The first way in which Social Media affects SEO is personalized search. Many businesses don’t realize that different people see different search results even if they type in the same keyword or keyword phrase. Results are based on location and recommendations of your connections. If you are signed in to your Google account, while searching in Google you will be given relevant results that your Google connections have tweeted or +1’d. If you are signed in to Facebook and conduct a search in Bing, you will be given relevant results that your Facebook friends have “liked”. A search for “baseball” is more likely to include information about the Red Sox and Fenway Park for people located in Boston while the same search might include more results for the Yankees and Yankee Stadium for those located in the Bronx. This is because the search engines understand that people trust those in their social circles. If someone is looking for advice or insights they turn to their friends and family members. The search engines have now incorporated this methodology into search. If you have a good product or service and a robust social media presence, it is more likely that you will be “liked” or +1’d and more likely that you will show up in a search result.
The second way in which Social Media affects SEO are social signals. Like personalized search, the social signals concept is based on the premise that content and links that are shared frequently in social media and shared by users with high influence must be valuable, so they are viewed more favorably by the search engines and might rank higher than a link that wasn’t shared at all. Instead of the search engines having to do all of the work to figure out what results are best and most relevant, they are now being helped by actual web users. Of course, social signals are just one part of thousands of ranking criteria, but it’s worth paying attention to. The power of social media got Google’s attention and resulted in the creation of Google+. If Google’s paying attention, it must be important.
Of course this doesn’t mean that Social Media is the only thing to concentrate on. It’s still important to concentrate on SEO and building links from various sources, but if you’ve been resisting Social Media until this point, it’s probably time to give in.