Can Twitter influence your search ranking?

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Can a presence on Twitter impact your rankings in search engine listings? The answer, in simple terms, is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

On the positive side, both Google and Bing do make some use of data from social networking sites. However, the extent to which this data impacts their social or realtime search versus their overall web search may differ. The way it works seems to be that, the more your link is tweeted and retweeted, the better chances there are that it will add you your overall search ranking.

That isn’t the whole story either; the social web works on reputation to a great extent, and search engines are definitely factoring this into their algorithms when they take on board data from Twitter. That’s the ‘yes’ part of the answer.

But, it isn’t enough to have a network of known people such as employees, associates and clients retweeting your links; your retweeters need to have significant reputations of their own. Reputation can be gauged by some good metrics like a high PageRank score on their individual Twitter pages and high Klout scores. As with any other link-building exercises, quality matters as much as sheer quantity.

So the ‘no’ part of the answer is: just showing up on Twitter and getting a few people you know to push your links isn’t going to have an impact on anything. In any case, that’s the wrong strategy for using Twitter or any social network. What you need is a long-term program of social presence. As you forge relationships with influencers and gain a following through creating and sharing great content, you can expect to see your equity in the social web translating slowly into a boost to your organic search rankings.

The way I see it, it’s still early days for the inter-relationship between social networking and search to become clear. Businesses and SEO experts are still in the process of learning what works and what doesn’t. By the same token, the search engines are also trying to learn how to tell apart genuine link-shares and attempts to game the system via share-armies, in a manner similar to the link-farms that were evolved to fool search engines in earlier times. A few takeaways to bear in mind at this point are:-

  • Test your assumptions, it’s too early to take authority for granted
  • There is a relation between social metrics and high search rankings
  • It’s exact nature still needs to be researched fully
  • It’s better to have other people share your links
  • Aim at being a part of the community and sharing great content; you should be using Twiter and other social platform for engagement first in any case
  • Engagement will pay more in the long term

The action is just beginning, but a common sense approach that is based on the realities of both search and social networks is a good start.

References:
http://searchengineland.com/what-social-signals-do-google-bing-really-count-55389
http://www.seoptimise.com/blog/2011/03/can-you-get-a-new-domain-ranking-using-just-facebook-likes-tweets.html
http://www.seomoz.org/blog/facebook-twitters-influence-google-search-rankings

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