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A huge PR opportunity opens as tweets, votes and social media signals are confirmed to boost search rankings

So last week I attended a meeting down in Kent with a very senior SEO expert (who shall remain nameless) but who runs a large digital team. He called me and my colleagues in to discuss the possibility of helping them create some interesting and engaging online campaigns. I am always interested when I meet senior people from the SEO world as they often have a different take on things to us public relations types and I find it kind of refreshing to talk about the more geeky side of digital.

I asked him how important he now felt social media was now on search. I told him that in the PR industry we have known for a long time that blogging and other online PR tactics do help with a sites overall SEO. He then replied with something rather interesting. He said:

”If I am honest I have never really been interested in social media as all I am interested in is making my site comes out high in its search rankings. However, I went to a senior SEO conference in the states in May and 70% of the conference was on the effect social media votes have on search rankings within Google. They went through case study after case study showing the evidence that Google was now including social media signals.”

Now I didn’t find that too surprising as I have suspected for a while that this was the case but then he went further with the comment:

“In fact, it’s not about content and articles anymore, it’s far more important to have engaging content that is shared, liked and RTed as the statistics are now showing that Google is using these as key indicators of how influential a source actually is.”

So Google is now using social media signals (or in effect us) as a barometer for how influential or how well ranked a site should be. When these signals are higher it gives the site a boost and this sends it further up the page rankings. Google’s algortryhm changed around four times in 2010 and it has changed more than 100 times already this year and this is mostly down to the effect of social media adjustments.

imageIndeed, another SEO expert John Doherty recently echoed this by saying in his article:

When new articles are tweeted, they are discovered and indexed quickly. When they are not tweeted, it takes the search engine bots more time to find and index them. This leads me to believe that search engines are watching Twitter feeds for indexation purposes, and when tweeters or retweeters are influential, they are using that information for ranking the articles.

The number of tweets and the number of tweeters, however, seems to make a difference for ranking. Articles that were just tweeted one time have reached a maximum of result #8. The two that were tweeted more times have ranked and are ranking higher. From this I think we can assume safely that the more times a new article or page gets tweeted, the better chance the target URL has of ranking well.

I think this is a positive step forward, and as you know, I believe in engaging content and always have. A client’s content needs to be interesting, not just keyword heavy that works for the search robots. I am glad campaigns are now going to be focussed on clever enaging stuff rather than just publishing things in the right places.

I also think this is a massive opportunity for all of us in the online PR space to show the marketing world that we can create clever, well executed campaigns that drive traffic, fans and now SEO. How is that for ROI Mr budget holder?

Chris Norton

Chris is listed in the world's top 30 PR bloggers and a regular conference speaker on crisis management and social media marketing. He is also co-author of Share This Too and lectures on digital communications at Leeds Metropolitan University.

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