Remember how back in the olden days, every company started with “A”? You had AAA Lawn Care Service, A+ Car Repair, and on and on. Why did people choose these ridiculous names? To game the Yellow Pages, of course. Since these business listings were in alphabetical order, having a business name that started with “a” could significantly boost your business.

Phone books are going the way of the dodo, but there’s a new system in town that businesses are trying to game just as much: search rankings. SEO is becoming a necessary part of almost any company’s marketing plan. People have to know you exist to buy from you, after all. But keeping up with the nearly constant changes (Google makes something like 600 algorithmic changes every year) is a full-time job. Luckily, there are people like Jeremy Dearringer to keep us up to speed.

Dearringer owns Slingshot SEO, an Indianapolis-based search engine consulting and marketing service. I was lucky enough to hear Dearringer speak on the topic of “Social Media: A Revolution in Search” at a recent PRSSA conference in Bloomington.

Unsurprisingly, as social media becomes more and more important to our daily lives, the search engines are beginning to factor these into their algorhythms. In particular, Twitter can be crucial to search. Why? Unlike Facebook, its API isn’t under lock and key, and most people have their profiles public by default, rather than private, allowing search engines to crawl more easily. Links can be tweeted shortened or unshortened–the search engines can track them back to their original source. Additionally, it’s believed that the influence of the tweeter has a direct influence on how important it is to search.

Why don’t we know for sure? The search engines keep their algorhythms under lock and key to prevent people gaming the system with what’s called “black hat SEO.” Interestingly, Dearringer revealed that while Slingshot SEO practices only “white hat SEO” out of concern for their clients’ reputations, if he had his druthers, they’d practice “grey hat,” that fuzzy line between using the algorhythms and exploiting them. Grey hat just gets results.

While I do not advocate grey hat SEO, Dearringer’s right: it works. But it’s still entirely possible to boost your SEO using entirely ethical, legal means. How are you using social media to boost your SEO?