The latest research by search analytics provider Searchmetrics proves compelling evidence of what we’ve known for a while: search engine ranking positions are influenced as much if not more by social signals than by traditional forms of SEO.
The gap between social media, content marketing and SEO has been closing fast over the last couple of years, but it’s now at a point where anyone remotely interested in their website ranking anywhere on Google needs to take the sharing of engaging content through social networks extremely seriously. The graphic below shows what ranking factors well-positioned pages in Google’s SERPs have in common.
First, Google +1s, Facebook interactions, tweets and shares on Pinterest are becoming increasingly vital in achieving good ranking positions. So much so, in fact, that aside from backlinks and basic SEO strategy, they should now pretty much lead the way in SEO strategy. Google is on a mission to make search dependent on genuine human factors and, understandably, it is placing social signals at the top of its priority list. So to rank well, websites must start to focus on quality content that people want to share through their networks.
Second, the often-stated mantra of SEO professionals of ‘keywords, keywords, keywords’ could become redundant. The use of keywords in domain names, URLs and H tags is less influential now than it was in last year’s Searchmetrics study, implying that, just as in the case of ‘backlinks, backlinks, backlinks’, this form of optimisation is relatively less important than natural language linking. Do use keywords in your content, but don’t expect them to drive rankings on their own merit.
Third, backlinks are the one ‘traditional’ SEO factor that remains significantly influential. Searchmetrics’ study fails to spell out the quality of backlinks in addition to the quantity, but it’s very, very safe to assume that when looking at the number of backlinks, quality must be taken into account. The days of healthy backlink profiles including 1000 link farms in Armenia are well and truly over.
In SEO terms, quality content shared through social networks rules.
The Searchmetrics study looked at 300,000 websites, 10,000 keywords and billions of backlinks and social shares. Correlations were calculated using Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient. You can download the full study here.
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Posted by Paul Sutton