How Your Social Media Reach Influences Your Google Rankings (And How to Stay on Top of It)

How Your Social Media Reach Influences Your Google Rankings (And How to Stay on Top of It)

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social media google rankingsWhether we love or hate social media, we can’t help but admit that it has a huge effect on traffic generation, link building, and search engine placement.

The point I am going to make in this post is something that I haven’t heard other bloggers talk about and if they did, I missed it.

That could mean one of two things:

  1. I need to stay on top of my reading better.
  2. I am brilliant and came up with something no one else did… hmm, doubtful…

Google Personalized Search

As we know, Google is moving more and more towards what they call a “personalized search“.

It basically boils down to the fact that no two people will ever see the same Google results for any given search.

Why?

Besides the fact that the search results are influenced by which one of many Google data centers you are closest to, they also track your location, who you are friends with, what you had for breakfast, what kind of floss you use…

Well, I might be exaggerating a tad with the last two (not for long though), but let’s talk about the “who you are friends with“.

Social Connections Influence Google Results

When you perform any type of search on Google, the results you’ll see will be largely influenced by who you know and are connected to across different social media platforms.

Example: I was doing research for a client the other day and looked up “start small business” as a keyword.

This keyword happens to be quite competitive with about 114M results and online giants like SBA.gov and Entrepreneur.com ranking at the top.

Yet as I scrolled down, I saw a listing from Gail Gardner of GrowMap.com.

Growmap small business google listing

Gail and I happen to be connected on pretty much all possible social networks and that’s why Google assumes that anything she shares, as you see highlighted in the image above, might be of more interest to me.

If I perform the same search using Chrome Incognito function (or if you are a FireFox user, they now have a similar options under “Tools” ==> “Start Private Browsing”), which is just about the only way to disable all the personal preferences and get as close to an unbiased search as possible, she is nowhere close to the first page.

A quick search on SEMRush.com confirms the same.

But for the fact that we are connected through social media, I would’ve never seen her blog listed under that keyword.

Google Plus optimization does matter!

Quantity Matters

The only logical conclusion is that the more people we are connected to via social media networks, the better our chances will be to show up in their personalized results.

Don’t get me wrong though: this doesn’t negate the fact that our followers should still be TARGETED.

If I am connected with tons of people who don’t own and are not planning on setting up a website, then showing up in their search results does my business no good.

Let’s quickly take a look at the possible ways we can connect with more people on the three major social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

Get More Facebook Friends

facebook friends google rankings

(Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/a-loucreations/4366583325/)

Facebook has always been restrictive as to how many friendships you can request per day and for a good reason – it’s hard to spam their system.

As of right now, you are allowed to be connected to the total of 5,000 people and that INCLUDES friends and pages.

So you really need to pay attention to the quality of your audience.

Here are my suggestions on how to “spread the net” on Facebook (originally published in this post on how to get Facebook traffic):

1.   Implement Facebook “Like” buttons both at the top and the bottom of each post – preferably with the little thumbnails.

Here’s a great post on getting more Likes on Facebook.

2.   Add Facebook Comments plugin (I had it on my site for a while, but noticed that it slowed down my site a bit. In the light of the stats above, I am willing to give it another shot, this time tracking the FB traffic a little closer than I was before).

3.   Always respond to Facebook comments left on your blog in the same manner you would to a regular comment. Even more so, since the potential for your comment to be seen by so many eyes is exponentially greater.

4.   Be more engaging with your Facebook followers by asking questions (“Would you…?” format works the best), changing things up a bit by posting videos, pictures, etc.

5.   Use @Tags (works pretty much like Twitter @Mentions) to give credit, acknowledge, thank, etc.

6.   Institute a day when you fans can promote themselves on your page in some fashion, for instance: “Share Your Blog Monday”, “Promote Your Business Tuesday”, “Share Your Twitter Account Wednesday” – you get the idea.

7.   Give away a free gift to your FB fans exclusively.

8.   Chat live with your fans using Clobby Chat.

9.   Do a live event on your Facebook page like I did in my series “Sunday Coffee with Ana“. You can use Vpype (that’s what I did) or Ustream for that.

10.   Involve your fans by asking them to help you with your future content creation or a product – this is referred to as “crowdsourcing”.

Get More Google Plus Followers

There are several things you can do to avoid adding people manually – as much as possible anyway.

