Social Media and SEO: Do Social Media Platforms Impact Search Rankings?
The question of whether or not social media impacts search rankings is one that comes up often in our meetings with business owners. This question can be answered in short form, but it’s best to understand all of the nuances around it before making any business decisions. That’s why we wanted to create this comprehensive post to help you make an educated decision about how your social media can impact your website’s organic search rankings.
The short answer is yes. Social media does have an effect on organic search visibility. But that is contradictory to Google’s official statement. The interesting history here is that google actually confirmed back in 2010 in this video from Matt Cutts that they do use social signals to help with their ranking algorithm.
In 2014, this follow up video was also posted from Matt around this subject and he then denies that social media has any impact on organic rankings. This has been Google’s official stance since then, and I am writing this in 2020, so they’re really sticking to their guns on this one.
In the 2014 video above, Matt makes some good points as to why Google shouldn’t be using social media as a ranking factor, however, Hootsuite conducted a study in 2018 which shows otherwise.
Hootsuite’s study compared a control group against articles being promoted on social media through advertising, and articles being organically shared, but not promoted. The articles being advertised saw a 22% boost in search visibility compared to a 12% boost for the organic post shares which is also something not to be ignored. The control group was not impacted much at all.
Cognitive SEO did a similar study in 2016 and found that there is a direct correlation to a strong social presence and better search rankings.
Courtesy of Cognitive SEO
So although Google denies the fact search and social have various connections, here is how you can optimize your SEO by utilizing social media.
Social = More Reach and Views
Social media is a great tool for getting further reach on your blogs and articles. If you are creating beautiful blogs and content on your website, be sure to share them on Facebook, but don’t just share them, promote them. A lot of times businesses get so caught up in promoting their products that they forget social media isn’t about selling, it’s about connecting with your audience. And what a better way to connect with them than creating helpful articles around topics they’re interested in and your business is good at?
You can post and promote these articles using Facebook’s targeting tools to reach your audience and people exactly matching it. This draws more eyeballs to your content encouraging more shares which further enhances the reach of your social posts.
Another added benefit of more eyeballs being on your content is that can also mean more people who are willing to link to you. And we know links are one of the strongest ranking factors Google uses in their algorithm. So when you’re planning your social media audiences, keep in mind the types of websites that are typically willing to link to you and be sure to include them in the targeted audiences, especially if they are different from your customer audience profile.
In short, social media can have a positive impact on your articles and best content because it is another way to drive traffic to it. The better the content, the more likely it is to get shares and of course with shares comes new views and more reach!
SERP Real Estate
What is SERP? A Search Engine Results Page is what you see when you “Google” something. Of course, you could be performing this search on Bing but you get the point. It looks like this…
This search engine results page can show many various websites, all depending on how and which terms are typed into it. Most business owners aren’t sitting around Googling their business name all day, but it’s good to know if you search your business name who else shows up in the SERP. Especially if you have competitors who are showing up for your business name on your SERP page.
Insert social media profiles. Though Google denies using social signals to help with search rankings, they still are clearly crawling social media sites because your brand’s social profiles rank in Google. If you were to search “your business name” the first thing you would see is your website, followed by other sites, likely one of them being your company Facebook page and/or your other company/brand social pages.
The nice thing about social media profiles like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and more is that these sites typically have a high domain rating and thus rank pretty well in search. Therefore your company’s social pages can rank right below or soon after your website, possibly keeping competitors sites from ranking there instead.
You see, you want YOUR company or brand to dominate the “real estate” on your SERP page. Having social media profiles built out and active can help increase the chances you’ll fill up the SERP with your website, social pages, and even directory listings instead of the competition.
Social is Also Search
What is the 2nd largest search engine behind Google?
People search for things on social media just like they do on Google. All of that awesome FAQ content you created for your website blog will work great on social media and if someone is searching for questions you are answering on social media through posting, your post could be more likely to show up.
Social search engines can also be searched by hashtags. Hashtagging your social media content helps to categorize it by keyword which helps people find it. Of course, this increases visibility thus driving more traffic to your content.
Bing (and other search engines)
Although we all call search “Google”, there are plenty of people who use Bing, and other search platforms. Bing actually openly admits to using social signals as one of their ranking factors as well in their webmaster guidelines.
Bing is also getting around 20% of the total search queries nowadays, so it’s wise to not ignore Bing for search. Whomever your SEO service provider is can help you build out your Bing Webmaster Tools and make sure you are optimized for Bing and platforms outside of big G.
Along with being their own search engine, social media sites come with “built-in” local directories where a business can enter their NAP (name, address, and phone number) information. This information is, of course, crawled by Google and other search engines.
Websites that have the EXACT same NAP information for their business across all of their various social profiles and directories seem to get a boost in rankings, especially from a local perspective. So much so that Moz created this free tool which allows you to check your local listing information to ensure it is congruent across your various profiles and directories.
There was a time when Foursquare, a location-based social media company, was a big up-and-coming social platform. Nowadays it’s less used for what it was started for, checking into businesses or various places, but because of what it’s built for, it’s a great directory. Therefore, it’s another strong domain that has your NAP information that we discussed earlier.
Social media also helps with local SEO because when search engines crawl social they also grab reviews so your social reviews can show up on the SERP pages we were talking about earlier.
If you are a local business looking to drive traffic to your location, this can be especially helpful as those reviews can increase (or decrease) the chances of someone showing up to your location. So make sure to have a solid Review Generation Plan to keep the good reviews flowing in.
Well first off, don’t go spam all of your blog posts all over your social media.
First, start with what your goal is knowing more about social media and SEO. If you are happy with your SEO and rankings but want better social media, talk to your team or whomever your expert on that is and improve the strategy.
If you are looking for more organic search traffic, it’s best to start with a full SEO audit and not just a better social media strategy. Though that is important, social is merely a portion of SEO and is only one part of many other things that are contained in a full SEO audit if done well.
We hope this post helps you see social media can help make an impact on your SEO efforts both directly and indirectly and thus should be strategically aligned with your SEO strategy. Interested in learning more? Check out our SEO course!