Adding SEO Value through Social Media Activity
As we enter the second week of 2014, many companies and organizations are reevaluating their social media tactics: "It's a new year, we'll do better!" they say. Which is wonderful; the online world is always changing, so it is important and worthwhile to take another look at and refocus your social media strategy.
However, even with a (theoretically) effective strategy in place, you are still at the mercy of the platform as to how your content is handled. For example, Facebook, the current king of social media marketing platforms, will try to target your business page's content to users who may find it appropriate. This has been going for at least a couple years, but over 2013 this targeting has decreased post views to a mere fraction of their potential viewer base. Facebook is aggressively charging business pages for any visibility whatsoever, which is causing web marketers and social media managers a great deal of… well… unpleasantness. As a result, many are turning to less-used -- but equally if not more important -- Google+, where web marketers are putting more effort into as to capture more visibility.
In 2014, we will continue to see the increase of companies migrating over to Google+ as their of primary social media marketing.
The platform is free (as of this time), which is great for those companies and organizations will small budgets. Only time will tell what the ROI will be with Google+ for building engagement. We already know that if you don't work in the Google+ space one loses SEO opportunities. But to what extent? Let's expand on this…
SEO Value from Social Media
A month back, Stone Temple Consulting published a thorough study to see if Facebook activity actually impacts SEO. It's been known for a while now that Google+ posts can absolutely affect search engine rankings, but to what degree has been generally unknown. The general notion was that Facebook did the same: social sharing increases search rankings. Instead, the results compared from both Facebook and Google+ posts showed that Facebook actually does not offer any real benefits towards SEO, while Google+, on the other hand, proved that content was indexed faster and more frequently. Indexed within six seconds after every share, to be exact.
The one-sentence summary of the study was, "My net conclusion -- Google doesn't use Facebook as a discovery, indexing, or ranking factor." source
Why is this happening? There are a number of reasons, but most notably is that Google does not use the "Like" data, simply because there is none. Google does not have any additional information to append on "likes," they only have the raw number of total likes, and as we know, quantity is not necessarily an assessment of quality.
Another important factor is that Google did not crawl content pages based upon the number of Facebook shares, contrary to Google+. That means Facebook sharing does affect SEO value at all, yet Google+ does.
What we find from this study (which seems to have similar results from other studies) is that Google+ is a much stronger social media marketing platform over Facebook that can affect SEO value, while Facebook does nothing, from a strictly technical viewpoint.
Does that mean we should we cut out Facebook from out from our web marketing strategy? Absolutely not. All social networks add value and build engagement, as long as they are properly maintained. In order for online marketing strategies to succeed, each social network must have individual and specific goals, and be approached from a unique state of mind.
A Case for Google+
Google+ is a terrific platform, more so in many ways than Facebook. The "problem" is that for so many people Facebook is central to their lives. (The trends are hinting otherwise, but for the moment this is certainly the case.) And that's where the market is for so many businesses. A lot will depend on whether businesses can effectively reach people via less expensive social media channels alternatives like Google+. No doubt Facebook's new "you gotta pay for visibility" strategy leaves opportunities for other social media channels with businesses.
Google will no doubt continue to force G+ on web users. The controversial YouTube comments update a few months back is an example of how this tactic has been implemented. The Blogger platform uses a Google+ commenting system (similar to Disqus) that is unofficially supported universally, however we can expect this to become a more fully developed commenting system for all. We can expect other methods to come up over the next while too.
As we, too, reevaluate our social media strategies for 2014, we know Google+ will take on a much larger role than it has previously. Personally, I quite like Google+, it is a much better experience over Facebook. We will be using the social media platform much more for ourselves, as well as implementing it more strongly into our clients' web marketing strategies.