Bill Hartzer

Search Engine Optimization: Is Social Sharing the Next Link Building?

I just finished reading an interesting TechCrunch article about how Google has upgrade Google Reader, making it more visual. What’s interesting to me, as a search engine optimization expert and online marketer, is not the fact that Google has upgrade Google Reader. It is, after all, pretty cool stuff. No wonder Google wants more bandwidth in the United States, right?

Well, take a look at this interesting comment in that TechCrunch article:

Like many of its other recent efforts, especially with Buzz, Google Reader Play is an attempt to encourage more direct sharing and to capture that sharing data. More and more Website referral traffic is coming from sharing service such as Twitter and Facebook. Google wants to be in the sharing game as well.

Oh really? Google definitely wants to be in the sharing game, as well. And wouldn’t it make sense that Google would want to capture as much “sharing” data as they can? Perhaps one reason why Google (and Bing.com) bought the Twitter data feed and integrated it into Google Real Time Search was the fact that they wanted to know exactly who was sharing links with others.

When it comes to search engine optimization, historically it always been about links. Getting links from other websites that are on-topic to your website is important. I personally have always preached about being the “information source” for your industry. If you can come up with as much content as you can about your industry that’s going to help you in the long run. And others in your industry, even your direct competitors, will end up linking to you. I’ve seen it before. When I never thought that one competitor would link to another, one company ended up linking to their biggest competitor because their competitor had published a wonderful industry “dictionary” or “glossary of terms” on their website. The competitor wanted to point to good information. So, they linked to their competitor’s online glossary of industry terms.

But as we continue to evolve on the internet, there are a lot of people who are using social media websites on a daily basis. We’re not only going to static websites where links remain the same for a long time: we’re sharing links with our friends (and those who follow us) on sites like Twitter and even on websites like Facebook.

Suddenly, we all have become “link builders”. We’re sharing our favorite URLs of stories, news articles, blog posts, and funny pictures and videos with each other. Search engine like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! now want to keep up with our sharing data. Why do they care if you share something with your friends?

From a search engine’s perspective, the theory here is that most likely you are sharing something with your friends because you like it. You like that URL enough that you want to share it with everyone who is following you. And so it goes: you liked it, you’re a human, and so therefore someone else is probably going to like it. The search engines are in the business of giving us great search engine results. If you find what you’re looking for, if others have retweeted it and it matches other “search engine ranking factors”, then the search engine will display it in the search results.

And if you’re a search engine optimization expert or website marketing expert or social media marketing expert (whatever we are called these days), then you most likely share that URL because you think there is a good chance that people will visit that link. But, more importantly, we need to start thinking about the data that the search engines, like Google, have access to. They have access to the social sharing data now. And since a human is involved by sharing a URL (a link) with their network of friends, then you better start realizing that social sharing quite possibly could be the next “link building”.

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