Google_SEOI’m going to state the obvious: Penguin has completely changed, and in some cases destroyed, the way we formerly knew SEO. Multi-billion dollar companies have lost business due to Google’s Penguin Algorithm update doing a “reset” on search results by eliminating backlinks that Google “considers” spammy. Keep in mind that what Google now considers spammy is not necessarily what we would consider spammy, and as a result getting a good-quality “doFollow” backlink has in all honesty become darn near impossible to get.

The common assumption here has been that Google has de-ranked many websites so that those websites would be forced to use Google Adwords, which would dramatically increase Google’s revenue. While Google’s Matt Cutts has claimed that Google has also lost money this past quarter in Adwords and believes that Google is thinking long-term, it still sounds like a very weak argument.

At any rate, when one is as large as Google one can do whatever one wants. Search for all intents and purposes is Google’s platform and therefore we are powerless. We can complain all we want but in the end, Google does what’s best for Google, “don’t be evil” be damned. Google is, after all, first and foremost a business, as stated in point 6 of their company philosophy page. All we can do is adapt to Google’s new policies.

I therefore propose that Social Media traffic is the only solution to spread out usable content. The “likes,” comments and “visits” are tracked by Google and accorded with value.

Web Analytics and SEO Terms

To emphasize on the point that Google has virtually nixed search traffic data, log into the back-end interface of your web Analytics software (most people use Google Analytics). Under Search Traffic, look at your keyword terms. Chances are high that over 90% of your keyword terms are set to “(not set).” That’s no accident. Google doesn’t want the evil among us to exploit search results by bad backlinking, furthering Google’s crusade on spammy links. On a good day, if a visitor turns into a lead, if we ask what term s/he used, do you think that user is really going to remember what was typed in Google? From the user’s end, you were visited and that’s all that matters.

Matt Cutts of Google claims that Google can no longer track this data when people are logged into Google Plus, which uses HTTPS authentication, thereby “zapping” any search variables from passing through. I would argue on that point, stressing that passing the search term, or an encrypted version of it, through the URL string (Google can do that but doesn’t) rather than as “form POST data” would solve this problem beautifully. Therefore, that argument to me doesn’t seem to hold water.

Social Media as Search: Facebook and Twitter

Matt Cutts mentioned way back in 2010 that Google does allow Facebook and Twitter links to have some influence on real-time search ranking. For Facebook and Twitter this applies despite the links on those sites automatically being assigned with a “nofollow” status. Of course, this only applies when the user’s profile is free and open for everyone, including search engines, to review.

For the sake of being comprehensive, Google actually used to include Twitter “tweets” in their search results page in 2011, but stopped doing so when the contract agreement with Twitter expired.

Social Media as Search: Google Plus

Google Plus is in many ways the new Google. Google has already integrated Google Places and is in the process of integrating YouTube, among other technologies. To encourage usage, Google has allowed links on one’s business page to be counted as “DoFollow.”

Since most of the civilized world seems to use GMail to email contacts, chances are high that most of your contacts are already using Google Plus. Google counts “+1s,” shares and business reviews heavily in search results. To emphasize Google’s integration of Plus, to become part of Google’s new Partner’s program, in addition to owning a website, you must have a verified (via PIN) Google Plus business page.

This form of social media arguably factors more heavily for search results than the other Social Media channels combined.

Social Media as Search: LinkedIN

LinkedIn has evolved from more of a business rolodex to a dynamic, robust business-related Social Media platform. In many ways LinkedIn is the new resume.

Posting business articles/links and actually engaging with users in Groups and page discussions leads to reposting, likely on an independent blog post that will get indexed by Google.

Social Media as Search: Pinterest

Pinterest has gained a lot of ground in the last year. In addition to user engagement, wall pins and whatnot, Pinterest is, as of this post, very generous with “DoFollow” links. How Google values that with Penguin remains to be seen, but we’ve read reports of people that have enjoyed a boost in Google rankings from Pinterest.

Final Thoughts

That said, it seems like Google has shifted its focus to user traffic. Google wants actual links from independent users and has actually gotten very good at it. The best way to improve search is to actually be active on Social Media websites. By being active, that doesn’t mean just sharing a post and hoping for the best. It means actually engaging with other users in a natural, non-spammy way and only sharing a link where it makes sense. Like Facebook, Google truly has shifted from artificial intelligence to human intelligence. Social Media indeed is the new search, and it’s here to stay. Get used to it.

iRISEmedia is a Digital Media agency in Toronto, Ontario. We provide Social Media, SEO and Internet Marketing services to companies in Canada and Globally.