Depending on who you speak to, search engine optimization (SEO) is either largely influenced or not at all influenced by social media. I'm sure everyone has their own opinions, case studies, and sites that show greater or lesser correlations between their social media engagement levels and their natural search results.
If you were to carry out an investigation into whether social media was a big influencing factor, which metrics would you want to monitor in order to base your insights on more empirical data?
I've put together a list of 13 ranking factors below. Feel free to use these and any others you can get your grubby SEO mitts on!
1. Number of Followers (Twitter)
You'll need your own corporate Twitter feed, which brings its own problems around brand protection and also the potential for dealing with customer service enquiries, but the more followers you have, the more authoritative your Twitter persona and the more value will be associated with your URL (assuming you have remembered to link to it).
2. Quality of Followers (Twitter)
The best followers are the ones with their own communities of followers. The more high value people who follow you, and retweet your stuff, the better.
3. Relevance of Followers (Twitter)
It's one thing getting followed and retweeted by Stephen Fry with over a million followers, but it's also important to get the same response from accounts that are more specific to your industry. Someone with "fashion" in their description who retweets your "20 percent off the new spring collection" offer is equally valuable.
4. Number of Retweets (Twitter)
Most likely as a ratio of tweets to retweets -- the more your content is reproduced by others the more authoritative it is. Obviously the more followers you have, the more likely you are to be retweeted. However, it isn't just about retweeting other people's content or dishing out promotions. It's about engaging in conversation with people in the industry.
5. Number of Fans (Facebook)
You'll need to create your own corporate profile on Facebook, which brings the same potential banana skins as a corporate Twitter feed, only multiplied numerous times due to the sheer level of engagement of people on Facebook. However, if you decide to engage with customers and potential customers on Facebook, the total number of likes your page receives will add value to your URL.
6. Number of Comments (Facebook)
A large number of likes, but little engagement, is a sure sign of someone gaming the system. People will tend to like you if you talk to them. Successful Facebook pages include a lot of content written by other people.
7. Number of Views (YouTube)
An obvious one, but any content you upload to YouTube should link to your site in the description, and the more times it is viewed, the more value will be attributed to your video.
8. User Comments (YouTube)
YouTube is also about engaging with other YouTubers and commenting on popular videos. The more you comment, the more link juice is passed back to your profile.
9. References From Independent Profiles (YouTube)
Using YouTube can bring in some really good authority if done brilliantly -- if your link from your video passes some value, imagine how much more value would be passed if you could get other people to parody your work and include links to you from their profiles. The prime example remains the Cadbury's Gorilla, but there are lots of interesting mini-campaigns trying to leverage the above.
10. Title of Video (YouTube)
Any references to your target keywords in the title of the video will help ensure that any authority passed will be relevant to a specific theme. Keywords should also be in the tags and or transcript where possible.
11. Percent of Likes vs. Dislikes (YouTube)
Easy one. The more liked your content is, the more authoritative it is.
12. Positive vs. Negative Brand Mentions (All Social Media)
Use a tool like Radian6, or a free tool, and ensure that you have significantly more positive brand mentions than negative. It won't be 100 percent accurate as these things don't pick up on sarcasm. But Google has already made investment in this area in 2011, so it's well worth monitoring.
13. Number of Social Mentions (All Potential Media)
Total visibility across all social media shows that your content is important to all people and not just a result of a large special offer for Facebook/Twitter users. HowSociable is a simple way of giving yourself a rating here.