There are many studies out there, like this very thorough SEO/Social Media examination from CognitiveSEO from 2016 that proves that social media does impact your website’s rankings, but in what way exactly?
Here’s a quote from an article in Search Engine Journal from last summer that sums it up nicely…
“What we can say with confidence today is that social signals have a relationship with organic rankings, but they do not directly influence those rankings.” – Kristopher Jones, Search Engine Journal
So, what exactly is that “relationship” and how can it influence your SEO success? Let’s take a look. Specifically, I want to focus on the following…
- How social media influences the success of your content
- Social media as a signal of trust and authority
- Building backlinks through social media exposure
Let’s get into each of these, mmmkay?
But first, this disclaimer. I’ve started just about every post since I started working at Wellspring Digital with some statement about the importance of knowing your audience. So, I’m not going to go into it other than to say, IT’S IMPORTANT TO KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE!
I feel better, don’t you?
How Social Media Influences the Success of Your Content
Social media is not a panacea for all your digital marketing woes. In fact, poorly executed social media campaigns can do more harm than good. So, in no way am I suggesting that it is some magic potion or easy button.
Just like any other digital marketing tactic, it takes planning and hard work to see success in social media. But there is a potentially large payoff, specifically with regards to your content marketing and ultimately SEO.
To be clear, social profiles can rank for branded terms, and that is likely a goal for your business, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I am talking specifically about how social media can influence the rankings of your website.
It all starts with content.
Content Marketing Needs a Boost
The content marketing discipline has been around for a while now and it is at the heart of any serious SEO effort. Content is what Google crawls, analyzes, and hopefully, ranks.
But content alone is not enough. Your content needs to be seen, read, and shared. In order for Google to crawl your content, it needs to be able to find it. In order for it to rank well, it needs to be found in a lot of different but relevant and impactful places.
This is where the social media argument gets dicey. In theory, you might think that sharing your content on your social channels will create the necessary exposure/links it needs for Google to find it. Yes and no.
Social signals, mentions with links to your content, are not a direct ranking factor according to Google. But, similar to things like E-A-T, social signals can inform Google as to the quality of your content.
And these social signals can also show Google how popular your content is. Social proof can occur when there is enough chatter about a piece of content on social media by enough influential social sharers, that Google will consider that this content has value.
Is that a ranking factor? Depends on who you ask and how you ask them. The point is that the more times your content is shared by people with influence, the better visibility it has. This signal tells Google that they are on to something.
Plus, the more it’s shared, the better chance that those users will click that link and go to your content. So, sharing gets your content good exposure and tells Google to “dig deeper.”
Social Media as a Signal of Trust and Authority
The other thing that social media can do is to tell the world and Google more about your reputation. I’m not saying that people or Google are judging your trustworthiness based solely on your social media activity. But I am saying that these signals play a role in painting the picture of your overall trust and authority.
Social media is simply one more channel where you can reach your audience. Social proof can come in follower count and the quality of those followers. Notice I included quality in there. It’s important.
If you have a bunch of bots, fake accounts, and irrelevant users following you, you will wield no real influence and therefore build no lasting trust or authority. Your account will be seen as spammy and even potentially harmful.
You don’t want that. Instead, use your social accounts to be helpful, to educate, to inform, and to make access to good E-A-T-worthy content easier. As you build your reach, focus more and more on becoming the invaluable resource that your followers rely on.
As your content gets shared, the trust increases. And the more positive praise your social shares get the more trust and authority your account gains.
Now, let’s take it home to SEO…
Building Backlinks through Social Media Exposure
Let’s be careful here, I’m not saying that the backlinks you get in social shares are a direct ranking factor. Google has been very careful about outright saying that those links count towards your SEO backlink profile. According to most SEO experts and Google, social links are not a ranking factor. But Google does monitor those “signals.”
And when you get your content out there in links on the social channels, it gets more exposure and hopefully more readers. If your content is good, those shares should help you to build real quality backlinks.
I will explain. If your content is useful, especially if it has E-A-T value, then it would stand to reason that it would be cited as a source or resource in other original content.
The more your content is shared, the more exposure it gets, and the better the chances of it being linked to. For example, the link above to the Search Engine Journal article originally came to my attention via someone sharing them in my Twitter feed.
Those shares got me to read that content. And reading that content inspired me to write this post and link to that article above. That link is a direct ranking factor.
The best thing about using social media as a content marketing and SEO enhancement, you’ll also get the exposure and possibly even conversion opportunities that come as a direct result of positive social profile growth.
We obsess with things like keyword targeting, on-site optimization, link building, schema, and other efforts that directly influence ranking. And while those things are very important, don’t forget to focus on the efforts that may not be direct ranking factors, but still influence the success of your SEO campaign.
So, make sure that social media is part of your SEO conversation and overall digital marketing strategy.