Fact or Fiction? Social Media Signals Are a Search Engine Ranking Factor

Fact or Fiction? Social Media Signals are a Search Engine Ranking Factor

For a while now, the Google search algorithm has been considering social media signals as one of its ranking factors.

However, many SEO experts argue that social media, whilst a ranking factor, doesn’t have any significant influence on your SEO performance.

So which one is it? Do social media signals influence your search ranking or not?

I believe the correlation is stronger than most people think… but it’s easy to be misled.

In 2014, Matt Cutts published a video saying that social metrics, such as Twitter followers and Facebook likes, which indicate a profile’s influence and authority, don’t directly affect search rankings.

However, if you dive a little deeper into what Cutts actually says in this statement, the answer isn’t so black and white.

The rest of this article will form a battle tested case for why SEO focused marketers should consider social media signals in their search strategy.

Let’s go back in time to be able to predict the future…

In a more recent statement than the above video, Cutts stated that social signals are among the ranking factors that Google consider. This was said during an interview with Danny Sullivan to learn how search engines consider social signals as a ranking factor.

During this talk, Cutts said that “who you are on Twitter can definitely impact how well your page ranks on a regular search page”. This somewhat confirms that social media signals are one of Google’s ranking factors.

To add to this statement, research by Searchmetrics found that social media signals have a strong correlation with articles that rank well. Is this just a coincidence?

Evidence that affirms this fact is an infographic published by Moz that indicates that social signals contribute almost 4% to the efforts of getting a web page to rank high in Google search results.

The best social media practices that will boost your SEO

SEO and Social media are two interwoven marketing strategies. Both are inbound and organic strategies that concentrate on building an appealing identity which, in turn attracts visitors naturally.

Since social media heavily relies on a strong, visible brand presence and high-quality content, the efforts you will spend on SEO will no doubt increase your social media reach and vice versa – your strong social media presence will greatly increase your search ranking.

Unfortunately, when asked how social media can directly influence your Google rankings, most marketers don’t mention the details.

Instead of discussing exactly why and how an increased social media presence can improve your SEO; it is always written off as a generality, leaving marketers to wonder whether or not their strategies are actually working.

To fix this, I have made a list of social media practices that will almost certainly improve your SEO.

Let’s take a closer look…

1. Develop a content marketing strategy

Content marketing is almost always the answer! Especially when it comes to SEO and social media, high-quality content is at the core of any strategy.

Developing a strong content marketing strategy will enable you to strengthen your social media presence, whilst simultaneously improving your rankings.

Why content marketing?

Content marketing is the link between what you want to say and what your users are interested in.

One of the most important things that search marketers should consider in order to improve their rankings is content optimization. If you can write well-optimized content on your website that answers users’ questions, meets their needs, and provides them with the value they are searching for, inevitably you will improve your performance on both social media and with search engines.

It’s not all about keywords, but also about understanding a user’s intent and creating content that solves their queries.

Publishing this style of content on your website, and then sharing it on social media, will work in collaboration to improve your online performance.

2. Increase your social following

It is not only about how many fans you have, it is also about how loyal they are to you. Growing your number of loyal followers is a slow yet effective process for influencing where you rank in search engines.

How do you increase your followers?

  • Present your brand consistently and uniquely across your website, social channels and email
  • Post helpful articles and useful tips on a regular cadence
  • Post general discussion items to generate direct conversations with your customers

Providing value to your users will get them engaged with the greater cause of your business, and consequently increase website traffic in the process.

Imagine that you have a website that is brand new and not ranking at all in search engines. The only way for search engines to test the consumer behavior regarding this web page is through the traffic it gets from different online resources. Whether that is from social media platforms, email broadcasts or any other resource. So, the more qualified traffic you get, the more credibility your web pages will gain with search engines.

Increasing your social media following will naturally increase traffic to your website, which in itself will influence how credible search engines consider your content.

Side note: One of the most important ranking factors in the Google algorithm are behavioral signals which include the click-through-rate of your website in searches. The more credible and recognizable your brand is on social media, the more chance people will click on your site on a search page.

3. Entice people to share your content

It might seem like a vanity metric, but the number of social shares you have on your posts will contribute to the perception of your brand’s authority.

Search engines are looking for any sign of external sources that support your content and your website in order to improve your domain authority, and better rank your content. So, if you get 10 people to share your post this is good, but if you can get 10,000 people to share it, now you have some bargaining power!

Wrapping up

To sum up, “social is the way our work gets discovered. Content that is truly exceptional, unique, and useful can earn tremendous awareness through social media, and that social amplification often leads to generate links, which leads to great rankings.” Rand Fishkin CEO/Co-Founder, Moz

So, what do you think, do social media signals influence SEO?

Guest Author: Aya Abo Elsaoud is an SEO & Content Manager who holds a degree in linguistics and literature from a reputable university in Cairo.  She started her career as a professional copywriter in 2012 as part of Rocket Internet, then started her career in SEO in 2013 within the same organization. The thing that attracts her to SEO more than any other online marketing field is that in SEO you are actually working on what people need; every single time she tries to make a page rank higher is because actually, people want this information or this product, not because she wants to market it! Content and SEO for her are two sides of the same coin, one won’t stand without the other. Though, even though only few get this fact, she’s glad she’s one of them.

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