How Does Social Media Affect SEO?

The simple answer? Yes, indirectly, it can. If you're looking to improve your search engine rankings, you should know how your presence on other digital platforms can impact SEO.

by Catie Leary

SEO | Social Media Marketing

Reading Time | 7 min

If you’re wondering how social media affects your SEO efforts and you’re looking for a quick answer, then yes, indirectly it can.

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If you’re trying to improve your search engine rankings, it’s worth knowing how variables like social media can affect SEO. In this post, we share a few tips for optimizing your company social media profiles for search engines, but before we do that, let’s take some time to demystify the relationship between social media and SEO.

Does Social Media Impact SEO?

While the simple act of having a Facebook or Twitter account for your business will not directly affect your search engine rankings, there are ways social media can indirectly affect rankings:

  • By increasing the visibility & authority of your brand.
  • Providing additional avenues for traffic to flow to your website.
  • Providing greater reach for your content, facilitating sharing & directing users back to your website.

As SEO expert Neil Patel explains, “While the authority of a social account doesn’t impact search rank, links published on social media could be marked as credible back-links and thus influence a page’s rank.”

Note the emphasis on “could be.” We wouldn’t go so far as to say that every single link you share on Facebook and Twitter functions as a backlink. Only the links that receive strong social signals are likely to have any impact on rankings.

How Social Media Affects SEO

Social signals are essentially metrics of social media engagement: likes, comments, shares, views, clicks, pins, etc. These metrics demonstrate that people are talking about and interacting with your brand.

Search engines view social media signals as “recommendations.” How? Well, it’s similar to the concept of backlinks. A social media post with a healthy amount of social signals functions similarly to the way a relevant, quality backlink to your site from another site bolsters your authority in your industry. Lots of engagement indicates to search engines that the link being shared is useful and relevant content to users.

Search engines are first and foremost trying to provide relevant, high-quality results to its users. Social signals demonstrate that quality and relevancy, which in turn, can contribute to improved rankings.

How Social Signals Work in Google vs Bing

Google vs Bing search engines

We’ve established that social signals matter for SEO, but to what degree? The truth is that your mileage may vary depending on the specific search engine.

For example, Bing is pretty open about how their algorithm factors in social signals. There’s even a section devoted to this topic in the Bing Webmaster Guidelines:

“Social media plays a role in today’s effort to rank well in search results. The most obvious part it plays is via influence. If you are influential socially, this leads to your followers sharing your information widely, which in turn results in Bing seeing these positive signals. These positive signals can have an impact on how you rank organically in the long run.”

Google, on the other hand, is notoriously tight-lipped on exactly how social media affects their rankings. They have yet to make a statement confirming that social signals are even factored into the equation. Even so, the general consensus in the SEO community is that Google definitely does factor social signals into its ranking algorithm. This is backed by multiple experiments and studies conducted over the years that identified a positive correlation between social signals and changes in rank position.

Looking beyond social signals

The potential for improved rankings should be incentive enough to get serious about your social media presence, but there are other reasons why a social media strategy is beneficial to SEO.

Social media encourages a broader distribution of content.

If you’re already creating content as part of an SEO campaign, then there’s no excuse not to be promoting that content on your social media accounts. After all, you’re putting time and resources into creating SEO-friendly content, so it makes sense that you’d want to get as much as you possibly can out of it.

By promoting your content on social media, you’re opening it up to the possibility that it will be shared elsewhere. Sometimes a piece of content will really take off and go viral, which extends the lifespan of the content and sends high-quality social signals to search engines.

Social media also offers a great opportunity to give new life to your “evergreen” content. If you have content in your blog archive that has laid dormant for a year or more, promoting it again puts it back to work.

Social media is integral to local SEO.

Many social media platforms play a huge role in local SEO. For example, a Facebook page is not only a reputable source for your business’ contact information and hours of operation. It’s also where people can write and read reviews about your business. These reviews often show up right within Google searches, underscoring the importance of maintaining your social media accounts and soliciting reviews from customers.

Social media promotes brand awareness and recognition.

If a customer types your company name in Google’s search bar, what shows up? Hopefully, your website appears in the top spot, but what about the results below that? If you have a solid social media presence, there’s a good chance your social media account will show up right below your main website. With such high visibility, you want to make sure your social profiles are

Social media platforms have their own search engines.

“SEO” is often synonymous with “Google” (and to a lesser extent, Bing), but that’s not the only place where people perform searches on the internet.

Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter have their own on-site search engines that are used by millions of people every day. And let’s not forget about Pinterest, which is literally just a search engine with a visual focus.

When you share your content on social media channels, it’s automatically indexed by those platforms so that other users can find it.

How to Optimize Social Media Profiles for Search

Now that you understand the importance of harnessing social media to complement your larger SEO efforts, here are a few tips for maximizing your social media profiles for search engines.

1. Carefully consider which social media platforms you want to use.

Before you sign up for every social media platform under the sun, take some time to research and decide which platforms are most advantageous for your business. Some brands may do fine with just a single Facebook page, while some brands might do better with Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.

This decision will depend on the type of business you have and the audience you’re trying to reach, but you should also factor in your company’s capacity to keep these social media accounts active.

2. Share engaging, useful content on a regular basis.

Like with anything SEO-related, the key here is quality over quantity. You want to demonstrate that your social media accounts are active and reliable.

3. Engage with your community and industry.

While the goal is to generate social signals from your social media audience, you should also make an effort to engage on your end, too. That means:

  • Follow other brands and professionals in your industry.
  • Like, comment, and share content from those accounts.
  • Reply to comments on your posts.
  • Send words of gratitude when your content is shared on larger platforms.
  • Respond to direct messages in a timely manner.

And here’s a big one: Don’t share only your content. Intersperse industry news articles and other brands’ content along with your own content. Why? For one, it helps build social media relationships with others in your industry, but it also transforms your social media presence into a trustworthy industry source of information for customers and others in your industry.

4. Provide current and consistent contact information across all social profiles.

This is specifically a local SEO concern.

If someone navigates to your Facebook page to find your hours of operation or address, you could be leading them astray (and missing out on customers) if that information is outdated.

5. Solicit and respond to online reviews.

Whether they’re positive or negative reviews, you never want to miss out on an opportunity to engage with customers. That’s why we recommend actively soliciting reviews from customers, as well as crafting responses to any reviews you do receive.

6. Make it easy to share content from your website.

If you have a blog, it’s really easy to add a widget that streamlines social sharing right on the page. This is one of the simplest on-site improvements you can make to ensure there is no friction for a user to share your content.

Not sure how to do that? Here’s a tutorial that walks you through one way to add social sharing icons to your site.

Topic: Inbound Marketing

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Catie Leary | Contributor

Catie has spent the last 12+ years honing her digital storytelling skills as both a journalist and a content strategist. In her spare time, she enjoys powerlifting, karaoke nights with friends, reading science fiction, and hanging out with her three cats.

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