves SERP).

    As usual, great article Neil. I love the depth of your research and examples. It shows that your connection with this field is really deep and strong.

  54. Hi Neil,

    Swetank here from India. Recently you can say since 2-3 months I had just neglected and forgotten to do homework on social media. The stats and views you shared really brightened me up! Now I am really focused.

  55. We are forgetting one thing, the another vice-verse effect of social. Our social activities bring domain authority and it in-directly a factor of SERP’s for a domain. Let me know if I am wrong?

  56. Hi Neil! I’d like to pin this article to my SEO board on Pinterest but it says (and it’s not the first time) “Oops! This site doesn’t have any images to Pin.” Any idea why? :|

  57. Very nice article, and very good presented. I can only agree with you Neil. Some nice ideas as well.

  58. It was really surprising for me how many people after hearing that social media have no impact on SEO, were so disappointed that all their efforts were pointless.
    I agree with everything you said about the content influence on SEO but also I think that if it wasn’t linked at all, it would still be worth all this work.
    I may not be the biggest fan of social media myself (or I’d say I’m not a huge fan of how it’s often used) but there is no doubt that it has huge influence on brand awareness, social proof, trust etc.

  59. Very nice article,I’m following your blog since a short time but already got millions of great tips from you.Such a great job you’re doing here.

  60. I am confused why Cutts is making our heads go round and round and suffer to find the valid methods for SEO according to their guidelines. First he rejected Guest Posting for SEO and now he is saying no to social media importance as well then where are the valid things to do to make the website better in SERPs :(

  61. Neil,
    for a relatively new website with mostly verbal content would you suggest put most of the efforts into getting Social media links or other types of back links?
    Is it really important for Social linking success to have a lot of visuals like infographics, videos and charts?

    Thank you for a very informative article!

  62. Thanks for the good stuff. I guess the social activity itself doesn’t impact SERPS, but rather what happens as a result of that. If your content gets seen enough in the social arena, (it has to be good) the consensus is that people would most likely link to it… And funny you should mention robust facebook pages, they seem to be popping up every where in SERPs, often for some competitive search phrases.

  63. I always thought of social media as landing pages — whether people find my social profile via Google/other search engine or via network search, they have a chance to ge interested in my content and can easily hop onto my websites following the links on my profile:

    Web/Network search → Social Profile → Website

    And I should mention that all my art commission income was generated by DeviantART traffic, not Google traffic. ;) It was my social activity on that art-related community that got me clients, not random visitors coming from a Google search.

    All traffic is great, but target traffic that converts is just another thing. It’s THE traffic! And social channels work like a charm in this sense.

    • Luana, great points. I appreciate the insights. It’s all about qualified traffic as you mentioned ;)

      • Thanks Neil! ;)

        I always think of that expensive shop in my town that gets so many “pass by” visitors, but rarely a client — and I can’t help but think that the owner chose a pretty sorry location for the shop, as people here can’t afford €70-€100+ t-shirts.

  64. Question about Facebook’s search engine: is there a way to get listed in a category (say, “rustic furniture”) if those particular words aren’t in your company name? When I searched only pages and groups that contained the exact words I put in the search box showed up.

  65. Neil, I appreciate your post! In the great debate of how important social networks are for SEO, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head: “Social is the new SEO because social networks themselves function as powerful and widely-used search engines in their own right.” Whether they directly impact your website’s ranking or not they are important as a standalone entity and shouldn’t be ignored.

  66. Neil, as usual, you’re bang on. I just read an article on an influential website claiming that social signals is one of the main “SEO myths” out there.

    After reading your post, I’m proud to say that I have echoed your points with many clients and have enjoyed some success with their social marketing. Creating and sharing compelling and useful content via social media, that in turn gets shared by your network, and so on, is the key to SEO and digital marketing moving forward.

    Love your insights.

  67. Excellent post Neil and also very timely.
    I think the link analysis of social networks is more sophisticated because it allows engines like google to understand retweets and shares, likes. Unlike underground blog networks with one anchor text and no backlinks pointing to your backlinks ;)

  68. I doubt if I ever would have found this article without social media. Jon Morrow tweeted it. I read his stuff, and when Jon shares I know it’s good. His tweet is social proof for me. I trust him, therefore I’m willing to trust Neil.

    I’m old, been around the inter webs since 1994. I cringe at the thought of how much time and money I wasted buying links, building splogs, scraping and cloaking, all trying in vain to trick Google. Looking back if I had to do all over again I would have deployed those resources into building meaningful relationships with people of authority and influence.

    Neil, any idea where a grey-haired reformed seo black hat could buy a slightly-used Tardis?

  69. This is good idea for building traffic. Thanks for this wonderful article. Hope you can have time to visit my site. I believe that you will be interested on it.

  70. Great post Neil,

    this subject is very important for businesses to understand because most business owners feel SEO centers around Google alone (Maybe in the past, but that’s changed).

    I like what you said here… “However, we need to understand that search engine optimization includes the search that happens on social media search engines”

    I totally agree. I use Facebook’s Graph search and Twitter search a lot, which helps me narrow down things. Most people are catching on with this, and it’s highly effective. Thanks for posting this and breaking down the impact social is having on search today.

    Excellent post!

  71. Well, I’m gonna have to put you on my bookmark bar after this article.

  72. I think Both have their own value Neil.
    SEO and SMO I mean social both are useful for the online marketing
    SEO we used to established in Google and Social For visitors.

    Great article Neil………Keep in same way.

  73. Neil, I wish this was required reading for small to mid-size business owners. I just had a phone conversation with an owner who refused to acknowledge the power of presence on social platforms, to include Google+. He basically argued with every point, statistic or bit of knowledge I offered…what a nightmare- I guess you can’t save them all! Thank you for this valuable content! Keep it coming…

  74. Lorie Lewis :

    Remember, the majority of links made by SEO link building companies don’t actually bring more people to your site. The most effective ways to gain valuable links to your site is through social media. SEO and social media efforts together have a great impact on building a successful digital marketing campaign. When used correctly they can greatly impact traffic, ranking, and overall authority in your local area of business.

  75. Thanks for sharing Neil, i love your SEO articles that said don”t underestimate the power of social media

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