There’s ongoing debate in the digital marketing sector about whether using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter helps your business to rank organically in Google. Every year, Moz asks marketing experts what they think the most important SEO rankings factors are. And, every year, more and more experts suggest that social signals play a part.
So, if you have a lot of followers, if people are sharing your content across multiple social networks, and if you have a presence across these many different channels, does it benefit your rankings?
The answer is actually quite complex.
Benefits of social media for businesses
We’ve discussed the benefits of social media for businesses many times before. But it’s important to remember that social media has many functions which complement your SEO efforts, even if they don’t directly influence rankings. Firstly, social media helps build brand awareness, allowing you to reach particular segments of your target market at different stages of the customer journey. Secondly, it can be a great advertising tool, with Facebook, for example, providing better ROI than other advertising channels for certain businesses. Finally, social media is a great tool for customer service and retention. In other words, regardless of whether it has an influence of rankings, you can’t ignore social media.
Is social media a ranking factor?
When people ask this question, they are basically asking whether getting a lot of likes and shares on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn contributes to a website’s ranking in a similar way to getting quality links. But there are a number of reasons why this isn’t necessarily the case.
Firstly, Google has consistently denied that social media plays a direct role in rankings. What’s more, Google doesn’t index every single Facebook post, tweet or LinkedIn update.
Secondly, all social media sites use “nofollow” links. These are treated differently by search engines than “follow” links; they’re given less value.
Finally, studies have shown that webpages that get shared on social media from brands with a solid social presence perform better in the search engines than those that don’t. Social media activity correlates with rankings. But this doesn’t mean that social media causes this boost in rankings. The relationship is indirect.
How social media helps with SEO
While social media is a crucial marketing channel for businesses, and while it doesn’t directly drive SEO, there are a number of ways social media can support your SEO goals.
The reasons articles get widely shared on social media are similar to why articles get links. And links most definitely are a ranking factor. Great content – which is entertaining, informative, useful, timely – gets shared and great content gets links. The more widely shared a blog post is, the more likely it is that it will also attract links. It will also generate organic and other forms of traffic. For example, people will add your blog to their favourites (boosting direct traffic) and search for your brand in future (boosting organic traffic).
Often this process is difficult to control – and rightly so. But there are ways to ensure that your content has the best possible chance. Make sure that your content is distributed to your entire audience, whichever network they predominantly use. And don’t be afraid of directly reaching out to people who are more likely to find your content useful. Social media, in this way, works as a targeted distribution and PR channel.
So, does social media help your business’ rankings? Not directly. But does it support your SEO efforts and bring many other benefits at the same time? Absolutely.