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Google is just another platform that displays content. The whole point of a search engine is to find relevant content. Not relevant web pages, relevant content.

Search algorithms are at this point fairly agnostic about what the content “is.” They show web pages in search results, but they also show results from social media, from map applications, from location-based mobile apps, and lots of other online sources.

Nobody really knows how search engines make decisions about what content to show users, but the search engine optimization industry has made some good guesses over the years, and through testing, we know two things that matter. You will not be surprised to find out what they are: Quality content and engagement.

Google and other search engines want to show users the best, not the most. That’s why the first search engine results page only displays 10 or so of the hundreds of thousands of results that a given query turns up. Search engines want to give the user the best content for their query.

So it makes sense that the best way to win search is to make incredibly engaging and compelling content, and make sure your audience interacts with it regularly. This is not brain surgery.

You can spend a lot of time and effort on this, and for some brands, it makes sense to be more granular in your approach to search. But what it will always boil down to at the end of the day is this: You must earn your rank.

Not unlike search algorithms, Facebook’s EdgeRank examines your Facebook content and determines whether it shows up in users’ news feeds or not. EdgeRank looks at three major factors:

Affinity – Whether people have engaged with the content or not in the past.

Weight – Weight is a description of the content type. Some types of content get more engagement than others. Video has more weight than a photo. Photos have more weight than a link share. A link share has more weight than a status update.

Recency – All things being equal, content that is newer has a better chance of showing up in the news feed. Recency – how old the content is – is a big driver of EdgeRank.

EdgeRank is extremely sophisticated because of the number of factors that are taken into account and how they relate to each other.

The algorithm makes different decisions about what to show in the feed (their proactive version of the search engine results page) based on each individual user. For more information on EdgeRank, check out our introductory presentation from 2011, EdgeRankNinja, on SlideShare.

We’ve already discussed EdgeRank as it applies to Facebook content. But it also applies to your website and blog because that content uses Facebook’s application programming interface to share and like content.

Leveraging Facebook data to customize other applications like websites and mobile apps and other social media apps is a very popular practice. Depending on how it’s used, EdgeRank could determine what shows up on your website or what dynamic content is being displayed to the user.

The short of it is: If you want your content to appear on more fans’ pages, it needs to be remarkable, high-quality content that resonates with the audience. You can find this out using Facebook’s paid media tool.

For example, if a sports apparel marketer wanted to know everyone’s favorite sports team, Facebook can tell them based on the different likes they’ve all made. If you like the Cincinnati Reds, then the apparel marketer will put a Reds jersey into the ad that appears on the side of your page.

You can use this data for owned media as well. You can ask Facebook to show you the people who “like” your content or your page, and then cross tab it to examine the trends of your followers. You then produce and promote content based on the information you’re able to find.