While search engines remain tight-lipped as to the exact influence social media has on their site rankings, it has become apparent that social media has at least some influence on the way their search listings are ranked.
A study by SearchMetrics found that there was a correlation between the amount of shares a page has received on social media and its ranking on search engines. While these are not necessarily direct influencers of search engine rankings, it does show that there is at least some correlation between them.
Image via SearchMetrics
Facebook’s influence on search engine results is most evident in Bing. Due to a recent partnership, Bing search results now include content from a user’s Facebook friends (if they are currently signed into Facebook.)
Image via Hubspot
Google admitted to using a Twitter user’s authority as a metric to determine their level of influence, which in turn influences the ranking of pages that they tweet about. The level of influence that this actually has on search engine rankings remains unclear, but it is important to keep it in mind when developing a social media or SEO strategy.
Similar to Bing’s integration with Facebook, if you are signed into your Google account, you will receive personalized results based on the recommendations of those in your Google+ circles. Additionally, Google now shows the Google + account information for content creators who link their Google+ profile to the “author” HTML tag.
Google also uses author rank, an algorithm that takes into account several factors from the author’s Google+ account information, such as the number of relevant followers and the influence of those followers, to determine how trustworthy the source is (a factor in their search result ranking.)
By optimizing the title and description of your videos hosted on YouTube, you increase the likelihood of them showing up in the search results for relevant terms on both YouTube and search engines.
Now generating more traffic than Yahoo! search (the fourth highest traffic source behind Google, direct and Facebook), Pinterest has emerged as a popular platform for content sharing and marketers are taking notice.
With Pinterest pins and boards now showing up in search results, it is a wise strategy to optimize the descriptions in your Pinterest account to target relevant keywords. For example, Hubspot’s Marketing Infographics Pinterest board (with over 85 pins) is the top result in Google for the search term “marketing infographics”.
An indirect way that social media and SEO are involved is through content creation. Posting your original content on your social media pages increases its reach, thus increasing the likelihood that someone will find that content and link to it from their website, creating valuable backlinks, which are integral elements of the search engine ranking equation.
To prove this, Dan Zarrella of Hubspot analyzed data from over 25,000 URLs that had been shared on various social media platforms. He found that on all three platforms that he analyzed, the more times a URL was shared, the more inbound links were generated for that URL. As you can see below, LinkedIn had the highest correlation, but Twitter and Facebook both drove the creation of inbound links. We highly recommend reading the full study, as his analysis provides many insights that marketers interested in SEO performance will find useful.
Images via SEOmoz
Overall, social media serves to broaden the reach of your content, which helps to improve SEO through the creation of backlinks on other websites. The more relevant, quality sites that link to your content, the more authority the search engines will give to your website, increasing the position of your website in search results.
While the evidence points to social media activity having at least some influence on search engine rankings, it is important to keep in mind that this is not a “magic bullet.” Simply tweeting a blog post multiple times won’t rank you higher on Bing or Google. An integrated approach to SEO and content marketing is key to successful placements in search engine rankings.