Does getting a high amount of likes or followers on social media sites mean your SEO ranking will improve? What does Google say about social signals and their effect on search engine rankings? Keep reading to find out more.
Do social signals affect search rankings?
Are you confused about which social platform to use? In the world of social networks, can you get better visibility in Google search engine results if you focus on one?
Let’s discuss social media as a Google ranking factor. How does it rank in the search engines and what does that mean for your website?
You can learn more about Google Ranking Factors in SEJ’s free ebook called, Google Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction.
The Claim: Social Signals Can Play A Role in Ranking
Social signals are engagement from social media users with content you share on your website.
Social media signals include:
The link to your website was shared in a public Facebook post that has now gone viral. Many sites are jumping on the bandwagon and interacting with the content, liking it, commenting on or sharing the post themselves.
The Tweet receives replies, likes, and retweets.
Social signals can affect your rankings. This article provides a detailed summary of how social signals are ranked and how they affect search engine rankings.
Google acknowledges that compelling content is shared and organic buzz will build your website’s reputation. With “search engine optimization,” you can leverage social media sites to increase search visibility and generate traffic to your site
When it comes to any website, creating great content is the most important piece of the puzzle. Once your site has good articles, users will begin to visit and share them. This could be on social media services like Facebook, email lists or forums. You can even get others to write them for you!
Online businesses need quality content to build their reputation with users and Google. Organic or word-of-mouth buzz isn’t usually enough – you need a strong foundation made up of high-quality articles as well.
Later, when referring to digital advertising, Google recommends social media sites because:
Sites that rely on user interaction, like social media sites, are making it easier for groups of people to interact with content that is relevant to them.
Google Analytics has a Social report that keeps you up to date with analytics on the social activity of your site. It’s important to keep track of this information in order to see what’s working and what needs improvement.
“Social analytics provides you with the tools to measure the impact of social interaction. You can identify high value networks and content, track on-site and off-site user interaction with your content, and tie it all back to your bottom line revenue through goals and conversions.”
Google has seen the value of including social profiles in search results. The Google Business Profile gathers data from many sources, including social profiles, to give potential consumers a complete view of the local business.
If you want to make sure the Knowledge Graph panel displays accurate and up-to-date information to site visitors, Google has guidelines for updating your information. For starters, they recommend updating your social profiles.
Google has made it clear that social signals only have a small impact on SEO. If you hope for your phone accessories to rank higher, you better start producing more!
In 2010, Matt Cutts, the former head of Webspam at Google, said that links from Twitter and Facebook are treated like any other site link. He also mentioned that it doesn’t matter if they come from a .gov or .edu or Twitter or Facebook.
The only catch is if you share the link to our website on a profile that isn’t public. If Google can’t retrieve the page, it will have trouble finding the link.
Later on in December 2010, Matt Cutts was asked a similar question but in reference to an article that suggested Google’s search algorithm is based off of links from social media sites.
When Cutts was interviewed, he said that although Google didn’t use social signals for rankings in the past, at the time of the video Google had implemented them as ranking signals. He also mentioned that a link to an article from Google Search Central would be included with the video for more details.
A patented technology on Google’s part from 2013 is the use of individuals’ actions in social networks to determine their relevance. The patent also mentions how interactions by members of a user’s social graph can be used as social signals.
“Interactions performed by the users social graph can be used as a social signal to adjust rankings of search results. For instance, if a search query returns results that include connected resources such as Facebook likes and Twitter tweets, these results can be higher ranking than other general search results.
The boosting factor could be based on things like how many friends have endorsed the identified resource or if there is a high affinity for the friend who has endorsed it.
“We can boost based on the kind of relationship a user’s social graph has with the resource (e.g., who is an author?) or the type of endorsement someone endorsed it with (e.g., an explicit star from that person or an implicit visit to the page).”
The patent filed by Google highlights an interest in boosting resources based on social signals. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean they applied this to the algorithm.
Let’s jump ahead to 2014, when someone asked whether or not Facebook and Twitter signals are part of Google’s algorithm. Matt Cutts replied that Google doesn’t include signals such as the number of followers or likes in their algorithm. This means that just because a signal exists on Twitter or Facebook, it doesn’t mean that Google picks it up.
The Evidence for Social Signals and Their Role in a Website’s Ranking
In a later interview, Cutts had this to say:
“As Google continues to add social signals, how do you distinguish between simple popularity and true authority?”
His answer then begins by commenting on the first part of the question. He states that there is an assumption made when talking about social signals being included in the algorithm.
Social signals have been proven to have a direct effect on boosting organic rankings.
Links in most social media posts are nofollowed, which means they won’t help with your organic rankings. However, the links from the social posts could appear in search engine results.
In 2016, Mueller received a tweet asking if social media tags had an effect on webpage SEO. His response:
I wouldn’t use links to social media as a way to boost rankings, but would rely on them for added value to users.
Gary Illyes, the head of sunshine and happiness at Google, talked about social media twice in a link-blogging discussion. First:
“And that’s where social media proves useful. It’s not because SEs will rank you better, but because it helps your content get discovered.”
Follow these steps to:
With the prevalence of social media these days, so many people are linking to their content. While the links from a Facebook account or Twitter account might seem significant, in reality, they don’t count for much.
In 2019, Mueller responded to a guide on TikTok with:
I hope this helps with your #seo! 🙂
In 2021, Mueller joked in response to the number of likes a particular tweet was getting:
Sorry, we don’t use the number of likes you get for your posts as a ranking factor for them.
Mueller was asked in August 2021 if clicks on emails could affect search engine rankings, and he replied:
“There are articles discussing that it can be bad for SEO, but in this instance, it’s a sense of false urgency. A lot of social media is geared toward generating leads and traffic.”
Recently, Mueller was asked if social media directly or indirectly affects SEO. His answer was:
“Hi, I have a quick question that I’m hoping you can help with. If I offer advice on Twitter which improves your site’s visibility in search, would that count as an indirect effect of social signals on SEO?”
The person’s joking response is a clue to what they think of social media signals. They don’t put much merit in them.
For a more detailed look at ranking factors, including which ones are actually factual, check out our verdicts in this special ranking factors ebook.
Social Signals As A Ranking Factor
Will your blog do better in Google rankings if you have more social shares?
Research is inconclusive about whether social signals affect organic search rankings. Google may have experimented with social signals in search results between 2010 and 2014.
Now, there are a lot of conflicting opinions about social media’s affect on SEO. While social media signals may not be heavily weighed as a ranking factor, people inventorying your content for blogs or for tweets can find you and post links to your content. This naturally improves your SEO and visibility in search results.
It seems that we may have seen the last of Google using social signals to optimize results. It used them in the past, but not now.