By Richard Heyes, Managed Director and Founder of Tecmark
Does social media impact SEO?
This question has had many different answers over the years.
Social media certainly has a place in increasing a brand’s visibility – and anyone interested in search engine optimisation should be just as eager to stand out on social media.
These days, most savvy business owners know the importance of having an active social media presence, but most think of it as an entirely independent platform from the rest of their digital marketing activities.
But social media provides many other benefits to your SEO strategy.
What is the relationship between social media and SEO?
The link between social media and SEO is a hotly debated topic – and has been for about a decade. This is largely thanks to the vague and conflicting signals from Google themselves.
Back in December 2010, Matt Cutts (with Google at the time) published a video saying that social signals were a ranking factor.
Yet In 2014, Cutts released another video flatly saying that social signals, such as Facebook likes and followers, do not affect search rankings. At the time, this came as a shock to the industry, which had been operating under the idea that social signals were a signal of trustworthiness and quality to Google’s algorithm.
Even so, while social media may not be a direct factor, it can influence your rankings.
In 2018, Hootsuite tested the performance of its articles with and without social media promotion. They found that pieces with top social shares received an average 22% boost during the duration of the experiment.
The conversation around the correlation between SEO and social media is still ongoing – but the consensus is that if social links and shares are a ranking factor, they’re a minor one.
Even John Mueller has joined in on the conversation in recent months:
Though social media may not directly influence SEO, there’s no denying the connection between social media and your brand’s visibility on search.
So, how does social media impact SEO?
Social media builds brand authority and trust.
Social media is often used as a way to build brand visibility, but an arguably more important factor is trust.
Consumers today have so many options available to them at the touch of a button – giving them an even harder choice when it comes to choosing who to work with.
They may research their selected companies in a few ways – from past employees, the website, etc. – but the most common way would be to take a look at their social media presence. Businesses that fail to use social media can be seen as a red flag to critical consumers, who expect trustworthy businesses to be as transparent as possible.
Building up your social media presence and engaging with followers will help establish your brand as legitimate and reliable, further improving your SEO and humanising your brand, giving your users a greater brand experience.
Social profiles rank in search engines
The good news is social media profiles are indexed just like any other page on Google. For branded keywords especially, having your social media optimised will put your profiles at the top of the search listings.
This is a potential gold mine for local businesses and services, as Facebook search results show aggregate ratings of your customer reviews, allowing your customers to get a full picture of your brand across all platforms.
For customers looking to hire or use your company, having your social media profiles in search results allows them to see a more personalised side of your business than your website usually provides, and is another great way to lead visitors down the sales funnel.
Social media funnels traffic
Did you know that social media platforms are search engines, too? People don’t just use Google and Bing to find what they’re looking for anymore.
Your target audience is somewhere on social media! These are people who may not have found out about your business through search results alone, but can benefit from your products or services.
By sharing regular, relevant content to your platforms, social media can be another significant way to drive traffic to your website from a highly relevant audience.
Social media posts create backlinks
We know that social signals, such as likes and followers, aren’t a ranking signal to Google – but we also know that social media posts and profiles are indexed the same way as web pages.
This means that any time your content is linked to and shared on social media, it creates a backlink.
Backlinks and link building are a huge part of SEO – not only do they help funnel traffic, but they serve as a major authority signal to Google that your site has some expertise and authority on a particular topic.
Sharing on social media can also help people discover, and then link to your content. So even if your website isn’t drawing traffic to gain links, you’ll find people discovering your content on social media and then linking back to your piece.
Social media signals on Bing
While social media is not a direct ranking factor on Google, Bing has a different approach for social media signals. From Bing’s webmaster guidelines:
“Social media plays a role in today’s effort to rank well in search results… these positive signals can have an impact on how you rank organically in the long run.”
Bing, which is steadily grabbing market share from Google, has made it very clear that its algorithm incorporates social signals. If you’re running an SEO, or social media, campaign of any kind, it would be wise to consider Bing as part of your approach.
Over the last decade, Google’s guidance on the relationship between social media and SEO has been weak, at best. With Google’s own experts going back and forth on their stance, it can be difficult to determine for sure how much impact social media has on rankings.
Don’t get bogged down in the details, though – marketers should instead focus on viewing social media as not just another social platform, but as another way that people find and engage with brands on the web and search engines.
Keeping up steady and reliable social profiles helps build audiences, foster relationships and increase authority. Your optimised profiles will rank in search engines and give your audience another way to vet and explore your business.
On top of that, using social media to promote your content brings you a backlink boost for your SEO, plus another channel for your content marketing to be discovered on.
Whether SEO or social media is your primary strategy, it’s important to consider how the two complement and improve each other.