1. Add Google Plus to Your Sidebar

GoogleCards is just one of many Google+ wordpress plugins.

It adds a widget to your blog that will display a link to your Google+ profile so people can add you to a circle (follow you). It also displays your name, profile picture and the number of people who have you in circles.

add google plus card to blog

2. Export your Facebook friends

This used to be easy with a Chrome add-on. Unfortunately, Facebook decided it didn’t want to share your friends’ contact info with Google Plus and the add-on was shut down.

Of course, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The new “work-around” requires you to use your Yahoo! email account as a go-between.

Tip: I am sure you don’t really want all these contacts to linger around in your Yahoo! contact list after the export. You can easily delete them by going into “Contacts” and changing “View All Contacts” to “View Last Import“. Check all and delete.

3. Export Twitter Followers

The best solution I found for exporting your Twitter followers is to use Export.ly.

export twitter to google plus

You can also use the same service to export your FB friends.

Since I did mine the Yahoo! method, I can’t vouch it’ll work, but I don’t see why not.

Word of caution: Google Plus has currently set a limit on how many names you can import at a time at 4,000. So if you have more Twitter followers than that, you’ll have to manually edit your CVS file: delete extra contacts or separate them into different files.

4.  Read Kristi Hines’ “Ultimate Blog Promotion Guide”

Everyone knows Kristi Hines from Kikolani.com. She made it her business for everyone to know her.

And then she shared with us what exactly she did to become one of the most recognized bloggers online in her “Ultimate Blog Promotion Guide”.

The good news is that Kristi just released the 2nd edition of the book to include changes to the world of promotion including Google+, Facebook Timeline Profiles, the new version of CommentLuv, and advanced Google Analytics strategies for measuring results, in addition to the strategies for the top social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and StumbleUpon), email, instant messaging, and more!

So… she added more information to the already incredible resource, and THEN she dropped the price on it. Go figure, right?

In other words, now is the best time to pick up a copy of Kristi’s infamous “Ultimate Blog Promotion Guide” at a greatly discounted (not for long) price.

Google Plus Pages

I am sure you’ve heard that Google finally rolled out their business pages. They now allow any business, brand, or non-human entity to create their own business page.

I just started mine, by the way, and would love it if you honor me by adding Traffic Generation Cafe to your circles.

Traffic Generation Cafe on Google Plus

Of course, there are plenty of opinions on Google + fail.

But if you ask me, if you are still not using Google Plus, you should.

Take a look at my Google Plus tutorial to get started.

Get More Twitter Followers

I think this post is getting a little long as it is.

You may or may not know that despite the fact that I really don’t like Twitter much, I still drive tons of targeted Twitter traffic back to my blog from it.

Between my 6 Twitter accounts, I have about 130K followers and hundreds more join me every day.

To learn more about what exactly I do to attract so many Twitter connections, you’ll just have to come back and read my post on Wednesday.

Update:  here’s the link to my post on how to get more Twitter followers fast.

Marketing Takeaway

There’s strength in social media numbers.

Google knows it and uses social media data (particularly your connections on Google Plus) to serve up more personalized results.

Are you staying on top of yours?

Love it or hate it? Comment to show me that you’re alive!

traffic generation cafe

traffic generation cafe comment below

Google+ Comments

73 Comments (click here to leave a comment)

  1. Great post. I am definitely checking out Visibli more and see if I can combine my social media networks. I know they say focus on a couple, but I get traffic from so many different directions it takes at least 30 minutes to get through to every network, and since I don’t care much for automation, I post everything myself. I had to forward your post to my boss though since he doesn’t understand why we are on social media and doesn’t understand why when he looks for something it is something completely different than everyone else…heck it is even different if he is on his home computer versus his work computer.

  2. Ana,
    I liked the tip for engagement asking “would you…” questions. I have been looking for more and more creative ways to to drive meaningful engagement on social media.

    Thanks,

    RC

  3. Ana – Great post. An aspect of the algorithm that I am trying to get a handle on is the impact of social media shares on long term rankings. There is no question that getting social media activity is like adding a booster rocket to the short term rankings for a post. but not sure that even huge social media activity will keep a post high in the rankings for more than 7-10 days if it does not attract any links. It is hard to separate correlation from causation when attempting to suss out the impact.

