Social and SEO: Can Social Media Performance Impact Ranking?
Everyone wants to improve rank, and strategists work tirelessly to keep pace with Google’s algorithm updates. SEO has evolved indeed, but lately, more businesses are emphasizing social media as part of their search-marketing strategy. Several years ago, keyword density was one of the best ways to influence rankings for pages on specific keywords. Today, singular keywords have been replaced by intent, and the focus is on enhancing user experience. But can social media impact SEO? More than a few businesspeople think it can, so you’re not alone if you’ve started emphasizing social when thinking about your SEO strategy.
Can Social Media Impact Rank?
Interestingly, there are two sides to the story. On the one hand, Google’s Matt Cutts announced in January of 2014 that social signals — Facebook likes, shares, Twitter followers, etc. — will not affect search rankings. He did admit, however, that spiders crawl social-media pages just as they would any other webpage. Today, we know that Google relies on Twitter, in part, to discover new content. Thus, the number of tweets and re-tweets a URL gets must be factored into the indexing process. And the faster you are indexed, the faster you’ll build organic traffic.
By contrast, a 2015 correlation study on search engine-ranking factors, conducted by Moz.com, concluded that social signals do matter. The study found that both the quantity and quality of tweeted links, Facebook shares, and Google+ 1s on a page are correlated with higher search rankings. Moz discloses that the findings are not “proof,” but rather, characteristics of webpages that rank higher.
For many years, link building was essential for search-engine ranking. Back then, building “link juice” was easy, as even low-quality links could positively impact rank. Today, the quality of links is more important than ever before, and poor links are no longer acceptable. With built-in authority, social-media sites are the perfect place to establish the high-quality link-backs your website needs.
- Content that’s shared via links across social media helps search engines understand how to rank your website for specific keyword phrases.
- Google crawls social websites for data, and links placed in content and profiles are seen as credible.
Social Authority May Influence Rank for Certain Keywords
With Google, credibility is everything, and building social-media influence is one way to establish yours. For instance, a high number of likes, shares, and followers on Facebook reveal a profile’s influence. How relevant your content is, how many people you reach with it, and whether the people engaging with you on social-media platforms have high influence themselves are all part of your authority.
Moz.com saw a spike in page rank after a link to their “Beginner’s Guide to SEO” was tweeted out by a social-media profile with high influence and authority (Smashing magazine). Search-engine traffic increased for Moz.com, and they watched the page containing the keyword “beginner’s guide” catapult to number one on SERP (search engine results pages). Apparently, tweets from high-influence users can influence rankings for certain keywords.
The positive effects from social media as it relates to search can’t be ignored. Top-ranking URLs do tend to have more social signals than those that don’t rank as well. More likes, tweets, and +1s raise brand awareness, improve traffic, and enhance the performance of a domain. While there is no direct proof that social impacts rank, it is enough to consider integrating social media with your SEO strategy.
While the details will likely remain a mystery, a few things are very clear. Search engines like to display high-quality, relevant content, and that’s the exact recipe for high engagement and a strong social presence on social networks.