Does Social Media Impact SEO?

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Confusion

Photo Credit: Matthias Ripp via Compfight cc

Ever since Matt Cutts, head honcho of Google’s Web spam team, announced one year ago this month that Facebook and Twitter signals are not part of the search engine’s ranking algorithm, digital marketers have publicly expressed a collective “WTF?” regarding social media’s impact on driving organic SEO.

While there may be digital marketers who identify as devout Google followers and fear the consequences of straying too far from the company’s advice, there are also skeptics who have experienced just the opposite. Naysayers claim to have seen an irrefutable impact of their social media campaigns on their website’s ranking. Some theorists have even accused Google of intentionally misleading the public to encourage the use of their own social platform.

In Cutts’ announcement, he was quick to debunk an SEOs observation that several links from Facebook seemed to help certain pages rank well in the search engine results page (SERPs). Cutts attributed this to “awesome” content, rather than attribute the lift to social signals, confidently stating the “correlation, not causation” bromide.

In what became one of the many head-scratching updates and changes from Google over the past year, digital marketers carefully considered whether or not they should allocate fewer resources to social media. Would the time and energy actually pay off?

Bing Weighs In on Search and Social

Interestingly, Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines state that social media does contribute to ranking in search engines through influence and that being influential in social leads to a higher organic search ranking over time.

Although Duane Forrester, Bing’s Senior Product Manager, has warned us of wasting too much time on social channels that don’t convert, he’s been vocal that social media should still be included as part of every comprehensive SEO campaign.

Forrester points out that social media is all about building meaningful relationships with customers. When Bing sees this happening, the search engine takes notice. He further emphasized that a well planned and executed social media program is “one of the biggest and smartest moves you can make as a small business.”

So, who are digital marketers to believe? And whose opinion should rise above the overcrowded conversation about the most effective SEO practices? While Google and Bing voiced conflicting opinions regarding social media’s effect on search, Google+ appeared to have solidified its mainstream importance.

Google Throws Marketers Another Curveball

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To add further confusion to the mix, Google Webmaster Tools’ John Mueller shared in a Google Plus post last August that the company was dropping the coveted authorship photos functionality from search results and Webmaster Tools. Eager marketers who had dedicated hours to building a robust Google Plus profile were feeling, once again, both blindsided and frustrated.

Whether you’ve seen social media affect SEO contrary to Cutts’ claims or opted to swear off Facebook,Twitter, and Google+ completely, it’s imperative that any changes a marketer decides to make are evidence-based. Revisions should be made only after experimenting, observing what works, and changing what doesn’t. With channels, strategies, and attitudes continually evolving, it’s impossible to definitively determine what works for all.

Just because Google may not be using Facebook and Twitter signals in their algorithm currently and have removed authorship, doesn’t mean marketers should ignore or even diminish their efforts with these channels.

In addition to branding, building customer loyalty and driving traffic, click-through rates have shown to be a ranking signal. Additionally, we’ve seen proof that reaching people across multiple channels has helped assist conversions from website visitors to trial users.

It’s important to remember that social media channels require a constant flow of interesting content and engagement from marketers in order to grow and be useful. Google had 13 major updates in 2014 alone; it’s likely that social media’s influence could further assist in building authority in the future.

Have you seen proof that social media helps your website’s organic traffic?



Kate Dore

Kate Dore is Raven's social media marketing specialist. She is a financial literacy promoter, classical singer, avid traveler, bluegrass music enthusiast, and expert snacker.

Kate Dore

Kate Dore is Raven's social media marketing specialist. She is a financial literacy promoter, classical singer, avid traveler, bluegrass music enthusiast, and expert snacker.

  • Ross

    Yes, it’s correct that Google doesn’t value the social media likes/follows/shares, etc. for the purpose of ranking. There are multiple reasons for Google to neglect popularity in the case of SEO.

    In the future, Google may consider social media, however it cannot give the equivalent value for all the popular social media even if it is No 1.

    There are multiple scenarios observed where a single person/organization has multiple social media accounts. In this case, if the like/share/comment is a factor for SEO, I can have 1,000 multiple accounts with different names. I can like/share/comment my website/blog more than 1,000 times a day. I am popular and ranked now… hahaha.

    We have also researched in many cases that, the person no longer exists. He/she`s dead but his social media account is alive to like/comment and share different web documents.

    Also, it’s not an easy process to trace these fake accounts. Multiple people can browse the Web from a single IP. Technology has still not advanced to capture the history of each individual browsing the Internet throughout the world.

