With many people thinking that social media will become an increasingly important SEO weapon, we examine its likely importance in the long term.

When you speak with SEO experts, the hot topic is how social media signals are going to be used increasingly by Google to determine the authority of a website.

It’s believed that the number of Facebook “likes”, Twitter followers, Google +1’s and even You Tube channel views you have, the more credence you could gain from Google.

It has a ring of truth. After all, Google has for years taken more notice of how others regard you rather than how you regard yourself.
However, when you decide how much resource to put into this area you need to consider how much weight these signals are really going to carry with Google in the long term.
History has shown that the amount of weight Google gives an indicator is always inversely proportional to how easy it is to manipulate. As it became easy to stuff keywords, flood directory sites, get reciprocal links, spam discussion boards etc.. their power in Google’s eyes has declined.
And when you look at how easy it is to manipulate social media signals you also have to question their future long term relevance for SEO.

Take Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers for example. Offer free cake for every “like” or “follower” you get and all but most the ardent calorie counter will flock to you. For You Tube channel views it’s even easier.

Take an ear abusing song such as “Everything I do, I do it for you” by Bryan Adams, stick it on your channel and, hey presto, over 45m views follow.
When it comes to artificial manipulation of link gaining (ie link buying) Google can impose penalties to reduce its abuse. However, it won’t be able to do the same for people who artificially try to increase their social media signals.

Why? For the simple reason that companies will be able to point to a legitimate commercial, non SEO-related, reason for incentivising “likes” “views” “follows” and the suchlike. Companies can say that it’s to simply increase their subscriber base for future commercial gain and is unconnected to the manipulation of search engine results. Who is Google to say otherwise?
As it will be easy to manipulate social media signals and as Google will have no powers to penalise this manipulation, surely the emphasis Google is going to place on it is not going to be as prominent as some people predict?

Yes, social media can be used to gain other Google influencing factors such as links from people who see your social media campaigns. But when you are investing in social media for SEO I would treat it as a means to an end rather than the end in itself.