Does Social Media Help SEO? [Final Answer]

View original post by Search Engine Journal


The impact of social media on SEO has, and probably always will be, one of the most talked about topics in the search industry. Specifically, whether social media really helps your SEO efforts.

So does it?

Short answer: YES.

For the longer answer, however, you really should read the rest of this post.

Social media doesn’t help SEO in the way many people think it does.

Let’s answer this question by digging into some data, evidence from Google employees, and personal insights.

Social Media ≠ Ranking Factor

First off, in reality, it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever know exactly what’s in Google’s algorithm unless someone works at Google, doesn’t sign an NDA (good luck!), and decides to share that information with us. No shocker here — that isn’t likely to happen.

So we’re left to infer based on what Google employees have said and what we have in case studies/data. Google has repeatedly told us that social signals aren’t a direct ranking factor.

Let’s start with What Social Signals Do Google & Bing Really Count? by Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan. In this article, Google confirmed that links shared on Facebook and Twitter are used as a ranking signal.

After this article was published, Matt Cutts, the former head of Google’s webspam team, confirmed that Google used links from Facebook and Twitter as ranking signal. Here’s that video:

Fast forward to 2014. Cutts produced another video tackling this question. This time he said that Google treats Facebook and Twitter pages like any other web page for search, but not as a ranking factor.

In 2016, Gary Illyes, a Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, was asked if Google takes social into account for SEO. He then retweeted Cutts’ video and said: “the short version is, no, we don’t.”

Since Google’s algorithm is so secretly guarded, we have to take these comments at their official word — that social media isn’t a direct ranking factor.

But just because Google said that social isn’t a ranking factor doesn’t mean that it doesn’t impact 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.”

I believe the answer to this lies in the second word in that quote — correlation. Cutts hints at the same thing when he says, “It’s correlation, not causation.”

We know links are one of the top Google ranking factors. Google has said that social media shares don’t count as individual links. But there most likely is correlation here.

If you create good content, it will most likely be popular on social media, and people are probably going to like it and link it to — which does boost your rankings.

So is it a surprise that sites with high ranking positions also have high numbers of social signals? It shouldn’t. It makes sense, but that doesn’t mean it is a direct ranking factor.

So, exactly how social media helps SEO? Continue reading here to find out the four ways it does help your SEO efforts




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