Impact of Social Media and Community on Search Engine Rankings

With Web 2.0 front and center, the general use of the Internet is evolving. As users change their surfing habits, so too must search engines change the way they provide results for their users.

For many years, search optimization was about core elements such as on page content, inbound links, and overall site stature. As more people mashup, comment, tag and bookmark though — the waters suddenly get muddy.

Inbound Links
More than any other element, the number of inbound links can be influenced tremendously by social media. Every time a user posts a comment on a blog, there’s another opportunity for a backlink. Every time you cite someone else’s posts, there too is another backlink.

With the use of tags, bloggers are encouraging others to basically create a network of links all involving similarly focused content. That is not a bad thing, but it does create more opportunities for people looking to game the systems.

Tagging & Bookmarking
We have seen Google push Wikipedia to the limits in nearly all types of search results. As more people Digg, Reddit and Del.icio.us posts though, there’s a scary alternative available.

Imagine if Google were to suddenly promote one of these social networking services in their results similarly to how Wikipedia is showcased. Instantly, thousands of less-than-ethical SEO’s and link builders would be spamming the systems for a piece of the treasure.

Is Interaction the New Backlink?
Optimizing for Google is all about Google PageRank, right? If you can score some links to your site on high values pages, you’re suddenly one step closer to dominating the SERPs.

As more people adapt to the community aspect of web 2.0 though, less traditional backlinks will become available — and more will likely be focused on interaction. Every time you comment on a blog post, rate a video, offer a Digg for someone’s content, or give them a positive thumbs up on StumbleUpon… a link is being generated.

Therefore, it’s entirely possible — and quite likely — those social interactions on the above services are what will create the new era of backlinks. To that degree, major engines are faced with a difficult decision. Should all links created through such social networking retain less value, or, should they be scored on using a proprietary algorithm similar to how PageRank is currently determined?

For now, we’ll just have to wait and see!

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