We’ve talked about making your vacation rental website more search engine friendly, so it shows up when people are looking for a vacation rental in your neighborhood. Adding great content, using relevant keywords, and ensuring your information is up-to-date in local directories are all factors that can help improve where your property will show up in search results.

However, a recent review by search engine optimization experts Searchmetrics shows that — while these elements matter — they don’t top the list of things search engines look for.

What does? Social media.

Social media a key signal for search

“Seven of the ten most important factors in [search engine optimization] ranking now come from social media, ” noted AllTwitter in their analysis of the Searchmetrics report, Ranking Factors – Rank Correlation 2013.

Ranking Factors - Rank Correlation 2013 [Infographic]

What specific factors made the Top Ten list?

  1. Google +1
  2. Facebook shares
  3. Number of backlinks
  4. Facebook total
  5. Facebook comments
  6. Facebook likes
  7. Pinterest
  8. Tweets
  9. % of backlinks rel=nofollow
  10. Ø SEO-visibility of backlinking URL

While backlinks — links to your website from other sites — also make the list, it’s pretty clear that social channels can tip the balance. “Websites that rank in the top positions on Google usually have a large number of social signals. In other words: well-ranked URLs have many shares, likes, comments, plus ones and tweets,” Searchmetrics wrote in the report.

That doesn’t mean a lot of likes and tweets will rocket you to the top spot in search results but, as Searchmetrics observed, “the correlation of social metrics with better rankings is impressively high.”

What this means for your marketing strategy

As highlighted in our “10 Minute Marketing” presentation at the HomeAway summit, we understand that when it comes to marketing your vacation rental you need to pick the marketing tactics that give you the biggest bang for your buck and your time.

Social networking doesn’t necessarily meet that criteria; it takes an investment of time and energy to see meaningful results. While some owners find it invaluable for building relationships and providing customer service, others feel the time invested doesn’t bring them close enough to the results they need: more bookings. Prioritize the channels that bring you the results you’re looking for!

If you are currently using social channels, or looking for ways to expand your marketing efforts, this report can help you prioritize your efforts. Here are three activities to consider:

  • Create useful content
    This Top Ten list isn’t actually a call for you to create your own accounts on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Twitter. It does, however, indicate that having other people share and talk about your content via these different social networks makes a difference. So, give people something to talk about! Useful content doesn’t need to “go viral” and reach the masses, it just needs to be interesting and relevant to people in your community, or your past and potential guests.

  • Create a Facebook Page
    Facebook shares, comments and likes all made the Top Ten list, with the sum of all the different Facebook-related factors ranked at #4. If you aren’t marketing your property on Facebook already, it’s one of the more commonly-used networks by vacation rental owners: You can connect with past guests and their friends, share photos, provide updates, and — of course — link people back to important information on your website.

  • Keep an eye on Google+
    There it is, sitting in the #1 spot: The increasingly influential social network you may never have heard of. Google+ is Google’s social network, and the “+1″ feature that’s considered the leading factor for search engine ranking allows people to share and give the “thumbs up” to content they enjoy — Google’s version of the Facebook “Like” button. “If the current percentage growth rates for Facebook Shares and Google plus ones remain constant, Google+ will overtake Facebook in terms of social sharing at the beginning of the year 2016,” Searchmetrics forecast. Definitely a marketing channel to keep on your radar.

Have you made any changes to your marketing to give your website a boost in search results? Please tell us what worked — or what didn’t — in the comments below!