BrightEdge an 'enterprise SEO platform' has added a new module to it's closed loop analytics engine that helps brands to identify and predict the impact of social media on search engine optimization (SEO). The system also creates a prioritizes list of suggested actions to take and enables online marketing tams to create a delegate tasks based on the data whilst, crucially, reporting on the return on investment (ROI) for SEO & Social media work on those particular keywords or pages - with ranking improvements as the final indicator.
In a similar way to other SEO platforms, such as Covario, Optify and Conductor Searchlight, the BrightEdge platform runs a massive analysis of search engine results pages (SERPs) for search terms you are targeting. The system analyzes a number of typical search engine ranking factors such as inbound links and anchor text, but now, uniquely, also looks at the number of Twitter 'Tweets' and Facebook 'Likes' every single page has. The aim of this analysis is to answer, what BrightEdge CEO, Jim Yu calls the 'million dollar question' - "how do we tie everything 'social' to ROI?"
"At BrightEdge, we see a key SEO trend in Search engines taking pro-active steps to deal with clutter on the web, quickly incorporating new signals of relevance into their algorithms. Social media activity is now a key factor of SEO authority and the reason we are adding social metrics and insights to the BrightEdge SEO platform."
Put another way, as search engines are increasingly adapting their indexes to surface trends within social networks, and simultaneously cracking down on 'black hat tactics', BrightEdge intend to help brands identify 'brand-safe' ways to improve their search rankings.
Is Social Always a Search Signal?
Nonetheless, there is still contention as to exactly how much social factors influence ranking factors and a question remains over whether Tweets or Likes could ever truly be the new links.
In my experience, social sharing certainly has an impact on search rankings, but in very specific, time sensitive ways. Jim Yu shared with me that according to their data, some search term vertical markets are more heavily reliant on links, but others are starting to show more volatility based on social sharing. Intuitively one can also imagine that certain query types such as those prefaced with 'how' and 'why' are likely to be more socially influenced, regardless of the industry.
Despite possible contention on different values of different ranking factors (which, let's face it, is the hallmark of the SEO industry), BrightEdge had a neat solution - social factors are only highlighted as areas to work on if the competitive set seems to show major social influences. For instance, if a competitor position significantly improves as a result fo social factors, then the system flags it up as an area to work on. However, if not - then it recommends that work remains focussed on core SEO activities. This impressed me, as the big risk with 'social media signals as a ranking factor' debate is that it over-emphasizes the impact of social media on search rankings.
In a nutshell, BrightEdge's "social analytics for SEO" task recommendation engine is, in and of itself, optimized to ensure that brand social media efforts are not wasted on spurious SEO initiatives. Social media results will be officially integrated into the BrightEdge dashboards and insights, and BrightEdge will call out specific terms, keywords and activities that search engines are using as a signal for authority. The bad news is that this system is only available to BrightEdge customers. Let's hope that over the coming year they share more data with us to help all search marketers get a feel for which industries and search term verticals are most impacted by social signals. You can see an example of a report below: