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With Google’s recent announcement that a new algorithm had been rolled out with the Hummingbird update, people have been curious as to what exactly has changed. In short, plenty of things have been added, removed, and altered. Google Hummingbird Update: What You Need to Know sums it up pretty nicely. Now you’re thinking, “That’s great, but how does it really affect me and my rankings?” and in reality it doesn’t very much.

The big change with Hummingbird was the move to more conversational search queries coming up with relevant and accurate results. While this does enhance and fundamentally change the user experience, it doesn’t dramatically change what you need to do to rank well.

What Helps My Site Rank Higher?

A recent study by searchmetrics has identified what factors contribute more to how well a site ranks (note that this is a study of correlation, and not causality).

SEO Ranking Factors

As you can see, social media has started to play a huge role in search rankings. If your site is garnering a lot of views, shares, retweets, etc. on social networking sites, it’s likely that that’s playing into your search rankings.

The study results also show that building quality backlinks is still a huge part of ranking well in search engines. None of Google’s major updates, from Panda to Hummingbird has changed that, and it probably won’t be changing in the foreseeable future.

Content is King

Social Media LikeFrom looking at the chart above, you might think to yourself, “I really need to just be more active on social media!” and this is partially true. Search engines value social media attention, but what does social media value and promote? The short answer is content. The users of social media are a group that you can target with your content, because people will share what is interesting, informative, or relevant to them. These increased shares, likes, comments, and retweets will help search engines pick you out.

Social Media in Search Rankings

The other group you can target with your content is the social media site itself. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have been making some drastic changes to their analytics and algorithms in order to get the most user relevant information to the right people. Especially of interest to social media sites is paid advertising and pay-per-click (PPC).

You haSocial Media Paid Advertisingve most likely seen the “Promoted” tweets, or “Sponsored” ads on Facebook. You may have also noticed that you can mark whether you like the ads or not, and indicate whether they’re relevant to you or not. Making these choices about your ads helps the social media site find out what you’re interested in and it will start to show you more ads that are relevant your recorded interests.

As someone concerned about your search rankings, this should really interest you. Devoting some money to paid ads in social media will, because of their new algorithms, lead to more interested people finding your site/services/products. This leads to more likes, comments, and shares, which then leads to Google ranking your site higher.

In the end, the factors that affect your rankings the most are all interconnected. If you are creating quality content, gaining traction on social media, and maybe even using paid ads, your rankings will keep going up. Questions about the Hummingbird update, social media, paid advertising, or pay-per-click? Leave them in the comment box below!

Jamie Bates
Online Marketing Director