Crunching the Social NumbersIn just a few months’ time, on 4th February 2014, Facebook will celebrate its 10th anniversary. The last decade has been dominated by the social media revolution, which, aside from Facebook and its close to 1.2 billion active users, has been led by Twitter (over 500 million active users), Google+ (also 500 million) and LinkedIn (200 million). To put this in context, close to a quarter of the world’s population will have used some form of social media in 2013, according to a recent eMarketer report.
These are figures that no iGaming operator’s marketing department can ignore because they suggest that a tipping point has been reached. While the ‘Facebook decade’ that’s just ending saw social media as just one marketing tool among many, the future will see all online marketing dominated by social media. Search engine optimization (SEO) and social media, for instance, used to be considered separate channels, yet in 2014 and beyond we’ll see a synthesis of the two – ‘social’ SEO, if you like.The ‘S’ in SEO Stands for ‘Social’ as well as ‘Search’ Although the processes involved in SEO are complex – an SEO audit, keyword research and developing long-tail keywords and integrating them seamlessly into content – the goal of the channel is a simple one. In essence, SEO is all about increasing the search engine ranking of website. But how do social media figure in sites’ search ranking on Google? SEM consultancy Search Metrics recently released their SEO Ranking Factors – Rank Correlation 2013. Based on analysis of the Google USA search engine, the results reveal a surprisingly high correlation between websites with a strong social media presence and their ranking. Indeed, the single most important factor in increasing ranking is neither keywords nor backlinks – it’s the quantity of Google +1’s a website has. Google+’s equivalent of the Facebook ‘like’, the +1 is more important than a website’s internal links and backlinks. As everyone knows, Google+ is the social networking service of Google, and a cynic could argue that the search engine giant has rigged its search algorithms to favour Google+. However, the report shows that although the number of Google +1’s correlate most strongly with search ranking, Facebook Shares, along with number of backlinks, comes a close second. These two social factors are far from being anomalies. In fact, on the list of the most important factors in determining search ranking, social signals – Facebook comments and ‘likes’, Pinterest posts and Twitter Tweets – account for seven out of the top 10 factors. Make 2014 a Year to Socialize Your SEO What does this mean for iGaming operators’ marketing departments? It suggests that they should no longer consider social media and SEO as separate marketing channels but see them as being, quite literally, interlinked. In fact, one could go one step further and argue that as social media exists on two levels – to share and spread content, and, secondly, to feed into and support SEO – it should be given priority over traditional SEO techniques. Indeed, given social media’s importance in search ranking, there’s a strong argument to suggest that operators incorporate SEO as one element in their broader social media strategy. By developing a sophisticated SEO-friendly social media strategy for 2014, operators will meet and greet the social future and stay ahead of the game. What do you think about social SEO? Tell us in the comments section below!