    • Ana Hoffman

      I’ve run a quick experiment with Twitter – sending quite a few retweets to three specific posts to see if they get ranked better with all that activity, Randy, but nothing really happened. Neither short-term, nor long.

  4. Very nice tip for all of us Ana. The timing of this post is very good as readers get the headstart to Google’s Plus Your World update. (Panda was rolled out the same season last year). Though they not include Facebook and Twitter – yet.

    God Bless always! Take care.

  5. Just wanna add on what you said, Whether we love or hate social media… you have no choice but love it. hehe Certainly because it has a huge impact in our society today.

  6. Excellent info. Especially liked the idea of using Yahoo as go-between for export. Adding the clean-up advice for Y! contacts was a nice touch!

    It is almost laughable to see how much energy Google is putting into their newest social try, G+. They had so few interactions with the +1 button idea. I think they were terrified that Bing’s integration of FB activity would eventually marginalize the big G. It’s too early to call Google+ a flop but it is beginning to look doomed from my perspective.

    • Ana Hoffman

      Surprised to hear that, Jon.

      I have a feeling that G+ is here to stay and grow. Most likely not for everyday communications with family and friends, but definitely for business relationships.

  7. Hey Ana,

    Social media is a powerful tool, especially now that google has switched to personalized searches and launched Google Plus.

    I have noticed, when searching on google, that many of the results are pages that were recommended by my social media friends. So now is more important than ever to target which friends or followers you accept and to share any good pages you see.

    Also, we need to do more to entice people to share our posts. Put sharing buttons everywhere on your blog, just as you do Ana.

    Thanks for sharing Ana and have a great day!

    • Ana Hoffman

      That’s one of the reasons I am such an avid proponent of CommentLuv Premium, Ian – definitely helps the social media shares to go up.

  8. Hi Ana
    You are right…but what I was trying to explain was that by using Social Media sites like twitter,face book and data site like commentluv and Digg and Google + is a far better way of finding relevant blogs and website that are relevant to to content of my own WordPress website..and hopefully back-links to my site and Google with give my site more relevance..did you know that Google ask the top 150 SEO where they think search results will come from in the future..they said at this time Google get 20% of there search data from social media site hence why Google have Google + by 2012 this will be increasing to 30%….anyway thanks the link above leads to the page with more information..and a link to Ben Parr with the full story.

    • Ana Hoffman

      You are definitely right, Peter.

      Yes, I am very much aware of the role social media plays and will play in the future of search engine placement.

  9. Great post…I was looking for ideas today for my new post and i got here with the search term “Keeping on top of Google” anyway my point is I have just joined a social media site called ” commentLuv ” if you are running a wordpress website its free to join and you can down load it from the wordpress plugin page..keep up the good work

    • Ana Hoffman

      CommentLuv is not exactly a social media site, Peter; it’s a blog that offers a plugin for download (the one you used when you left your comment.)

  10. Big G suspended my account due to my obviously unreal name. I really like G+ and wish I could participate. I set up a brand page, but think it is linked to me suspended account – so no idea whether it’s bogus or what.

  11. When Google+ was released I guessed that Google will make it one of many factors that effect on SERPs.. It is reasonable because Google want to get as many members as possible from various sources to boost their business and we just follow their rule..

  12. Ali

    Google people are crazy – 500 changes in their algo per year? That means nearly 1.5 changes per day. And people falling for social media like there is no tomorrow, how can you expect googel to ignore this fact?

    I don’t know but I am not comfortable with this ‘personalized search’… though I loved their few recend updates i.e. Panda, Freshness Update, Improvement in detecting official pages etc.

    • Ana Hoffman

      I don’t think we exactly have a choice, Ali – Google does what Google wants, right?

      Since that’s how our target audience sees their search results, we have to stay on top of it. And these days it means social media all the way.

      • Ali

        Agreed Ana, we have to play by ‘their’ rules – no choice. All this boils down to the fact that Google wants us to write for real people, not search engines.

        Oops! Countless typos in the last comment, I’m the worst speller ever :(

  13. A lot of people have been telling me the last months that Google are never going to successes with Social Media. I don’t agree. They way that Google have integrated Google+ with search results is very clever and simply mean that it would be stupid to ignore Google+. The more people you have in your circles and the more people that have +1 your work you better you will rank in their search in the future.

