Yes, it’s the age-old question that no one seems to really have an answer for. But I’m feeling brave today, so I’ll venture to answer it.
Here’s what made me think about this again, this time harder than usual and looking for specific answers: a discussion with a client. In my digital marketing agency, we work with clients on strategy, social media, copywriting — or all of them.
One year after starting from scratch with content marketing, SEO and social media for a client, we noticed that there is definitely a connection between all of them. We also noticed that our social media activity boosted the client’s rankings, but we couldn’t quite put our finger on it.
So, the short answer is: yes, social media helps your SEO efforts. For the long answer, keep scrolling, it’s coming.
Social media is not a ranking factor, but…
We know for a fact social media links matter. As Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan points out, they are social signals. In other words, the links you share on social networks are used by Google as a ranking signal. They signal bots that your articles or pages are relevant for a certain field or keyword.
Matt Cutts, the former chief of Google’s webspam team took the time to respond to Danny Sullivan’s article in a video and confirmed his take on the matter.
However, this happened in 2010.
In 2014, Cutts created another video which basically said that Google treats social networks just like any other website and that they do not receive special treatment. Also, they are not a ranking factor. A Google Webmaster Trends Analyst confirmed this stance with, ironically enough, a tweet.
“Correlation, not causation”
This is an excerpt from Cutts’ video and it’s also supported by Searchmetrics’ Rebooting Ranking Factors White Paper. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, I’ll sum it up for you: their research has found that there is a correlation between social signals and ranking position and it’s a high one. Briefly put: top-ranked websites have a lot more social signals than their competitors.
Of course, this also has to do with the content itself. When you write excellent authority content, it will be popular on social media, with humans and with search engines.
If this direct link between SEO and SMM is still blurry, let’s take a look at how social media can really help boost your rankings.
How to boost your rankings through social media
1. Shares and retweets = potential for links
Every time one of your articles is shared on Facebook or retweeted, you get new opportunities of being discovered and linked to. And we all know the power of a link when it comes to SEO.
Alexandra Tachalova did more research on the topic and published it in a blog post for Moz. She looked into popular SMM and SEO blogs, assuming that the first would get more traction from social media shares, while the latter would get their traffic organically.
Things were a bit more complicated than that. She discovered that SMM blogs received a lot of engagement on social media. Consequently, their content was also linked on other websites, which, you guessed it, helped boost their ranking.
2. Social media boosts your popularity
In a recent article I published on SiteProNews, I explained that popularity and rankings go hand-in-hand. If a website is popular aka gets lots of traffic (preferably from other sources than search engines), it will also get better rankings.
Yes, it’s circular and it makes life much harder for blog writers who work for small or new websites, but it’s the truth.
If you manage to get a lot of page views from other sources, Google assumes your website or blog is relevant and to the linking of human readers. So it will push it forward, allowing you to be discovered by more and more people.
3. Social profiles appear in searches
What is the ultimate goal of both SEO and SMM? To bring in new clients and new revenue, right?
But for that to happen you need to be easy to find. Still, it doesn’t matter how people find you, as long as they do.
Potential clients may find your Instagram profile or your Facebook page. From there, they can navigate to your website or contact you directly.
However, one things is clear: it is much easier to rank your social profile than your brand-new website for your own brand name. And you shouldn’t dismiss it as irrelevant. Sure, it means that people already know you. But you don’t want to rank second for your own name, do you?
4. Branded search can truly boost rankings
FashionNova is a small brand that somehow managed to rank No. 1 for a super competitive keyword like “fashion.” Seems far-fetched, right?
Here’s how FashionNova did it: It had six million plus followers on Instagram. And, as you may know, Instagram’s linking policy isn’t the most lax. So people had to go out and look for the website after seeing photos of FashionNova’s products on Instagram.
This is how millions of searches like “fashionnova jeans” or “fashionnova skirts” came to happen. And this signaled Google that this small website is VERY relevant for fashion and fashion-related searches.
Talk about a success story.
The undeniable link between SEO and SMM
In Alexandra Tachalova’s words: “SEO and SMM are like pizza and cheese: you can get one without the other, but, believe me, it isn’t worth it.”
We may still need to hypnotize someone at Google to find out what the link between them is exactly, but we know for sure there is one. This is why, whenever I onboard a new client, I ask about both of them and I offer our help with both.
I’ve seen great results from combining SEO, SMM and savvy content marketing. And I’m sure that, the more you keep at both, the better. Better rankings and social media fame may not happen overnight, but they will.
Adriana Tica is an expert marketer and copywriter, with 10 years in the field, most of which were spent marketing tech companies. She is the CEO of Idunn, a digital marketing agency that helps clients all over the world with copywriting, social media marketing and marketing strategy. Follow her blog here: http://idunn.pro/blog.