Since as far back as I can remember, the typical definition of search engine optimization (SEO) involved three distinct areas: Site architecture, content, and backlinks. That was the secret sauce to ranking higher on Google, or so it seemed. While every SEO expert had their own spin on these three concepts, for the most part that was it.
Now, whenever I look into the latest SEO practices or read about SEO, there’s increased mention of a fourth principle that is equal to each of the other three. That fourth pillar is social media.
I’m just going to flat out say it, so that it is perfectly clear where I stand on this issue. Social media has become the fourth pillar of search engine optimization and that’s great news. And while still not taken as common knowledge, I’m not the first to argue this either.
This is a pretty big deal for a number of reasons. First of all, the strongest social media integration into SEO thus far (in my opinion) has been the Google Authorship program. Studies continue to show that search results displaying the authorship snippet have a higher click-though rate than results without it.
On the other side of the fence, as Facebook Graph Search becomes ever more advanced with each new feature and update, soon Google will have some serious competition on their hands when it comes to search.
Facebook’s search feature is still in its infancy, and once it matures, it will certainly be a big player, but in a very different way from traditional search engines. While still competing with the likes of Google (through their partnership with Bing, ugh), Open Graph data is so much more social than Google’s, that it’ll be able to answer questions that Google cannot.
The Facebook crew admits that Graph Search is not about web searches (at least not yet). There goal is to organize the seemingly limitless of data from their 1.11 billion users. Whew! Remember when 500 million users seemed like a big number? That wasn’t so long ago.
Anyway, the point here is that Google is killing it right now in the search industry because they dominate traditional search. It’s really the only place to go that matters (sorry Bing fans). But now given a second choice to search for queries that Google cannot answer, users will have a choice at last.
What does all of this mean for SEO? Simply put, the social media activity centered around your brand is steadily becoming a bigger factor in search rankings every day. It is now a given that you should be using the Google Authorship program if you want to boost your click-through rates. It’s also a given that you should be optimizing your site with Open Graph tags, in order to boost EdgeRank on Facebook.
The bottom line is, for the folks out there who still see social media marketing and search engine optimization as two distinct fields, think again. The lines have been blurry for a while, but now the lines are just plain gone. Welcome to the future of SEO.