Search engine optimization (SEO) can now be achieved using social media links as ranking signals. This wasn't the case before, but search engines such as Google are now looking into the viability of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as a means for searching worthwhile content thanks largely to the growing fame of such sites.
Of course, it's important to remember that links in general have always been a huge factor in influencing your search engine results page (SERP) rankings. Using links to your advantage is one of the basic tenets of sound SEO application.
The Role of Social Media Links in Today's SEO
Social media links are the new must-have ranking signals that prove your site's worth. However, like always, site quality should be your top priority. An increase of social media links to your site or web content is nothing more than an indication that social media users are finding some interesting stuff on your webpage that they want to share with their friends, family, and fellow users.
Social media is yet another brave new frontier in SEO simply because it's the new place of convergence for the denizens of the worldwide web. If in the future there's another trend or portal wherein a large number of users are involved, then of course SEO efforts will be focused on that new development. To be more specific, social marketers are highly interested in getting backlinks across the major social media sites because of their popularity.
Link Quality is Still King
Social media offers some worthwhile link building opportunities, to the point that when your link goes viral, it'd be like hitting the SEO equivalent of a jackpot. Nevertheless, even after you've acquired a lot of backlinks from the most popular social media networks around, it doesn't necessarily follow that your SERP rankings will improve.
Social media backlinks are no assurance in improving your search rankings, although Google has increasingly been using social media links as ranking signals for quite sometime now. Again, it's not about quantity, but quality. You can have a large amount of backlinks or have your content go viral, but unless people are genuinely interested in what you have to offer, then all those backlinks would be for naught.
The NoFollow Debacle in Social Media Links
If the prospect of increasing your SERP rankings through Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ links sounds too good to be true, it's mostly because it is. There are drawbacks to depending on social media links. For instance, the biggest social media sites out there have a "nofollow" attribute to their outgoing links (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Digg, and Flickr).
It works like this. Anytime search engine robots crawl through a page and the site has a "nofollow" attribute, they'll report back to their respective search engines doing just that... not following the outgoing links, that is. This renders any hope for SERP rank improvements null and void for the most part.
Ways to Bypass the NoFollow Policy of Social Media Sites
There are ways around the "nofollow" debacle. First off, depending on RSS links is a viable way of circumventing it. Even though social media sites have a "nofollow" policy on outgoing links, those same links in the RSS feed do not have that limitation, so you can gain SEO benefits from social media site linkage thanks to the existence of RSS links.
What's more, quality links and genuine user interest (that's not developed through astroturfing, spamming, social engineering, or outright deception) should go hand-in-hand with those social media links and repeated shares or retweets in order to truly gain a significant bump in SERP rankings without fear of reprisal once the Google algorithm gets updated again.
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