The Latest Updates in Social SEO from April and May 2014

In recent months, there has been a lot of speculation about whether or not Google considers social signals within its ranking algorithm. The official Google line is that social media profiles are treated as regular webpages and social quality factors are not ranking factors. Cutts emphasizes that the relationship between social shares and organic ranking is correlation rather than causation. Last year’s Search Engine Rankings survey from Moz confirmed that this correlation is a strong one.

That said, there are other ways that social platforms can indirectly affect SEO, in terms of relevancy and organic reach. Outlined below are three of the latest changes to Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook of which SEOs should be aware.

New Twitter Profiles

In April, Twitter announced the beta roll-out of their new profile pages. By the end of this month, it will be available to all users. Many of the changes are aesthetic, including the ability to upload a “cover photo” similar to Facebook and the rearrangement of the profile bio. The <div> classes surrounding the profile information have changed, but nothing major that would affect SEO one way or another. The personal link is still tagged with rel=”me” and it is still using Twitter’s own redirect. However, the bio information is a lot more organized and visible in the left sidebar (previously, location and link were on the same line; now each have dedicated lines), so expect click-through rate to increase.

Another new feature in the new profiles is Pinned Tweets. A profile owner now has the ability to prominently display a single Tweet at the top of their feed. In terms of click-through rate, including a link in the Pinned Tweet should result in more clicks from “new users,” (i.e. non-followers who navigate directly to a profile page) since the Pinned Tweet is only available within the standard stream at the time it’s originally posted. Search engines will also crawl and cache this Tweet for a longer period of time, so there are implications for co-citation and social SEO signals; in the past, Matt Cutts had cited the transient nature of social profiles as a hindrance to crawlability. Pinned Tweets can now be leveraged for semi-evergreen campaign content.

Pinterest Guided Search

At the end of April, Pinterest announced Guided Search, the social network’s latest innovation for mobile search. It’s basically a content filtering system based on keyword groupings. Watch the video below for a demo:

This is exciting because prior to this, performing keyword research on Pinterest was a lot more difficult. On the web UI and mobile app, you were able to see a handful of autocomplete results based on your search query, but now you’re able to see a wider variety of suggestions that can impact your content creation. Combined with Pinterest Analytics, it will now be a lot easier to curate boards and then identify the best and worst performing content. This has implications outside of Pinterest – brands can use this data to inform content strategies for their websites as well (with social proof).

Facebook News Feed Algorithm Change

Facebook will now be devaluing posts that specifically include social calls-to-action (Like, Share, Comment, etc.). This is an attempt to curb “Like-baiting,” which would allow brands and users to extend their News Feed reach without paying for additional exposure. On the one hand, this will cut down on a lot of spammy posts. On the other, this clearly encourages more brands to be in the paid social space.

The most obvious implication for businesses is to stop including CTA language within posts, as this will significantly decrease their ability to appear in users’ News Feeds. In theory, this change should shift the focus to organic optimization (creating content that people naturally want to share) and to sponsored placements. Increasing the organic reach of a Facebook post should now require more work, which is better for users.

The confluence of social media and SEO is quickly evolving. The chicken & egg debate about whether social signals lead to better rankings, or if more visible content naturally has more shares is not likely to end until Google publicizes a more definitive algorithm change. In any case, marketers would be remiss to maintain search and social in separate silos. SEO most definitely does not operate in a vacuum – social mentions are technically links; Google +1’s have been shown to increase search engine visibility; and every public Tweet or Facebook post represents another potential search engine result.

At the end of the day, approaching Social SEO with a joint strategy will provide benefits, regardless of whether or not social signals are a ranking factor, strictly speaking.

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