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When Will Google Take Social Media Sharing Seriously?

Currently, the level of social interaction that your website’s content receives will not have a tangible impact on its Google rankings. However, next-best-thing Bing already takes these so-called ‘social signals’ into consideration, so is it about time Google followed suit?

The power of Social Media

We all know how powerful social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook can be in terms of promoting web content. The rate at which posts, articles, images and video can be shared is unbelievable. A school teacher from Tennessee recently demonstrated just how quickly a photo can ‘go viral’ by posting a photo of herself on the 18th November 2013 and accompanying it with the following:

“I’m talking to my 5th grade students about internet safety and how quickly a photo can be seen by lots of people. If you are reading this, please click ‘LIKE’. Thanks!”

In less than two weeks, the post had been ‘liked’ millions of times and shared on tens of thousands of Facebook pages across the world. This shows the sheer influence of social media and how marketing via social platforms is a vital component of any marketing plan.

It seems like everyone has cottoned onto the influence of social media sharing apart from Google. Currently, Google does not include signals from sites like Twitter and Facebook signals into its algorithms when deciding which web pages appear for certain keywords. That said, it does not completely ignore them either. Google favours web pages that have been contributed by human authors who are experts in their field, and naturally, these kinds of posts tend to get shared or mentioned a lot more than a blog from an average Joe. Google, it seems, doesn’t disregard social signals all together but doesn’t allow them to make any kind of measured difference to a site’s search engine ranking positions (SERPs).

When Will Google Take Social Media Sharing Seriously

Bing seems to think Social is Important                    

Google may not think too much of social signals, but rival search engine Bing seems to think they are good indicators of a page’s popularity. In fact, according to this 2013 report from SearchMetrics, social signals are hugely important within Bing’s algorithms. If a piece of content is shared many times, Bing takes this into account when ranking content.

Now you could say that Bing isn’t quite as sophisticated as Google (yet), so it takes social signalling at face value. Google is more advanced in that it recognises that social signals can be artificially engineered, so do not always reflect the quality and relevancy of a page. Perhaps it’s a great reason not to consider social interactions at all, but those who typically think Google’s got a bit too big for its boots could counter this opinion by arguing that the AI gurus in Mountain View have taken the algorithm too far in the opposite direction. After all, at a basic level, surely the more a piece of content is shared by real people, the better and more relevant the content must be for other people?

Google – the Search Engine of Choice

Google, without a shadow of a doubt, is the search engine of choice – after all, how often has someone asked you to ‘Google it’? However, it may not be so absurd to think that one day in the not-too-distant future, another platform will steal its crown. We humans may be creatures of habit, but we are also very fickle when it comes to technology. If and when something bigger and better comes along, users will start to migrate. A search engine’s success ultimately depends upon the information it can provide for its users and at the moment, it’s fair to say Google is miles ahead – its complex algorithms are (arguably) known to return the most comprehensive organic results because they need to assess such a huge array of ranking factors before deciding on who gets those all-important first-page positions.

This topic is a complex one to say the least. Though it may want to steer away from counting ‘manipulated’ social interactions towards a page’s rankings, Google is undeniably ignoring vital consumer information by not taking Likes, Shares, Tweets, Pins and all those other social signals into consideration. To highlight this, take a company such as Tesco in the UK. Its site receives a lot of social ‘noise’ from genuine web users but these kinds of endorsements are not taken into consideration. Admittedly, Tesco already has an excellent search engine presence and the brand has a firm place in society, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that search engine’s such as Google are missing out on information that says a lot about significant consumer preferences.

Who knows – we may start to see a wider use of Bing in the next few years. Never used Bing before? You might even prefer it! With Bing It On you can see for yourself which set of results you prefer.

Georgina Wilks-Wiffen is the Digital Marketing Assistant at Freelance SEO Essex a Search Engine Optimisation Company that are dedicated to supporting the growth of small to medium sized businesses at extremely competitive rates