In this post from our Fast Track SEO Course series we are going to look at the influence of social signals on your Google ranking.
If you wouldn’t mind placing this hard hat on and donning this full body armour.
There: that’s better.
You are entering a combat arena.
Social media and SEO: charting the correlations
The relationship between social shares and signals and SEO is hotly contested.
And sometimes it can feel like a bit of a war zone.
Over there Major Neil Patel sticks his head above the parapet and declares that “social is the new SEO”.
The troops over in Google HQ launch a counter-strike with Brigadier Matt Cutts solemnly insisting that, despite rumours (and contradictory previous statements) to the contrary, social signals are not a ranking factor.
Meanwhile the U.N. peacekeeping forces over at Moz wander through the carnage and, white flag held aloft, repeat in measured terms the following mantra:
“The number of social shares a page accumulates tends to show a positive correlation with rankings.
Although there is strong reason to believe Google doesn’t use social share counts directly in its algorithm, there are many secondary SEO benefits to be gained through successful social sharing.”
Social’s secondary benefits
Let’s leave them to fight it out.
Here’s what we know social offers that can make a massive difference to your site’s rankings – even if it is at one remove.
- Social is a fantastic outreach tool.
It offers a great way to develop new relationships with your customers and your influencers.
- For content (and event) marketing social is an amplifier of Marshall-stack proportions.
It gives your content more wings than the reddest bovine of an energy drink.
- Social can deliver plenty of traffic to your site.
And traffic that tends to be already ‘on board’.
- Social is a great way to gain audience insight.
Stay ‘on trend’ without coming off at an ever-changing culture’s U-turns and bends.
- Social offers a great way to establish you, your website and your brand as thought leaders and authorities in your chosen fields.
And being seen by Google as an expert in your field is crucial, as we’ve seen before.
- Social gets you mentioned.
And, a mention is just a step away from a link.
Correlations between social media and SEO
Let’s take a look at those correlations between social and SEO.
Here is what the great and good of the last Moz SEO Ranking Factor Survey think:
Running from the factors perceived to be the most important to the least, these are:
- Facebook total count.
- Shares on Google+.
- Facebook share count.
- Facebook like count.
- Facebook comment count.
- Shares on Twitter.
- Number of mentions of the full domain name (e.g. www.google.com) in FWE. (FWE stands for Fresh Web Explorer, a tool developed by Moz to emulate the landscape of the web itself.)
- Shares on Pinterest.
- Number of mentions of the domain name (e.g. google) in FWE.
- Facebook click count.
- Shares on LinkedIn.
- Facebook comments box count.
Don’t sweat the detail here too much for now. What we’re trying to highlight is the strength of these correlations.
Let’s put a couple of these into context by comparing them to other factors we’d expect to be dead cert correlations:
Shares on Facebook (correlation 0.26) vs Moz’s measure of Domain Authority (0.26)
Shares on Twitter (0.21) vs Search Query as an exact match for domain name (0.20)
To make an understatement, social signals show some very strong correlations.
Which is not to say social ‘causes’ you to have a strong position on a SERP. Simply that the sites killing it on social are also dominating the SERPs.
- Facebook shares correlate up there with Moz’s Domain Authority, which so many SEO experts put such great store by.
- Twitter shares are not far behind – and they trump the correlation between the ranking of a site that has an exact domain name match for a search query. (For example, this is when you type ‘vegetarian dog food recipe’ and the site is www.vegetariandogfoodrecipe.com.)
Are social signals ranking factors?
Google has certainly been economical with the truth in the past (or, at least, has delighted in a smoke and mirrors approach to clearing up uncertainty). Let’s accept that social signals aren’t directly used as ranking factors for now, though.
With correlations this strong you’d be crazy not to establish a strong social presence.
And, as Neil Patel stridently affirmed, the future does look like it belongs to social.
Social media is all about the ‘user’ taking control of their own web. And we know who loves this kind of thing, don’t we?
(Clue: it begins with ‘G’ and ends with ‘oogle’.)
Find out more
- Start to explore the ongoing the conversation about how SEO and social media may be related here.
- Read Neil Patel’s “social is the new SEO” article here.
- Watch Google’s Matt Cutts backtrack on his previous assertion that social signals were a ranking factor here.
- See the correlation, if not the direct effect, of social signals and search ranking revealed by Moz here.
- See Kissmetrics’ take on the social/SEO question here.
All the previous posts in this series can be found here.
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