  14. I can see how this can be good for Google and good for some search results. Google gets to build the Google+ service and people searching get more targeted results, built on their freind networks.

    But what about those internet users who don’t use facebook, twitter etc, are the results being scewed for them based on social factors they do not relate too? And what if you are a business selling an item that has very little oportunity for social interaction, do they need to force a social front to compete? It must be difficult, for example for a vending machine company promote a genuine social profile without sounding inane.

    • Ana Hoffman

      Interesting point, Charlotte.

      Personalized searches will mainly affect your areas of interest. For instance, in my case everything I google concerning internet marketing will most likely be influenced by my “circle of friends”.

      However, if I google ‘best toothbrush’, then I don’t see any of my friends recommending any posts.

      Of course, Google has many other ways to personalize searches, for instance based on location.

      And yes, any business will benefit from creating a social media strategy these days; no question about it.

    • Ana Hoffman

      Google Plus business pages are different from the personal profiles because they are for businesses to create a following. You can create a page in any of the categories that best suit your business. Pages have a watermark both on the page and in search results. On the sidebar of pages you will notice that you have the ability to +1 and share it, whereas in a personal profile, this option is not available.

      Hope that helps!

  15. Hi Anna, thanks for posting your findings about the effect of social media on your normal vs. incognito search results. Interesting that you say that the Facebook comments left are just as, if not more important than the site comments. Being a novice to social media, I always assumed it to be the other way around for some reason, lol.

    -Jean

  16. Ana,

    Having a high quality blog is always the most important factor in generating traffic but leveraging the power of social media outposts to amplify your message can be the difference between a good blog and a successful blog…

    Thanks for a great post.

    Ryan H.

  17. Thanks Ana,
    Your tips great as usual. So it become harder and harder to calculate what traffic you can get today for particular keyword because of everybody has different SERP.

  18. Ana Hoffman

    Yes, I agree.

    For that reason you’ll be seeing a lot about social media here at the Cafe.

    You’re welcome!

  19. I did not realize Google+ pages were now available for businesses, thanks for the heads up Ana.

    What I like about Twitter is that it is so easy, it takes very little effort to build a following and send out Tweets every day.

    • Ana Hoffman

      Yes, especially when you can set up posts to be tweeted at optimal times. Makes things a lot easier!

  20. Robert Dempsey

    Hey Ana – customized search is becoming the norm and as far as I see it is limiting our ability to access even greater amounts of information. I might connect with someone on social media not to see what they shared but to be able to chat with them. However personalized search helps ensure that I’m seeing what they are sharing. I may or may not want to see that.

  21. This is very much true that social media influences google ranking. So one who have better and complete knowledge about how to use this media then it proves beneficial for increasing SERP.

    As you have shared very important post concern to this with lot of suggestion and effective tips. One just need to acquire knowledge and must know how to work smartly with all such networking site.

    Thanks a lot for all your hard work behind this and also for sharing your expert knowledge concern to this.

  22. Hi Ana,

    Once again, some really good stuff. I have been aware of the google personalised searching for some time but it had never occurred to me that I could use this to my advantage by building my social network. I had always viewed it as a bit of a hindrance as it skewed the rankings that I was viewing on different machines. I will certainly be acting on your advice and building my network.

  23. Hi Ana,

    Well at least there is one good thing about Google personalization. :-) Something bloggers and SEOs will want to know is that even if you use Google Unpersonalized it is STILL personalized unless you log out of Google in that browser, too. So much for unpersonalized. (You can verify that by doing the same searches logged in and logged out.)

    I am very concerned about how difficult it is becoming to find information I KNOW is online. Do some searches for controversial subjects – ones where there is a mainstream view and an alternative view – and you will only be shown sites that support the mainstream view.

    I was writing a post about the serious challenges to our ability to eat healthy, natural food and it took me over twice as long to find supporting links as it would have before the Mayday (as in Mayday the non-big-brand ship is sinking Mayday not May Day the holiday) and Panda updates. (That post is at GrowMap.com/food-rights if anyone wants more details.)

    You always have some top advice – but I just don’t like Facebook – never have. I force myself to log in there but it just doesn’t do much for me and the more “improving” they do the less I like it. Both FB and G+ have the same issues: horrible usability, hard to find anything again, and when you click on any one notification ALL the new notifications lose their highlighting so you have to remember which ones you’ve looked at so far. (Reminds me of playing match the cards – might be good for testing your memory but not really fun.)

