Anyone who works in the fields of search or social media has known for years that the two are intrinsically linked. But the question of how activity on social channels affects search rankings has perplexed and frustrated many of us.
We were well-placed to carry out such a study, thanks to the success of our Twitter-based petition site, Twitition.com. Having amassed over 7.5million digital signatures, all of which were automatically tweeted out, the site provided us with an unprecedented data set that we used to study the rankings of websites that were linked to in tweets.
We took a sample of over 8,500 petitions and established where they ranked for natural search terms relevant to their content. We then assessed the correlation between the rankings and the number of times each petition’s URL had been retweeted.
The results were fascinating, providing us with the following key findings:
• URLs receive a significant rankings boost from Google when they are tweeted and retweeted on Twitter. This boost levels out at around 50 tweets, and little further benefit is gained until social noise reaches around 5,000 tweets
• High volume Twitter activity leads to a fantastic rankings boost, with URLs receiving over 7,500 tweets almost always ranking on the first page of Google.
What does this mean for businesses?
The study gives real weight to marketers looking to further their social media activity, given that there is a tangible, provable SEO benefit to be gained from having links to commercial web pages shared on social media.
There is still work to be done in this area; Google and Twitter are said to be locking horns over the issue of how visible tweeted links should be to search engines, and for how long they remain visible.
While the Branded3 study illustrates a very clear trend, it would be nigh on impossible to establish an absolute causal link between social noise and search rankings, given the plethora of other factors at play around the web.
But the study marks an important first step in building a clear picture of the ever-growing value of social media to marketers and businesses the world over. You can download an illustrated version of the research here.