We’ve been hearing for quite some time that social is the future of search. The impact of likes and shares is evident when logged in to your Facebook account and searching in Yahoo; your search results display websites liked by your Facebook friends, when applicable. But, the jury is still out on how Google considers social shares and likes today. If you were Google and your biggest competition was Facebook, would you want to publicly announce that Facebook impacted a website’s rankings? I think not.
Google vs. Facebook
Google is fiercely trying to build Google Plus to control the social arena. Fewer diehard Facebook fans have given up Facebook to use Google Plus in its place. If Google were to tell people Facebook influenced their rankings, they would be giving Facebook another plug to get businesses onboard. What Google needs is more reasons to drive businesses to Google Plus.
According to a Mashable article by Stan Schroeder, Google reported 400,000,000 users in September, approximately 1/10 the number of Facebook users. Google has a lot of catching up to do, but the figures are pretty impressive considering Google Plus has only been around for about a year.
Google has been downplaying the importance of page rank for quite some time, yet they still continue to count it in their algorithm. Could they be waiting for the social impact of Google Plus to become significant enough to replace page rank? That’s one speculation.
Google’s algorithm changes hundreds of times a year, so you never know when social will increase in importance. Google may not announce it, but SEOs and marketing departments will continue to diligently measure it.
Today’s Business Benefits
What you can count on from social right now is the opportunity to build your brand, expose new customers to your website/product/service, and encourage people to build natural links to your website. That’s significant enough to merit being socially active even if Google doesn’t take social signals into consideration. However, given that Google’s goal is to measure human behavior and determine whether visitors like a website enough to consider it an authority in its niche, its highly likely that social will be (if not already) a major player in ranking power.
Social media is the least expensive form of advertising for businesses. While it may take thousands of fans to see a small percentage convert, a business could spend tens of thousands of dollars on direct mail to get a good response rate of 2%. Whether social becomes a Google ranking factor soon or years down the line, it makes more sense for businesses to take the initiative now so they will have a large fan base when it does.
Theresa Happe works with NameFind.com where companies find business domains and their available corresponding social handles.