A hotly debated topic for all SEO experts is whether or not Google uses social sharing as a factor for its results. And there really is no definitive answer that anyone can draw from, in other words, no one from Google is talking. It’s been our experience though that yes, social sharing does play a factor. To a point.
A video of an elephant playing in the sand can go viral and all of a sudden, it’s everywhere. From news outlets writing about it, to Reddit posts, to Facebook and Twitter. When something goes viral these days, it actually becomes news, even though it may have happened months ago. But instead of thinking about something going viral, website owners are asking themselves:
“Does a piece of content with two Facebook shares do better in search than a piece of content with no Facebook shares?”
Short Answer: No. A few shares or tweets here or there has no effect on the page’s ranking.
Where Google starts to pay attention is when a piece of content gets a huge amount of shares or tweets. Then your traffic benefit is really from the shares more so than Google and Google seems to like that.
Long term, we’ve seen that posts that have gone viral do in fact do better with their search rankings than ones that don’t. But the reality is, the affect is minimal. Google understands that social sharing does not imply value and that social sharing can be manipulated.
Don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the correlation between the two. It’s there, but not enough to get concerned about. Think about SEO and social sharing on two different plains.
Twitter/Facebook/Reddit/YouTube Search Take Over
If content websites are what you do, it’s time to get a bit nervous.
Sites like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter are now having posts get individually indexed and appear as content and as news. It used to be that only actual web pages were indexed by Google and the other search engines, but now individual, Tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos and more are showing up in search results.
Case study: In late Februrary 2015, Reddit played a bit of a joke on the Google algorithm. A Redditor posted a picture of a potato and the title “Gaming Console. If you vote this up, it will show up on Google Images when people Google search Gaming”. Hours after posting it, and with a ton of up votes, the post was #1 for the term “Gaming Console” in Google News for about 36 hours. Since the news got out about the joke, we think Google may have addressed this one personally, as it doesn’t appear in Google Images for the term. But it goes to show the power of Reddit and search, and what it means for the future.
So if you are a fashion news website and you write about a model falling over at a show in Milan, you can bet that Google News will be all over it and post links from Reddit and YouTube. Think about it, why would Google want to deliver you to a content page with the Youtube video embedded when it can just give you the video itself?
Of course, that does not mean that doing high quality content which offers analysis and exposition of the video won’t be well-indexed. It really depends on the post. If the purpose of your content is to embed a YouTube video of a man getting hitting in the crotch by something amusing (perhaps a sledgehammer) and all you add is a sentence or two basically saying “ouch” Google will see your post as having much less value than the original. If. However, you offer a thought out piece on why crotch shots are funny, you might appeal to people who want more than just the video.
Be very aware that the original content platforms will very likely out-rank you now no matter how good a piece your write. This is also true when it comes to your site. If you post on Facebook then it’s possible your Facebook page will show in search results over your actual website.
If you want to avoid that, be very aware of what you post on your site and what you post on social media.
The bottom line is, if something goes viral and you want to write about it, choose a different angle on the topic than just directly presenting it. You may be able to carve out a niche for specific keywords or at least show up alongside the original.
Social buttons – and whether you have them or don’t – seem to have no effect on your Google ranking. That may come as a surprise, but it’s true. Google knows whether or not you have social accounts for your website, not just based on what gets indexed. And because almost every website and blog has social buttons, it wouldn’t be considered something that would make you stand out over others.
Social buttons do not hurt you either of course, but don’t think that by adding more of them, it’s somehow better. Think of them solely for your social media strategy and user engagement, not as an SEO tool.
If you haven’t signed up for a Google Plus account for your website, it’s generally a good idea. Google ended its authorship program in mid-2014, so articles that are attached to Google Plus accounts don’t have the same effect as they used to. However, there is still a benefit to having an account and connecting your articles to it. It just isn’t as clear cut as it used to be.
After all, what could be better than having a social account with the same company that controls the majority of searches on the Web?
Google insists that it does not weigh whether a site has a Google Plus account in its search results, but past experience has shown that to not be true – at least a little. Be nice to Google and Google tends to be nice to you. That’s not scientific or real SEO strategy but it’s in some ways common sense.
If you were Google and all things were equal between two posts and one supported only Facebook and Twitter, while the other had those, but Google Plus as well, which result would you put at the top? It’s not a major factor, or even always a factor, but it’s a good idea to treat the company which decides whether anyone finds your website through search well.