Ever since Matt Cutts, head honcho of Google’s Web spam team, announced one year ago this month that Facebook and Twitter signals are not part of the search engine’s ranking algorithm, digital marketers have publicly expressed a collective “WTF?” regarding social media’s impact on driving organic SEO.
While there may be digital marketers who identify as devout Google followers and fear the consequences of straying too far from the company’s advice, there are also skeptics who have experienced just the opposite. Naysayers claim to have seen an irrefutable impact of their social media campaigns on their website’s ranking. Some theorists have even accused Google of intentionally misleading the public to encourage the use of their own social platform.
In Cutts’ announcement, he was quick to debunk an SEOs observation that several links from Facebook seemed to help certain pages rank well in the search engine results page (SERPs). Cutts attributed this to “awesome” content, rather than attribute the lift to social signals, confidently stating the “correlation, not causation” bromide.
In what became one of the many head-scratching updates and changes from Google over the past year, digital marketers carefully considered whether or not they should allocate fewer resources to social media. Would the time and energy actually pay off?
Bing Weighs In on Search and Social
Interestingly, Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines state that social media does contribute to ranking in search engines through influence and that being influential in social leads to a higher organic search ranking over time.
Although Duane Forrester, Bing’s Senior Product Manager, has warned us of wasting too much time on social channels that don’t convert, he’s been vocal that social media should still be included as part of every comprehensive SEO campaign.
Forrester points out that social media is all about building meaningful relationships with customers. When Bing sees this happening, the search engine takes notice. He further emphasized that a well planned and executed social media program is “one of the biggest and smartest moves you can make as a small business.”
So, who are digital marketers to believe? And whose opinion should rise above the overcrowded conversation about the most effective SEO practices? While Google and Bing voiced conflicting opinions regarding social media’s effect on search, Google+ appeared to have solidified its mainstream importance.
Google Throws Marketers Another Curveball
To add further confusion to the mix, Google Webmaster Tools’ John Mueller shared in a Google Plus post last August that the company was dropping the coveted authorship photos functionality from search results and Webmaster Tools. Eager marketers who had dedicated hours to building a robust Google Plus profile were feeling, once again, both blindsided and frustrated.
Whether you’ve seen social media affect SEO contrary to Cutts’ claims or opted to swear off Facebook,Twitter, and Google+ completely, it’s imperative that any changes a marketer decides to make are evidence-based. Revisions should be made only after experimenting, observing what works, and changing what doesn’t. With channels, strategies, and attitudes continually evolving, it’s impossible to definitively determine what works for all.
Just because Google may not be using Facebook and Twitter signals in their algorithm currently and have removed authorship, doesn’t mean marketers should ignore or even diminish their efforts with these channels.
In addition to branding, building customer loyalty and driving traffic, click-through rates have shown to be a ranking signal. Additionally, we’ve seen proof that reaching people across multiple channels has helped assist conversions from website visitors to trial users.
It’s important to remember that social media channels require a constant flow of interesting content and engagement from marketers in order to grow and be useful. Google had 13 major updates in 2014 alone; it’s likely that social media’s influence could further assist in building authority in the future.
Have you seen proof that social media helps your website’s organic traffic?