Over the last few years, digital marketing circles frequently discussed the potential relationship between social media signals and search rankings. Even when Matt Cutts tried to put an end to such debates by suggesting that Google can never access Facebook and Twitter to gain this knowledge, some degree of doubt continued to exist.
Recently, Google seems to have started showing social networks other than Google+ in its Knowledge Graph, which brought about the same old discussion back to the table.
Namely, as spotted by Bernd Rubel, Google’s Knowledge graph started showing both Facebook and Twitter in the space that was previously reserved for Google+ only. Apparently, this is currently shown for some major brands/websites only, but the question is whether this would have some wider implications.
Google+ and SEO: An unfair advantage
Even though a direct correlation between the number of social shares and better search rankings has never been proven, Google+ has always played an important role in this respect. A detailed explanation of how Google+ can impact search results was explained in detail by Eric Enge, President at Stone Temple Consulting, who pointed out that personalized results are the most straightforward way this social network can help you rank better.
Once started personalizing search results, Google didn’t seem to know when to stop. When it launched Search plus Your World and started showing links to people’s G+ activities next to some generic queries, for example, marketing communities burst with rage, accusing the web giant of favoring its own social network over the other ones. The unfair advantage is obvious: some people may potentially be more active on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and they may not be using Google+ at all. The same goes for corporate pages, which often find it difficult to engage their audience here.
This is because, in terms of usage and activity, most people see Google+ as a desolate wasteland of a social network reserved only for marketers. Yet, the recent addition of other networks to the Knowledge Graph may point to Google’s readiness to finally start paying attention to other social shares as well.
By now, most marketers have come to terms with Google’s social preferences and they no longer insist on trying to manipulate them. What is more, social media strategies are in many cases separated from both SEO and link building activities, which is certainly a healthy branding practice.
This is mostly because Facebook, Twitter and Instagram among other popular sites, continue to count beyond SEO. A large portion of companies still perceives them as an efficient way to communicate with their target audiences and boost website traffic, which adds up to their value. Now that they’ve been directly associated with search results, potentially more marketers will start making use of their potential.
Despite the fact the latest Google’s update got far less coverage than any actual algorithm change, it certainly raises some questions about the future of search and digital marketing strategies in general. While many websites still rely on SEO only, shearable content keeps growing in value, which is one thing that will remain important for the general digital world.