The role of Social Media in SEO
What is Social Media?
Before we can understand the role of Social Media in any situation, we need first to understand what it is. This definition taken from Wikipedia seems to be comprehensive:
Social media is media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media uses Internet and web-based technologies to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many). It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers.
This covers the essential ingredients - social interaction, web-based and sharing.
There are a number of examples that most readers will have encountered in some way. The most likely of which would be Facebook, YouTube MySpace and possibly Twitter and Flicker. This is barely scratching the surface. In researching this article I identified over 40 sites that belong in this category. These are just some of the most obvious ones and this list will grow.
The role of Social Networks in SEO
There's no doubt about the impact Social Networks are having on the role of the internet in people's lives in these modern times. There is also a lot of talk about Social Networks in SEO circles. I wonder if it is as dominant a force in SEO as it is in modern culture and if it is significant is made out in SEO circles. As with a lot of SEO work, there is no hard and fast information published by the search engines to help us understand how they treat Social Media.
What do we know? We know that search engines value and follow links - generally the more the better. We know the value of the pages on which the links are found is important. We know that search engines will forgive us even if the sites that link to us are blacklisted by the search engines. So even at worst case, links from Social Networks sites cannot hurt our site, and may even help us.
In addition, we also know that Search Engines are interested in seeing links between sites that share a common theme.
What's not clear here is how much value can be derived here and therefore how much effort is warranted in achieving a large Social Networks reputation.
The broader role of Social Networks in the success of a website
Sometimes we have to look beyond just SEO and remember the point of our website is more than just achieving a page one search result or a high Page Rank. These are just a means to an end. We want visitors to visit our website, and more than that we want them to interact with the website so we can share our opinions or sell our products or services.
On this basis, links from Social Media site pages that are well visited and share a common theme with the target website may establish value to the Search Engines, but may also encourage visitors to follow the links to see what the destination site has to offer.
Treat Search Engines and Visitors with respect
Keep in mind that links for links sake never work. Unless the Social Media has something of value that can add some context to your website, you may get some short term traffic. However visitors that take one look at your site and then bounce out to the next site are of no value. You are playing for the long term.
Of course, if you can implement an active role for the Social Media within the context of your web business you will gain the reward. Remember 2 of the ingredients are social interaction and sharing, and because they are web based and designed for use by non-geeks, they are ideal for developing community interest. In most cases you don't even need to hire a web developer to keep it updated.
If you would be interested in discussing the issues raised here or would like more information about anything to do with your web presence, please contact us.