Have Social Shares become the collective beating drum of search engine optimization? Are they resulting in higher ranking in SERP?

Social sharing is like beating a drum – it is the ‘modern day way’ we send signals about what we like and value to others.  Between Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and LinkedIn many of us are actively sharing all kinds of content.  Whether its a viral video on YouTube, an awesome blog post, or even products from any one of a gazillion online retailers – social sharing is where it is at right now.

The question remains – do all those social shares impact SEO? Will links on social media sites improve your own website’s position in search engine results pages?

Signs are pointing to “yes” for now at least.  In the ever changing world of search engine optimization – one is not entirely sure what tomorrow will bring.

The basic job of a search engine is to deliver relevant content when you enter your search query.  In a blink of an eye, the search engine must deliver what is both relevant and – lately – what is popular.  With Facebook now exceeding 800 million usersTwitter on track to exceed 500 million users in 2012, and Google+ ranks expected to reach 400 million by the end of the year that’s a lot of signals search engine simply cannot afford to overlook.

Discussion and debate  on social media and SEO has been a bit of a rage lately both at professional conferences and blogs.

On the Raven Tools blog the description of a, now past, session at the Search Engine Marketing Expo East included this:

Search engines are increasingly factoring social signals into their ranking algorithms for “regular? search results. Who you are socially, your authority, the authority of those who talk about you (or your company) all play a role. This session looks at how social signals from Twitter and Facebook are currently being used with search.

The blog post goes on to outline some of the steps you can take to use social media to enhance your website’s search engine results including these tips:

Top tips for ranking with social media

  • Cultivate people who will share your stuff.
  • Share new, interesting stuff.
  • Vary your style (make sure you’re not just posting RTs, vias, etc.).
  • Don’t over saturate your followers. “Don’t pull a Guy Kawasaki. I love the guy, but I don’t follow him.?

TentBlogger gets straight to the heart of the matter:

The bottom line is this: Social Media does have an impact on your SEO and it’s one that you simply can’t ignore. You see, sharing your content on sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Facebook, Twitter, and more gives you not only credibility with people (and thus more traffic) but also inbound links which can increase your PageRank as well as provide other very positive signals to search engines that you’re a legitimate blog creating worthwhile content.

The Relative Value of Social Media Links

Almost a year ago now Mashable reported in a study of online event registration company that Facebook Likes drove more value than tweets.

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Specifically they reported:

The company announced Wednesday that an average tweet about an event drove 80 cents in ticket sales during the past six months, whereas an average Facebook Like drove $1.34.

Meanwhile, just this month, Google introduce Search Plus Your World which heavily integrates (and favors, to the chagrin of Twitter and Facebook) things you and your circles have shared on Google+

search plus your world marketing from Google

So, while Facebook Likes and share may drive more revenue than Tweets, it seems if you have a Google+ account, and you are logged in when you search – that Google+ shares could be very influential.

In fact, you can read on Search Engine Land’s Blog how Google’s “Search Plus? Pushes Google+ Over Relevancy.

Today there is no denying that social sharing is impacting SEO in ways we couldn’t have conceived of just 3 years ago. And like most things in search do, it will change and evolve over time. So, stay tuned!

Heck, even if social sharing didn’t have a positive impact on your search engine results I’d still recommend it.  After all, it provides links to real people, people in your circle who are the most likely to be interested in what you are doing anyway.

Does this mean that mass social sharing campaigns should become the main focus of your SEO efforts?  No it shouldn’t be your number one priority.  It is important, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of your list.

Sure, you’ll want to share and encourage others to share your content.  But the bottom line always has been, and probably always will be, that relevant, original and valuable content is the first priority for improving your search engine results. That, perhaps, is the only part of the SEO puzzle that hasn’t changed.

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