    I much prefer Twitter because as long as they show me my @Mentions and all the tweets to me when I search for my username without the @ I won’t miss anything there. I just wish they’d stop with the flaky bugs and censorship. It is so obvious they must think we are all asleep.

  24. What a great post! I think more people are turning to social media sites for connections simply because everyone is too busy for “normal” interactions. We all just run so much more than everyone did 20, 30, 40 years ago, that we don’t have nearly as much time to devote to our social relationships. In comes social media sites to fill that vacancy. And it is all the more relevant with so many people hiding behind their computer screens anymore. Heck, the whole advent of online business/marketing is based on people spending way more time on the computer than they do with other social interactions. Just a thought.

    Thanks for the great insight. I’ve just recently started my blog and have improved traffic through promotion on the social media sites. Thanks for giving me some more useful ideas!

    ~Barry

    • Ana Hoffman

      You are right. We neglect our friends and families because things are just so busy. Social media is a great replacement! LOL!

      It’s a bit scary when you put it like this: “Heck, the whole advent of online business/marketing is based on people spending way more time on the computer than they do with other social interactions. Just a thought.” LOL!

  25. Hi Ana,
    Before I started blogging I though social media networks are just for personal use, but now I have a Facebook page, twitter account and a Google plus page for my brand new blog, I started getting followers and building relationships with other bloggers.Thanks for the tips and I will make sure I am doing everything right.

    ~Salah

    • Ana Hoffman

      These are certainly all great tools to promote our business, Salah, and it’s up to us to figure out how to maximize our efforts.

    • Ana Hoffman

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Chris. I know that you’re an expert, so I’m going to read it just now.

  26. Debbie

    I get my friends’ sites in my results when I do Google searches but I never made the connection that they might get my site when they search. Time to work on my twitter friends I think…..

  27. Hi Ana, Right now I haven’t even touched Facebook with regards to marketing. I barely have time to keep up with Twitter as I have found so many sales leads on that platform. I’m excited about Facebook marketing but think it’s far more fragile than Twitter so I want to research how I should approach it before I engage. You know between guest blogging, blog engage, commenting and twitter marketing my d ay is all done.

    • Ana Hoffman

      I can definitely relate to being overwhelmed, Brian…

      However, consider this: Facebook never brought me as much traffic as Twitter, but FB traffic was always much more targeted, stayed on pages longer and subscribed much more often.

      • Hey Ana thanks for the bit of information. In fact I really appreciate you sharing your stats with me. I know I have to get into FB marketing and with longer visit times and targeted traffic it’s something I cannot afford to miss. Thanks for the heads up on that info.

  28. Lou Barba

    Hi Ana,

    That is so, so interesting that Google puts you on the first page of searches made by people your are connected to. Since my products are something that anyone would buy, it seems that the more people I can connect with, the better. The bigger the net, the more fish you can catch, I guess. Thanks for this great tip!

    Lou

    • Ana Hoffman

      Just to give you another example, Lou: I am trying to rank for a certain product, but my site is nowhere close to the first page.

      However, when I asked my friend to check on my rankings (he was logged into Google at the time), my site came up as #3 for him.

      Yes, this is an essential strategy to use to our advantage!

  29. Hi Ana, since I’m a social butterfly I really like your advice here. I haven’t tried Export.ly yet so thanks for the tip. My connections on Twitter are more targeted than most of the ones on Facebook. I have a Google + widget but I didn’t download the plugin I just got the code from SocialStatistics. Do you find any advantage to using the plugin that I might be missing?
    Thanks for everything!

    • Ana Hoffman

      As long as you have a way for your readers to connect with you on G+, Ileane, I think you are all set. No difference as to what method you are using for that.

      Have you set up your G+ page yet? I just finished mine.

      • Ana, I grabbed the name as a place holder but I didn’t update the profile or make an announcement yet. I just don’t want someone else to claim my name. I saw a few pages doing that already for some other popular blog names.

        • Ana Hoffman

          I seem to remember reading a post about having to prove “ownership” of pages – not sure where I read that though…

          Funny, AnaHoffman.com has been registered last February and it wasn’t by me – someone smarter (and quicker) than I am grabbed it!