As Google, Bing, and other search engines evolve the quality of search engine results pages (SERP's) via algorithmic changes such as Google's Panda Update, many in the SEO industry are left scratching their head on how to adapt. However, there is one key metric that is keeps gaining importance: Social Media!
Social Media, whether implemented via Facebook, Twitter, etc., has become a favorite tool among online businesses in engaging their consumers/clients in ways that static sites simply can't duplicate. And although there had been speculation in the SEO community for a long time in regards to whether SM signals had any effect on SEO, Search Engine Land originally broke the story that data shared through Twitter and Facebook has a direct effect on a search engine results page (SERP) placement. It was further confirmed by SEOMoz's 2011 Search Engine Ranking Factors, with some of the industry's brightest predicting that page level and domain level social signals will continue to gain importance in algorithms.
Just as Google’s PageRank had been a benchmark by which a website/domain's trust could be measured, a likely development will be ‘Social Rank' which could take an individual/entity and calculates THEIR level of authority across various networks (independent of the PageRank of the linking page). Factors that could be used in calculating ‘Socia lRank’ may include number followed/followers, number of friends, number of ‘Likes’, etc.
There are a few parallels of how search engines will likely view social media interaction. For example, having content RT'ed on Twitter or 'liked' on Facebook by a large number of individual users would be similar to having links from a large number of linking root domains; with the safe assumption that 100 retweets from 100 unique accounts would be better than 100 retweets from one account. In addition, obtaining high-authority followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook would be akin to obtaining links from pages with high Page Rank, potentially increasing one’s ‘Social Rank’ in the same way that high-PR links typically increase the PR of the linked page. Furthermore, relevancy could be a key element in gauging how much ‘juice’ is passed on to a link. A retweet of a SEO post by a trusted SEO authority such as Rand Fishkin would be more valuable than a retweet from an accountant (provided that other factors such as ‘SocialRank’ are the comparable).
Social Media is here to stay and has become an excellent method by which internet marketers can better engage their target audience. But that such interaction has implications for SEO is just gravy.