Social media’s relationship to search engine optimization is a complicated one that isn’t completely straight forward. And you’ll also find a lot of opinions on whether or not social media influences SEO rankings.
I want to clear up a few misconceptions about how social media and SEO impact each other and how you can use social media to help increase your website rankings.
Does social media affect SEO rankings?
Yes and no. Wait, what?
Social media’s relationship to SEO is pretty confusing—and pro SEO’s have been confused about it for years because of some conflicting messages from Google’s Matt Cutts.
In May 2010, Matt Cutts said Google doesn’t use social for rankings. Then in December later that year, Cutts decided to clear the air and say that Google does use social signals to rank websites. And then in 2014, Cutts changed again saying that Google doesn’t use social signals for ranking.
Let’s just say that Google hasn’t exactly been super clear on whether or not social media signals can positively (or negatively) affect SEO.
But here’s the tricky bit—Cutts is specifically talking about social signals like the number of followers, the number of likes, the number of comments, and other things that create engagement and audience metrics on a social network.
But for the most part, Matt Cutts isn’t talking about when social media creates links back to your website but only about social media signals like follower counts, likes, and comments.
And that’s where it gets super confusing. Keep in mind that social media falls into off-page SEO.
How social media helps SEO
Social media helps SEO the same way any other website does—by creating links back to your content.
In the video from 2014, Cutts cleared up that social signals don’t impact search results because “Google treats Facebook and Twitter pages like any other web page for search.”
A retweet by a public Twitter account of a link to your website is the same as any other link from a webpage to your site. Same goes for a Facebook share or Pinterest pin of a link.
But here’s the kicker—an individual webpage of a share on a social media platform doesn’t have a ton of SEO value on its own.
The link value of a single social link is pretty low and will add almost nothing to the value of your site’s backlink profile.
While social may produce backlinks, the value those links add is insignificant for rankings.
On top of that, not all social media posts are accessible by search engines because accounts can be kept private. And search engines can’t keep up with the volume of social media posts created every day to add it all to their index!
So to be clear, the metrics we care about for social success (likes, follows, comments, engagement, clicks) don’t affect SEO at all. Shares can positively affect SEO, but it’s extremely minimal at best so it’s basically a moot point.
Plus, it’s really easy to manipulate social signals with bots. Search engines don’t put a lot of stock in things that can be very easily manipulated, like social media stats.
Is there a correlation between good social media and high rankings?
Yes. Research shows that brands that perform well on social media also tend to have high rankings.
According to Searchmetrics’ 2016 Rebooting Ranking Factors White Paper:
“The correlation between social signals and ranking position is extremely high, and the number of social signals per landing page has remained constant when compared to with the values from last year’s whitepaper. … The top-ranked websites in Google’s rankings displays vastly more social signals than all other pages…. This is primarily due to the overlap between brand websites performing strongly in social networks and being allocated top positions by Google.”
In other words, if you’re pretty good at doing well at social, you’re probably good at marketing. And that means you’re probably also good at ranking.
A lot of the same things that go into creating content that will be successful on social media impact SEO rankings, like:
- Identifying your specific audience and focusing solely on them
- Talking directly to your audience’s needs in their language
- Providing solutions that your audience wants in share-worthy formats
- Engaging and creating relationships with your audience and peers
All of these factors contribute to both success on social media as well as success in SEO!
How to use social media to impact SEO
Despite that social signals don’t affect SEO, you can use social media to positively impact your search engine rankings. You just have to get a bit creative.
Below you’ll find a list of articles on my site about different ways you can use social media to help you rank better.