Does Social Media Play A Role In Today's SEO?
Think back to a decade ago.
The growth in social media usage is absolutely staggering. While most of us have become numb to the proliferation of social media platforms these days, the growth statistics are undeniable:
- In 2008, MySpace was the leader of the pack over Twitter and Facebook.
- As for Facebook, it had 140 million users back then. It’s at 2 billion now.
- LinkedIn’s users were less than 10% of its current user base.
- Instagram jumped from 0 users to 700 million in only 7 years.
If someone told you that they expected social media to become what it has become in the short amount of time it’s been around, they’re probably not being as truthful as they should.
It’s no secret that the entire social media landscape has changed. With this change, the exact relationship between social media, search engine algorithms and current SEO strategies comes into question. You think you know where this is going?
Social Media & SEO: Yeah, It’s Confusing
Google hasn’t exactly been as transparent about how social media effects SEO as they have been certain other factors. However, they have told us that social pages are indexed just like any other webpage. That being said, we can assume links from social media count the same as page links.
They’ve also stated that social metrics don’t actually directly affect ranking. However, Microsoft, the company responsible for Bing, said they do consider the authority of social profiles and interactions across a number of different social media platforms. Hmmm, which company is being more truthful?
While we cannot conclude with 100% certainty that social metrics directly affect search rankings, we can look at the potential influence social media can have on the SERPs.
Instead of worrying about whether or not the social links hold as much weight as other links from quality websites, we should be trying to use social media to send out some positive ranking signals that we’re sure that search engines care about.
Something to keep in mind while processing all of this is the effect that social media can have on SERPs in general.
Marketing has come a long way, long enough in fact that we can pretty much concur that marketing departments are better off tossing out their old playbooks and instead focusing on integrated marketing campaigns. That being said, there are a few SEO specific metrics that social media can play a part in boosting.
This is essentially the crux of each and every link building campaign – to get more links. As opposed to some of the old school link building tactics like guest posting or link swapping, link earning can generate multiple links with just one piece of content.
However, your potential for success is significantly reduced if your site’s content isn’t garnering a whole lot of attention.
And here’s where social media comes into play.
The best part about social media this day and age is that pretty much everyone you know already has a profile. This sets the stage for content promotion in that not only the people in your network can view your content, people outside of it can as well.
While going “viral” is the obvious goal, it doesn’t happen very often. If your content does go viral, awesome, good for you. Keep in mind though, you don’t have to go viral for social media to have a significant impact on your search rankings.
Even if you have so much as a couple dozen or hundreds of engagements on a platform like Facebook, it’s safe to assume those are some high quality engagements. Search engines will pick up on this because other people will have engaged with or even shared your content, thus resulting in better search rankings.
Fresh in One's Mind
Almost as important as sharing your content on social networks in general, is disseminating and dispersing that content across multiple platforms.
This should lead to more, different types of people sharing your content and mentioning you, which can in turn also lead to search engines finding your page. Social platforms are constantly crawled by the Google spiders and social shares are a tremendous way to have your content crawled and indexed quickly.
Click-Through-Rate & Your Brand’s Authority
Social media isn’t limited to increasing your brand awareness; it also helps create brand authority. While people may be more wary spammy content nowadays, that doesn’t mean that they can’t appreciate quality content promoted via social media. If you do a good enough job, people may even begin to start searching for products using your brand name, if not, they still can associate with your brand when browsing.
Social Media on SERPs
All social profiles are present on SERPs, specifically Twitter. Twitter and Google came an agreement to display specific tweets, right at the top of the page, that are relevant to the search term you entered.
To be frank, most social links that are present on SERPs are for branded search terms. But that shouldn’t deter you from using social.
Today, the amount of followers, likes and shares are essential to good brand authority, it’s better to make the effort than not. Branded searches aren’t to be dismissed lightly as they may lead to sales and lead conversions in the future.
Will There Ever Come a Time When Social Metrics Will Factor Directly Into Ranking?
There are two issues with search engines taking social metrics into account and using them as direct ranking factors. The first one being, because of the platforms themselves, crawlers would have limited crawling access. And secondly, they would have trouble differentiating between fake profiles and real ones as well as “bought likes” which would probably be looked down upon the same way as paid links.
As of now, it would require too many changes in the way the crawlers operated and would require an unprecedented level of cooperation between the social media conpanies and search engine providers. Who knows though? Twitter and Google did work together on a much smaller scale.
Social Media’s Inherent Advantages
Despite the fact that Google and other search engines don’t take social metrics into account as direct ranking factors, SEO and social media should be strategically aligned for best branding results.
The fact is, sales and leads can be generated directly from social media regardless of whether or not it’s increasing your search rankings.
Any social media marketing campaigns should be implemented with the intent of achieving stand alone success, any results that generate help in terms of SEO is just gravy.