Have you ever told a friend about a trendy new bar you heard of that you think they’d like, only to be regaled with a horror story about bad service and food poisoning after they visit it? So embarrassing. And if you think it’s scary going out on a limb to give advice to one friend, can you imagine how a search giant like Google or Bing feels?

Everybody hates giving bad recommendations, and Google is no exception. That’s why Google’s search ranking algorithm relies so heavily on a website’s ‘reputation’ around the Internet when delivering search results. Especially since its Penguin and Panda updates, Google has looked at how many people find a website useful and share-worthy as an indicator of how highly Google should rank or recommend it in search results. That’s great for big brands with huge audiences, but how can small business owners compete?

Enter social media. Love it or hate it, this channel is here to stay. And that’s exactly why Google recently confirmed that their algorithm is now taking ‘social signals’ into account when determining rankings. Now when people around the web view, share, and link to content on your website, it makes Google feel more confident about recommending you.

This is great news for small business marketers, because by putting a little elbow grease into their social media, they can rank up there with the big brands for keywords that are relevant to their audiences.

How’s That?
Usually when people talk about social media, they’re talking about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. And those are all very important. But you’ll never be able to use those sites to their full advantage if you don’t first create the content to share on them (and have your followers share with their friends).

And where does that content live? Your website, of course. On your blog, specifically. Blogging is an incredibly important marketing activity for a small business, because it creates lots of ‘entry points’ to your website, and can also link to other content on your website — another way to tell Google to go ahead and recommend you.

“Viral content is like the mass endorsement of the public. Every share, like, re-tweet, +1, subscription, and pin means one more endorsement for your website, simultaneously increasing your social capital and your search creditability. By gaining a massive amount of social shares, you’re not just boosting your SEO signals and your site visibility–you’re also creating content with value for your customer base.” — Jennifer Dunphy for Econsultancy

Also note that within each of your fantastic blog posts, you should be linking to landing pages and static content on your website that is relevant — Google sees those links, too.

What’s Next?
Now that you understand the role that social media plays in determining your search ranking, it’s time to get set up. First things first: set up that blog, and start giving your visitors interesting, relevant content to consume. After all, you can’t put the word out unless you write the word first.

Once you’re up and blogging, make sure that your social profiles are a) set up properly and b) up to date. Start with the big ones — Facebook, Google+, and Twitter – and wherever else you think people who might be into your content (especially potential customers) can be found. Be sure your ‘about’ areas are filled out completely with your web address, blog URL, and other social media profiles where possible.

Now you’re ready to start getting the re-tweets, shares, links, and views that will make Google feel good about recommending you — and make you feel good about yourself as the killer small business marketer that you are.

Give it a few months and check in on your search rankings and traffic, then come back and tell us how your social media SEO efforts have paid off!

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