    Regards,

    Ross
    Note: This post was edited for clarity. ^NVB

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Ross! It’s interesting to hear about your personal experiences and I’m looking forward to seeing how the larger conversation evolves over time.

    • Chad Lio

      I do think social has some sort of influence on search, but it’s a factor other then the like, follow, share engagement that we all think it is. What that is, I have no clue, but I feel it definitely has some effect. (I know that’s a very liberal theory).

      Why would Google release a statement that Social Schema that’s now included in the Knowledge graph (https://developers.google.com/webmasters/structured-data/customize/social-profiles).

      I think it may be a very small influence once it passes through the main ranking filters. Your content must travel through the filters first before it comes down to social exposure. Just my opinion.

      • Great points, Chad! Thanks for reading and sharing your perspective.

      • Ross

        Chad, thank you for your comment.
        Yes, Google is clever enough. Actually they should not include social media sites unless they are tstrong enough. As g+ is owned by google, they are in a plan to make g+ to a part of ranking factor. Honestly, I have 4000 g+ accounts. I should be lucky in future :). Your link encounters 404 error with no redirections 🙁

  • Ross

    Yes, its correct that google doesn’t value the social media likes/follows/shares etc for the purpose of ranking. There are multiple reasons for google to neglect the media popularity in case of SEO.

    In future google may consider the social media however it cannot give the equivalent value for all the popular media even if the media tends to be the No 1.

    Yes, social media plays a major role in SEO and can gain popularity within a very limited period however, Social media such as…. cannot be totally considered for the purpose of SEO because of its lacking security and vulnerability.

    There are multiple scenarios observed where a single people/ organisation having multiple media accounts. In this case if like/share/comment is a factor for SEO, I can have 1000 multiple accounts with different names. I can like/share/comment my web site/blog more than 1000 times a day. I am popular and ranked now… Hahaha.

    We have also researched in many cases that, the person no more exists. He/She`s dead before few months/years but his social media account is alive to like/ comment and share different web documents.

    Also its not an easy process to trace out these fake accounts. Multiple people can browse the web from a single ip and the technology is still much narrow to capture the images of each individuals who browse the web throughout the world.

    Also the social networking sites are not capable to collect an identification for each and every individual who uses their services. If they start it looses its customers by a heavy percentage due to different fake accounts and many more… Yes, there are sincere individuals who really cares of their identity and have a single account for their own purpose…. These individuals likes/shares/comments etc can be counted for SEO but how…???. The updated Semantic Search still fails for the input and output solutions in this case.

    Regards,

    Ross

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Ross! It’s interesting to hear about your personal experiences and I’m looking forward to seeing how the larger conversation evolves over time.

    • Chad Lio

      I do think social has some sort of influence on search, but it’s a factor other then the like, follow, share engagement that we all think it is. What that is, I have no clue, but I feel it definitely has some effect. (I know that’s a very liberal theory).

      Why would Google release a statement that Social Schema that’s now included in the Knowledge graph (https://developers.google.com/webmasters/structured-data/customize/social-profiles).

      I think it may be a very small influence once it passes through the main ranking filters. Your content must travel through the filters first before it comes down to social exposure. Just my opinion.

      • Great points, Chad! Thanks for reading and sharing your perspective.

      • Ross

        Chad, thank you for your comment.
        Yes, Google is clever enough. Actually they should not include social media sites unless they are tstrong enough. As g+ is owned by google, they are in a plan to make g+ to a part of ranking factor. Honestly, I have 4000 g+ accounts. I should be lucky in future :). Your link encounters 404 error with no redirections 🙁

  • Andy Thompson

    it does and with the help of Troopsocial , you boost it tenfold 🙂

  • Vivid Cleaning

    From what i have seen google doesn’t care about your facebook likes and twitter followers but that they do look for is links. I think they have much stricter criteria to pass social links for ranking as it is easy to manipulate and get 1000 links on facebook or twitter to your website. However there are other websites that might pick up your link on social sites and display it on their own site which Google search algorithm would pick up.

    • Thank you for commenting, Vivid Cleaning! And it’s been fascinating to watch the search and social landscape over the past nine months. With recent developments like the Google/Twitter deal and Google hinting about the return of authorship, I believe social media’s importance in SEO has been even further solidified. Even if Google hasn’t directly confirmed it 🙂

  • This just backs up what I always say about SEO, it’s all about trial and error.

    • Thanks for commenting, Peggy! And you’re definitely right about experimenting to see what works best.

      • I was happy to see your article though. Thanks for the info. Following you on Twitter to catch your other blogs.

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