It’s been a pretty big decade for social media.
Ten years ago, the influence of social media was moderate. Facebook had 140 million users, LinkedIn 30 million, and people were still just getting their feet wet with the integration of social media into everyday life.
Fast forward to 2018, and those numbers have changed. Facebook has boomed to over two billion, LinkedIn to 300+ million, and the role social media plays in our lives is markedly different. Rather than an interesting side hobby, social media is now front and centre in the lives of billions. Our days are deeply integrated with dozens of different platforms, which serve as the main content consumption point for the majority of us.
So the question must be asked—how does social media marketing influence SEO in 2018?
Decoding Google’s algorithm
To be clear, we still don’t know with any degree of certainty the exact influence that social media has on SEO. But, we can examine the evidence:
- Google issued an official statement saying that web pages and social media pages are indexed in the same way (meaning social links are perceived as ‘real’ links). Social media pages and profiles rank in search engines.
- They have also asserted that social metrics don’t directly translate to ranking factors.
- Social media channels are also search engines in themselves, which can improve online visibility.
- Competitors such as Bing have said they consider the ‘authority of social media profiles’ and mentions across different platforms as a factor in ranking.
- Independent research has shown a correlation between the two, but no clear causation.
What can we conclude from this evidence? Not much really—there’s no conclusive proof that social influences your website’s rankings directly, but there’s also enough there to make social media a factor we can’t forget about.
The role of social media in SEO marketing
You’re probably asking, “What on earth do I do with these vague conclusions?”
Thankfully, there is one thing we know for sure: Social media marketing influences SEO in other, more concrete ways. In today’s landscape, social media needs to be another piece of the puzzle in your business’s marketing strategy, used to drive attention towards the SEO activities that we know work. Here are three key ways social can be used to do this:
- Link earning—utilising the reach of social media to get your content cited by others. It’s been true of SEO for a long time—if other websites have a link that leads back to your content, that impacts strongly on how credible Google views your content to be, and as a result how highly it ranks. Social media allows this approach to be leveraged incredibly well. For example, one article on LinkedIn may be read by several hundred people. If a few of those people then write their own posts or articles and refer back to your article, you’ve just earnt credible links to your content, which will rocket you up the rankings in Google. This is much faster and more scalable than traditional SEO techniques of guest posting.
- Co-citation and co-occurrence—getting in the right circles. Another of Google’s key metrics is the relevance of websites that are talking about your content. Chances are, if you’re earning links through social media to your content, these are likely to be from highly relevant sources (given that they’ve chosen to engage with you on social). This has the added benefit of boosting co-citation and co-occurrence metrics, keeping you front and centre with your target audience.
- Brand authority—less technical, but no less powerful. In an age of ‘truthiness’ and fake news, it’s paramount that consumers are able to trust your brand. Having a comprehensive social media strategy can achieve exactly this, positioning your brand as the thought leader in your industry, and naturally building trust. Consistently creating this image will lead consumers to gravitate towards your product next time they are in a buying cycle.
- Audience Growth—this might be obvious to most, but it’s still worth mentioning the intrinsic power of social media to build and grow your audience. A strong social media presence will get you where your people are, whether they’re on a daily commute or just scrolling their feeds at home. Plus, social influencers aren’t about to disappear anytime soon as they promote your products to audiences that trust their opinions. And the more people know about your product, the more visits you’ll get on your site.
The bad news is, there’s still no magic bullet when it comes to social media influencing SEO. Google holds their cards close to their chest, and we’re left guessing at the magic that goes on behind the scenes in algorithm land.
The good news, however, is that social media can be used to strengthen other, more proven SEO metrics. Link earning, co-citation and brand authority can all be directly impacted through considered social media campaigns, which then have a clear effect on SEO rankings.
It’s not clear cut, but any business hoping to succeed in today’s dynamic SEO landscape would be remiss to discount the impact of social media.
Rachel is a Filipino Kiwi with a passion for the arts. Having graduated with an Arts Degree in English from UoA, she found writing work at PureSEO as a Junior Copywriter and quickly moved on to the role of Editor. In her spare time, she reads Austen and teaches dance classes in the weekend.