Search Engine Optimization experts rely heavily on links, volumes of content and old domains. But the times they are a-changing. Social signals from Facebook Likes and tweets, are affecting rankings in the biggies like Google. They are finding social media sources provide great benefits to users and provide more trusted signals, and they admit to experimenting with the appropriate adjustments.

The main goal of search engines is to help people find what they’re looking for. To do this, the search engines developed a complex algorithm measuring websites voting for others by linking to them. If your website had lots of links, you climbed the ranking ladder. There were other factors of course, like keywords in titles, and the game changed constantly, keeping the poor old SEO experts sweating. But ‘links’ was the main name of the game. Website owners worked to adhere to Google’s standards to prove their sites had quality content by making sure they had plenty of links to good sites (although shadier sites tried to trick the secret formula without creating useful information, opening the way increasingly for spammers and irrelevant content).

This ranking method was great for the websites, but what about for the people who were searching? This is where social media is playing a role to make results better. Today, people share 30 billion pieces of content on Facebook and over 5 Billion tweets…per month. People are sending signals to search engines now with clicks, bookmarks, tags and ratings, and the search engines have figured out that if people share your content, it’s probably good.

Searches have better results when the algorithms are picking up on the opinions of people. So the lesson to be learned here for small businesses striving to get better rankings in the search engines is to put quality content on their websites so people will share it on their Facebook and  Twitter accounts and get those customers clicking the Like, bookmark and tag  buttons for all their worth.