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How Social Media Has Changed the Game for Search Engine’s: 1/4 of Twitter’s 5 Billion Tweets a Month Contains Links to Content

Posted by: Micah Pratt, social networking research & development

Sharing and finding content over the Internet has become easier then ever, and now social media is changing the ways search engines track quality content. This article from Mashable.com takes a look at how social networks have impacted search engines.

How Social Media Affects Content Relevance in Search

Old school SEO pros cover your ears, or be prepared to adapt your craft: Search engines are changing, and social media is a huge part of that change.

Bing, Google, and an increasing swath of nimble little search engines like Blekko and DuckDuckGo are incorporating social data into their results. This is potentially great news for new businesses trying to achieve visibility in search. It’s less great news for sites that rely heavily on link buying (illegal, but hard to catch), producing huge volumes of borderline-useless content (long-tail, content farm approach), or just really old domains (previously an SEO trump card).

Both Bing and Google admitted in interviews that their search results are positively affected by social signals, such as tweets, Facebook Likes, and +1s.

“As ideas, thoughts, questions and answers are shared more freely and easily than ever, the increased amount of information from social sources provides great benefits to users,” says a Microsoft spokesperson for Bing (who asked to remain anonymous).

“The links that you build through social media, the references, the authority — all can have an impact in various ways on how you are ranked and listed even in ‘regular’ search results,” says Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land, in an email interview. “Social media allows for people to provide more trusted signals.”

Search Engines Adapt to SurviveSince the early Internet days of Excite and Webcrawler, the principal goal of search engines has been to help people find what they’re looking for. Google rose to dominate the industry by tracking better indicators of content quality than anyone else. It developed a complex algorithm that measured which websites were “voting” for others by linking to them.

Essentially, it was social media, but for websites rather than people. If your site had lots of links from relevant sites, your Google rank climbed. Plenty of other factors, like putting keywords into headlines and titles, remained in play (and continually evolved), but the game changer of the last decade was links.

The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry emerged to help webmasters play the “me rank higher” game with Google. On the one hand, website owners attempt to adhere to Google’s standards and prove they are high quality (creating relevant, high quality content and formatting it to Google’s taste). On the other hand, shadier sites try to trick Google’s secret formula, “pretending” to be good content without having to bother with creating useful stuff.

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