Social media has become a regular part of our daily lives. Commercials broadcast links to Facebook pages. Celebrities and businesses post updates to Twitter. Google+ is indispensable to businesses looking to promote their brand. It’s undeniable that social media is going to have an ongoing impact on SEO in the coming years. How important is that impact?
The first and most important trend we should take into 2014 is that content is key. No amount of keywords, linking and social presence will rank a site above another with quality content. Providing content for your users will bring you a higher PageRank. We probably won’t encounter another update as industry shaking as Panda, but Google will continue to demote low quality content with ongoing updates.
Likewise, incoming links will continue to be important, but the quality of the originating site will be of greater concern. Buying links from link farms will have no beneficial effect, while incoming links from industry leaders will pass along more link juice. At the same time, the anchor text for these links continues to matter. It is one of the best places to introduce a keyword for maximum value. It’s a good idea to diversify those keywords as well, to broaden your niche and avoid spam flags.
A Look to the Future
For most businesses, the keywords going into 2014 will be Mobile, Social and Local.
Your website will need to appeal to mobile consumers. Heavy multimedia, a lack of responsive design and slow scripts will cause incredible drops in traffic. This is a big hit particularly because of how many people use mobile devices even today. The conversion rates for mobile users are far higher than those for PC users.
Local keywords are obvious. Target your local area and you can beat the big corporations at their own game. A geographic niche targets mobile users as well, because they often search for local businesses while actively traveling.
Social media is going to be important, just as it is now. You can expect Google to continue to push the Google+ platform for businesses and for personal users. The site has grown quite popular, though it cannot yet rival Facebook in sheer numbers. The best part for businesses, however, is that it doesn’t have to. You don’t need to choose which platform to use — simply use them both.
An active presence on every social media platform will become increasingly important as your competitors set up their own profiles.
- Maintain a Facebook business page where you share your recent blog posts and interact directly with customers. Facebook apps are a great way to run contests, while simultaneously gaining new fans and subscribers
- A Twitter profile is valuable for two things going forward. The first is a short-form advertisement for new posts on your other social sites, as well as on your primary blog. The second is for brief notices you want to reach as wide an audience as possible. Twitter is also valuable for portraying customer interactions in a manner that brings out your brand voice. Responding to the people who ask you questions, even if they’re occasionally silly, brings out the humanity in any brand
- A Google+ profile will be the most important social media profile for any business in 2014. The links they provide in your profile are amazing for SEO juice. The circles are made up of people who are more likely than the average Facebook user to care about your business. Posting a new blog entry on Google+ is also an excellent way to get it indexed by the search engine in record time. Google+ is also the foundation of the Authorship system, which itself will grow more important in the coming year.
- The “smaller” social media sites will continue to gain their own followings, and it will be worth it to seek out a presence on Pinterest, among others
As you can see, Google+ will be the most important social site to maintain. Plus Ones on your posts have the highest impact of any social signal, and Google will maintain that advantage over Facebook. As Google+ attracts more businesses, more users will follow their favorite brands, increasing both Google’s user-base and the audience available to these businesses.
Managing Social Reputation
In the coming year, you will find the weight of any individual social profile to vary. Some users who are very invested in the platform will have greater weight and influence. Others, who barely use the platform, may be diminished or labeled spam accounts. Thought leaders, those industry veterans with massive followings, will have the greatest impact on share-based link juice. In fact, it will be much like backlinks among websites — more important sites pass more power with their links.
One thing this will do is greatly diminish the effectiveness of purchased shares and links. One genuine Plus One from a thought leader will have far more impact than a hundred purchased shares from accounts created for the purpose.
Part of 2014 will be the race to build a social reputation. Businesses will strive to establish themselves as thought leaders, making their brands the powerful, sought-after links. In some industries, this will even encourage community among businesses, as they exchange guest posts and links for further benefit to all parties.
We can be assured that Google will have at least one major trick up its sleeve in the coming year. The nature of this shake-up, of course, is completely unpredictable. Google will identify a problem and move to solve it, and companies will need to adapt quickly, as they always have.