How Facebook and Twitter social signals affect SEO: SMX East 2011

Social signals are being used all different ways today, but it’s clear that the more that you’re social, the more it will help you out on the search side. Here are tips from the pros.
How Facebook and Twitter social signals affect SEO: SMX East 2011

Facebook, Twitter & SEO

Event: SMX East 2011

Session description: 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.


Things in quote marks are direct quotes. Other statements are paraphrased. (Things in parentheses are my thoughts.) For more from this session and others at SMX East, search the #smx hashtag on Twitter.

The skinny

I am literally blogging from the corner of a room with my computer on top of a water cooler. This session is PACKED.

What they said

Danny Sullivan introduces the panel by saying that social signals are being used in all different ways today, but it’s becoming clear that the more that you’re being social, the more it will help you out on the search side as well. That’s why we’re all here at a social session at SMX.

First up is Horst, who says he is a data guy but will try to make sure the data isn’t boring (thank you, Horst).

He references a few different studies that show that the higher a page ranks for a certain keyword, the more likely there has been a social share on that page. But is it enough to just know that, or do we want to know who is using which share button, where the interest is?

He runs through a few quick examples of sites with high social media visibility, including Roger Smith hotel, the New York Times and even Search Engine Land, and concludes that their social media success does indeed correlate with SEO visibility.

“I think it’s really important to point out that you can achieve that kind of impact from social media activities.”

“Facebook and Twitter get the lion’s share of interest, but there are more channels for you to look at.” For example, Search Engine Land’s second-largest social referrer after Twitter is StumbleUpon, with Facebook coming in third.

His key action items include:

  • Use social media to strengthen your brand, and having a stronger brand helps protect against Panda impact.
  • Analyze hot topics and good channels for your competitors. “That type of analysis can really identify what drives people’s minds. What are they interested in?”
  • Analyze strategies also cross-industry.
  • Use intelligence to copy and experiment.

Next up is Jim, who starts with the idea of the evolution of Internet marketing: We’ve moved from broadcasting a message to user targeting (search giving us the ability to focus on user intent). Now we’re seeing a shift to user-driven media. “That really changes the scope of how we as marketers need to look at reaching our customers.”

The users are in control. With 750 million users on Facebook and 250 million on Twitter, this creating an “unprecedented opportunity.”

In BrightEdge’s study, sites that had share buttons saw seven times the amount of engagement as those that did not, but most marketers don’t have them yet (although the vast majority of those in this crowd do). He recommends you consider adding them to deeper pages on your site for more engagement.

His checklist for measuring your social SEO:

  • Do you have a Twitter, Facebook presence?
  • Are you posting useful content?
  • Are your social media ppages ranking in search results? “This is a huge opportunity.”
  • Are you doing SEO on your Facebook page?

His tips for optimizing Facebook for SEO:

  • Link to your Facebook page from your home page (no: find “us” on Facebook; yes: find “brand name” on Facebook).
  • Use brand name in wall posts and tweets.
  • Push for engagement through likes and shares.
  • Add plugins like Facepile or Fanbox.
  • Interlink your directory and social media pages.
  • Automate if needed for scale.

Michael Gray is up next with a strong start wherein he calls all the focus on “conversations and connecting” in social media “a bunch of hippie free love crap.” His take? In social media, if you’re not the con you’re the mark. He is the con.

Social media is a time suck, he says. He’s focusing on ways to keep the suckage at bay through automation, scheduling and templates. Don’t use tools to replace humans, though—just to supplement so no one has to do this 24 hours a day.

Ways to make social actionable: use it for topics like customer service, problem solving, curating, promoting others and yourself, sharing current events.

His ratio is to always be tweeting out interesting information from others far more often than he does his own self-promotion.

“Be tweeting out other people’s stuff, it make you look a lot nicer. Shameless self promotion should be the smallest part of your account.” (For him, it’s only 10-20%.)

Look for others in your space who don’t have as big a following as you and help them out. The idea is to create as much goodwill as you can so those people are more likely to share YOUR message when you need them.

Ways you can make data from social media actionable to solve problems for your customers and create content:

  • Compile top customer questions and answer them.
  • Develop a list of frequent industry questions and answers in your space.
  • Try to respond to everyone who talks to you, if possible.
  • Take difficult problems or customers offline immediately.
  • Create “high-value” lists to monitor your influencers and big sharers. Scan the lists often for retweets, engagement, conversation.
  • Share from non-competing, complementary organizations.
  • Try to make real-world connections.
  • Curate. Have a list of industry news sites you can scan quickly for news.
  • Schedule your posts for best impact. Tools he mentions include Tweriod for finding out when to schedule, and Hootsuite and Buffer for scheduling tweets (you can also use Raven Tools to do this, of course).

Finally we have John, who is talking about social authority. “Newsflash: it’s not just about Facebook and Twitter. What you share all around the web matters.”

The bad news? “We all want a quick win, but there’s not really a way to win quickly with social.”

He cites a study of data he’s performed that has some interesting conclusions about what matters in rankings, like:

  • Number of followers doesn’t matter.
  • Manually tweeting instead of auto-tweeting DOES matter to rank higher.
  • Engagement (i.e. replies received AND given) is more important than click-through rates.
  • How often you’re sharing matters.
  • The number of online groups you’re involved in with in your industry matters.

His 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 oversaturate your followers. “Don’t pull a Guy Kawasaki. I love the guy, but I don’t follow him.”
Courtney Seiter

Listener, storyteller and petter of all animals. Content crafting at Buffer; sharing stuff about social media, workplace culture, diversity and music.

Listener, storyteller and petter of all animals. Content crafting at Buffer; sharing stuff about social media, workplace culture, diversity and music.

  • Michael Bruce Rosmer

    There’s a critical little detail in wording I noticed there that concerns me “social media success does indeed correlate with SEO visibility”. Let’s note that correlation is NOT causation, in other word social media success isn’t necessarily causing SEO visibility in fact it could be the exact opposite, or it could be that what you’re doing to rank in SEO is also causing greater social media success. I’d love to know what the leverage points are.