Andrew EBy Farzin Andrew Espahani | Solution21 | VP of Growth and Marketing

Does Social Media Help SEO?

Many Search Engine Marketers who carry various social media platforms for their company may ask about the link between social media and SEO. Does Google use signals from social media sites as a factor when ranking? Can engagement and follower metrics from sites such as Facebook and Twitter be used by Google to evaluate authority of a business or individuals? The simple answer is no, but today we will discuss this issue further as to why Google does not take into consideration these social media signals when ranking a site or individual in search results.

Social Media posts are handled as other web pages

On sites such as Twitter, a post or “tweet” is considered an individual webpage of its own—to Google. This applies as well to Facebook where each post, such as a link share, reshare, or a status update shown in a news feed is a page of its own—to Google.

With this in mind, many people believe that Google actually indexes every single webpage on the internet. This is not true, as Google’s resources actually have their limits. With webpages increasing exponentially, it is believed that these pages are not equally valuable in the eyes of Google, or valuable to anyone at all. The crawling bot algorithms are used to ensure Google is being much more selective in what they are crawling and how often. This becomes increasingly noticeable when applied to social media, which turns out many more pages than any traditional website could. In fact, Twitter reports over 500 million posts each day. Because of this, it is obviously near impossible for Google to attempt to index every post generated through social media sites such as these.

Google has its limits in crawling social media sites

Because of the vast majority of posts between Facebook and Twitter alone EACH DAY, it makes sense that Google is unable to index everything from these sites. One reason for this is because social media is not considered a ranking factor. Google made a deal with Twitter which allows Google to see tweets in real time. But, this doesn’t mean that Google is forced to index each and every tweet from the site. Less than 4% of Twitter posts are actually indexed by Google. The bottom line here is that Google does not give preference to signal sets with large holes.

Google is NOT using signals such as followers to rank searches

Google will only use signals to rank if they have high confidence in the meaning behind that signal. Because Google can’t connect all the signals regarding content on a website, it means they rarely have that kind of high confidence to utilize the signal as part of the ranking. Because Google can’t—and won’t—crawl all of sites such as Twitter and Facebook, it is missing a lot of necessary data that it would require to determine authority of certain individuals and businesses through their social media pages.

There are too many changing factors to take into consideration as well when determining how up-to-date a social media site is. They can be extremely volatile as follower numbers can change dramatically due to a breaking news story and relationship statuses may change regularly. Google may index a page, but then not revisit for many months, a time during which a lot could change. This is where signal confidence gets shaky on Google’s end.

Identity can be difficult

The web has many imperfections. Google is still years away from being able to identify author authority in a correct manner. It still has difficulty determining if the Jane Doe site on Instagram is the same Jane Doe represented on a Facebook page or Twitter page. Making these connections is still relatively difficult for Google because the internet is not easily streamlined in this manner.

Correlation between social signals are not always equal

There was a misconception in 2013 when sites published studies showing a correlation between Facebook likes and Google +1’s and a site’s search ranking. However, this was not actually the case. There was a later explanation that because these certain businesses and individuals were enjoying high social media engagement, they were also attracted other signal such as linking that DOES affect search ranking power. When social media sites have more exposure, they tend to receive higher links to their content, which in turn affects SEO.

Use social media for brand recognition, not search rankings

Even though social media sites may not have a direct effect on one’s search ranking power, it can be highly beneficial to a business or organization to maintain social media sites. Being active on these social sites helps in contributing to network building, better brand reputation, improved customer service, and increased authority and trust from customers. A business site may also see increased traffic due to links posted on these social media platforms.

Social connections and identity have a long way to go

During the time Google Authorship was active in a three-year experiment, one of the hottest topics in the world of SEO was that of “author rank.” It was determined that Google was possibly using individual authority and linking authors for specific topics and industries that would affect search ranking factor. But while this is a goal that Google wants to achieve, the finished product is still a long way off. Identifying and verifying identity of individuals on the internet is extremely difficult today, and Google is still fine-tuning these elements for possible future use in assessing social signals.

Social signals will take time

Google continues to focus on ensuring reliable and complete signals to be used when considering ranking position. There are many complex factors to take into consideration when it comes to algorithms and assessing authority across various sites. It can be difficult to Google’s technology to currently assess the ever-growing internet and ensure validity across the board.

However, this doesn’t mean that it is not a consideration in the future. Until then, individuals and businesses are encouraged to continue to utilize social media platforms to their advantage, building their brand recognition and connecting with customers and followings as part of a long-term goal. Over time, Google will be able to piece together positive social signals and in turn, eventually use them as an indication of authority and trust later on as technology catches up with today’s social media use.