Social Content Sharing and Search Rankings

Here’s the reality: social media now plays an important role in SEO. Now that social signals now impact search rankings, marketers have to find ways to coordinate and integrate their social media and SEO strategies.

A benefit of this is that there’s an opportunity here in terms of economies of scope: the more the two work together, the more efficiencies you should experience both in rankings and “sociability” — e.g. what is shared ranks, and what ranks is shared.

Social Signals & SEO

Okay, so there are a number of so-called “social signals” that can affect your search rankings. Let’s take a quick look at some of them:

  • Most recently, Google fully rolled out their Google +1 button, allowing users to effectively vote pages up in the search results.
  • Both Google and Bing seem to be factoring in Shares, Likes, and Tweets into their search rankings
  • and social news sites such as Reddit, Digg and StumbleUpon can all boost rankings

This, of course, begs the questions: so how do you get your content Shared, Liked, and Tweeted on these social networks?

6 Types of Sharable Content

If you’re going to get your content Shared, Liked, and Tweeted, you’re going to need to do more than throw sharing buttons up all over the place, throw some traffic at it, and hope for the best. You’ll also need to understand what motivates users to share content. Users usually share content because it’s either:

  • Useful/Informative,
  • Interesting,
  • Unique/Original,
  • Inspirational,
  • Funny/Entertaining,
  • and/or Surprising/Shocking

Now, depending on the kind of content you’re trying to rank, you can probably appeal to at least one of these motivations. If you can’t, you’re probably doing something very wrong and should probably go back to the drawing board and reconsider your entire marketing strategy. After all, if your target marketing doesn’t find your products at least useful or unique, you’re going to have a helluva time trying to convert them.

5 Elements Worth Sharing

Digital content is inherently multi-media, and to that extent, every page offers more than one opportunity to share content. Just think of all the different elements on a page that can fill any one of the above criteria. For instance, you have:

  • Product/Services
  • Product Descriptions
  • Product Reviews (by users)
  • Images/Video
  • and even Pricing

So there should be something somewhere on the pages you’re trying to rank that should appeal to the kind of users you’re targeting.

For instance, when it comes to everyday products or services, you might explore ways to write creative product descriptions or include engaging photos that users will be more likely to share through their profiles. Similarly, you might consider opening things up to user generated reviews: not only will this mean more frequently updated content on your pages (which is a staple of SEO), but you can integrate social media APIs that allow users to auto-share the review they submit.

Alternatively, you might have some novelty items in your inventory that you can induce users to Tweet, Share, Like or Digg. Even if these aren’t your bigger sellers or highest priority items, the more social signals they generate around your site, the more authority that your overall site will enjoy with search engines.

A Socially Sharable Content Strategy

Of course, generating enough social signal to actually impact your rankings is a bit more complex than making your existing content more engaging (in one of the 6 above mentioned ways) and waiting for users to share it. Rather, you actually have to drive targeted, social users who are likely to share content to your site, and this requires a bit of a content strategy.

Specifically, you need to give those users something before you expect them do something for you you, and this involves producing content that they find useful, interesting, unique, entertaining, etc., but doesn’t try to sell them anything. This means developing content for the sake of the users, seeding it across social networks, and building a rapport with users. As you do this, they’ll be more likely to discover and share the sales/product-related content that you are trying to rank for.

This is particularly pertinent for seeding content on social news sites such as Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon. Such site have so much potential because every share/vote you get from one of these sites counts as an actual traditional link, which has even more SEO value than a Tweet or a Like. As our own CEO, Guillaume Bouchard once put it:

When you submit a piece of content to one of these sites, users can vote it up or down. Every time a user votes for your content, you get a link on their profile. Score. If enough people vote for your content, it appears on the homepage of Digg or Reddit – both PageRank 8 pages. Super Score.

So by developing content that isn’t geared toward your products or brand but, rather, is designed to give something back to online communities, you can build considerable SEO equity. Not only will users be likely to Tweet and Like your content, but every share you get through social content sites will results in a traditional backlink that will help build the overall authority of your domain and its ability to rank other pages in general.

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