Social Media Influence on Search Results

by YC Ng on February 1, 2011

Social Media Influence Search ResultsAn interview was conducted by Danny Sullivan in December 2010, which was a quick study of the influence of social media on search results in major search engines Google and Bing. The social media applied for this study are Facebook and Twitter, two social media with the biggest customer base in the world.

The results were quite consistent with what the SEO guru expected, that is Facebook and Twitter does influence the search results in both Google and Bing. A questionairre with 6 questions was sent to the two search engines, just to confirm what SEOs had already thought about.

Both Google and Bing use social media signals in their organic Web search ranking algorithmic calculations.

Several criteria are taken into consideration by the search engines:

1. Social Authority of User.

Both Bing and Google admit that they do use the social authority of a user to carry the weight to the listing in search engines, more so for Bing, perhaps influenced by its relationship with Facebook. Bing Social Search will allow tweets from more authoritative people to rank higher when best match relevancy is used, while Google uses this as a signal for their organic and news rankings.

Bing will even go a step further to calculate the authority of someone who tweets, such as giving higher credits for known public figures or publishers. However, Google stands on a fairer ground, computing and using author quality but not knowing who anyone is in reality.

2. The duration of a news

Tweeter may be used to tweet the latest news, and the news may fade and die within a short period of time. However, if an article continues retweeting for a long time, it tells the search engines that this piece of article is worthy of higher ranks.

3. How it spreads

Search engine like Google has made itself rather intelligent. It will determine whether the retweeting was done by people within an organization or done by the public; and of course retweets by the public is more valuable when it comes to search ranking. A page with 100 tweets by 100 different people is certainly more valuable than a person with 100 tweets of the same thing.

These three are probably the strongest influence of social media on the search engines, and there are still a lot of work to be done to further determine how far the influence can go.

Watch the below video by Google Engineer Matt Cutts. Matt addresses both the post above by Danny and talks in more detail about how and when Google uses social media signals in their organic ranking calculations.

As it stands now – the current impact that this social data is still relatively small. However, building your online brand is more than search engines rankings. It’s about connecting with your target market and growing your customer base. Social media is the perfect tool to accomplish that in 2011.

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