Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms to improve the search engine results and reduce spam. When Google launched it was clearly head and shoulders above all other search engines at the time.
They used the links between pages to judge the “authority” of pages and sites.
For a long time now simply building links to a website helped it rank. However as link spamming has become more and more of a problem the search engines have looked at new ways to judge a sites authority and everything has started to change.
There is no doubt that links are still the primary authority signal for Google, but over the past year or two Google have begun integrating social signals into is algorithms.
Google can see the number of likes, tweets, +1’s etc. that a page receives and uses this data to their advantage. In fact they have publicly shared how they use data such as the number of shares on Twitter.
Google has used all the social data to improve its search results in two very different ways.
The first way in which Google uses social signals is to help measure a pages authority. If a page receives lots of “likes”, then this give Google the impression it is well trusted and therefore could rank higher.
It is still unclear how exactly Google integrates this data into their algorithms, but it is clear that this data is having some form of impact.
I personally really like the idea of more social integration, in many ways it is harder fake these social signals so it should lead to an increase in quality of the search results.
The second way Google is using this data is for SERP personalization. If Google sees that your social connections have shared or liked a page that is relevant to your search, then they are likely to show you this page over others.
What is important to remember when considering social signals in comparison to link metrics is the much lower barrier to entry.
Running your own site requires at least some technical knowledge, good ideas and planning. However being active on Twitter and Facebook is much simpler and a much wider variety of people are doing this.
This means Google no longer has to rely solely on the opinions of the small amount of people with their own websites.
They can now look into the 140 million people sharing links on Twitter, the near 1 billion people sharing and liking content on Facebook and that’s not to mention Google +, Pinterest and other networks.
Social & Search
Many people are already engaging in social media due to its benefits for branding, traffic and conversions.
If you currently work for a company and have budget for SEO but not Social Media, you can now show that all efforts put into Social will have even more benefit as you will be getting some SEO value from this work as well.