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Social Media DOES Help Your Search Ranking (Just Not Your SEO)

I love presenting at conferences and seminars because while I’m teaching, I always end up learning something, too. I was reminded of this at a presentation I gave recently for small business owners at the Small Business Development Center in downtown Phoenix.

The title of my workshop was “Tune Up Your Site for Search Engines,” and I was on the topic of link building: How to use links from other websites to improve your search ranking. I had made the point a couple of times that posting to Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites doesn’t help your search ranking. I explained that this is because those sites use a “nofollow” tag on posts and comments that prevents Google from following the link back to your site, so you don’t get any of the PageRank benefit of those links.

I was wrong.

And I was right. And I learned something from one of the attendees to make my next presentation better.

Here’s why I was right: The “nofollow” thing is true, and Google doesn’t follow links back to your site, and you don’t get any of the referring site’s PageRank, and it doesn’t help your site’s search ranking. (You can make your brain hurt by reading about PageRank at Google employee Matt Cutt’s blog.)

Here’s why I was wrong: As the smart woman in my session pointed out, Google DOES read and index your posts and messages on many social networking sites, so being active in those communities DOES help your search visibility.

Now, my presentation was about getting better search ranking for your website, and my point was that social network posting doesn’t help. That’s true. But if those social media postings include links back to your site, they can still help generate traffic to your site. That’s good. And, done correctly, posting on social sites and blogs can help your overall search engine visibility. That’s good, too.

In future presentations, I’ll say that social posting doesn’t help your website’s search ranking, but it certainly can help your search ranking. My thanks to Kim K for asking the smart question that made me think a little harder about how I explain this concept.

5 Comments

  1. Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC on 6 October 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Great clarification, Ed. You really helped me differentiate these important ideas from a lot of the confusing and competing ideas out there about social media’s ability to enhance my site’s SEO. Good work.

  2. Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC on 8 October 2009 at 7:31 am

    Ed, question about that: new to the “seed comment” idea, but I suspect it’s like a seed word you’ve described.

    I’m trying to improve my blogging, and by creating these inbound links, does SEO improve?

    Two other quick questions:
    – Should I be front-loading my blog post titles with good keywords, or in the post body itself, or both?
    – Also, my competitor (who I had been telling you about) sometimes dumps a huge paragraph of keyword tags at the end of the posts. Is this something you would recommend? He posts a little daily, but don’t know if I need to keep on that schedule.

    Thanks a lot, Ed. I had been meaning to bounce those things off of you.

    – Jason

  3. Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC on 8 October 2009 at 7:32 am

    (Should have mentioned – I am asking a question based on your FB e-mail. Sorry for the confusion)

  4. Ed on 8 October 2009 at 10:25 am

    For readers other than Jason, here’s a little backstory and context for Jason’s comment/question of 10/08:

    Jason’s first comment on this post (10/06) was originally sent to me through Facebook, rather than on this blog. Because I’d like to grow this blog as a resource for business owners interested in SEO, PPC, and making their websites work smarter, I asked Jason if he would repeat his comment here on my blog. I told him that his comment would be a “seed comment” for my blog, and also suggested that it would provide an inbound link to his website. That’s the background.

    So, Jason, regarding “seed comment”: As far as I know, it’s just a term I made up to suggest that your comment would plant the seed to grow an active dialogue on my blog. I suspect that many people are shy about commenting on blog posts, so I’m hoping that this enlightening and non-threatening dialogue we’re having now will encourage others to jump in.

    You refer to the term “seed word” that I used in my SEO seminar you attended last month. For my other readers, the concept of “seed word” refers to the first, top-of-your-head search keywords that you can rattle off about your business. These “seed words” are used to begin your keyword discovery process. So, Jason, the two concepts share the idea of one thing being a seed for growth, but my “seed comment” term has nothing to do with SEO.

    Regarding the relationship between inbound links and SEO: Comments you make on other blogs (as Jason did here on my blog) provide inbound links to your website, so that helps other people find your website (traffic). If the blog does not use “nofollow” tags on comments, then your comment also helps your site’s search ranking, by serving as a “vote” for your website by my website. However, I DO use “nofollow” tags on my comments, so your comments here don’t contribute to your site’s PageRank nor help your SEO (just like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc). Nevertheless — key point — these comments are still valuable to you as inbound links to your site, and to increase search engine visibility for you (which is what my blog post was about).

    Example: Do a search on “greg head” “eight trails”. The first search result is a comment by Greg Head of New Avenue on one of my blog posts from August. Greg’s comment didn’t help his site’s search ranking, but helped his search ranking: It provided another mention of Greg on the web that search engines found and indexed.

    Now your last two questions, Jason. Yes, you should place keywords in both the titles of your blog posts and in the body of the blog post. I don’t like the term “front loading,” though. Use the terms as much as you can when they feel natural. Don’t force them. (Another tip: Make sure your blogging platform uses static URLs, so the keywords end up in the URL, too. In WordPress, this is under Settings:Permalinks.)

    Finally, I haven’t seen your competitors blog, so I can’t give a definitive reply regarding his keyword loading. However, in general, this is a pointless practice, it’s frowned upon by Google and probably the other search engines, and it’s poor usability for your blog readers. The golden rule is “Don’t do things just for search engines. Make your content relevant and useful for your site visitors, and the search engines will like you.”

    Thanks for the great questions, Jason. I hope my answers justify my comment being longer than the original post!

  5. Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC on 26 October 2009 at 10:01 pm

    All excellent responses, Ed. Thanks for clarifying my confusion on a number of issues. This helps me blog better, and figure out how to keep my head spinning from SEO (while running my business). The “seed word” concept is so important, because a lot rests on creating the right foundation – website copy, blogging, PPC, you name it. All good stuff.

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