Social Media and its Role in Search Results and Rankings

Does Social Media play a role in search results and rankings? Is there a correlation between social signals and Google rankings? Can you optimizing your posts for searches? Evidences has showed that there was an increasing weight on ranking signals from social media sources ever since 2010. Since then, they can impact personalized search results in Google.

The key to success in search engine rankings is to increase market share by providing the best possible results for the end user.

Correlation Between Social Media and Rankings

Moz did a study in 2013 that showed a correlation between Google +1s and rankings in Google. You can find the study here:

Users like proof from their peers that something is good, valuable or reliable. If a friend “liked it” on Facebook, then the user becomes more inclined to purchase the item since it has a trustworthy friend’s approval.

Bing has a relationship with many social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Quora. Because of their relationships, Bing is provided with real-time access to any updates that occur on those sites. When someone posts an update on their Facebook page, Bing gets notified of that update via its API. Whereas, Google has to crawl Facebook to obtain comparable social update info.

Google is not able to get any data from pages that are not marked as ‘Public’ by the owner. Consequently, that is a very large crawling burden.

One note of significance is that links from Facebook to external pages use the nofollow attribute. This means that these links do not pass Page Rank to the pages receiving the link.

Perhaps Google might want to consider placing more emphasis on indexing posts from highly influential people.

Does Google Use Facebook as a Ranking Factor?

Stone Temple Consulting performed a study in 2013 showing Facebook pages indexed by Google. The study can be found at the following link:

Due to the test they did to find out if 800 or more ‘Likes’ attracted Google’s attention, the study concluded that Google does not use the ‘Like’ data.

They also tried to directly measure indexing and ranking of Facebook shared links, which was inconclusive due to not having enough participation to be sure of the results.  But from the data they did have, it showed that Google did not even crawl the pages based on Facebook shares.

Another finding from Stone Temple Consulting’s study, show that there is no material evidence that posts are more likely to be indexed when they are new. However, one interesting exception is images.

Therefore, from their study, they concluded that Google does not use Facebook as an indexing or ranking factor.

It is very likely that this could change in the future as search engines continuously experiment with new ways to use different types of ranking factors.

Google Algorithms

Google+ is the social network owned by Google.  So unlike Facebook and Twitter, Google obtains information from Google+ in real time. Personalization is one ways that Google+ impacts the Google search results.  When the searcher is logged into Google, a listing might rank as #1 in the organic search results; however, the same listing might only rank #12 when that same user is in incognito. This has a major impact on a business.

Google+ also allows you to create a brand page, which a company can then connect that brand page with your website. If that brand page has some basic level of activity on the page, it can show up in the search results as well. This can really add to the brand impression of the business.

Google will try hard to develop Google algorithms that extract clear signals of value from Google+. The way Google is looking at these types of signals is not precisely known. However, we do know that Google will try to find ways to extract any value from them which will increase the quality of its results.

Indirect Influences of Social Media Marketing

Social media can influence search ranking in a number of indirect ways including direct branding impact, audience building, customer service, viral impact, link building, citations, and brand search generation.

When a business builds a following on social media platforms, this will create a greater engagement with their customers and this can lead them to become brand ambassadors as a result of feeling a closer connection with that business. The willingness to spread the word is greatly enhanced once an audience feels closely engaged.

Search engines count links in Facebook and Twitter. It is also likely that brand mentions are valuable since search engines look for ways to measure how much they trust a brand. For insistence, the number of times a brand is referenced across the Internet is one metric that could be used to measure.  If this metric is not already in practice, it is very likely it will be in the future.

Social Networks

There are a number of social media platforms and it can be too time consuming to use them all.

Facebook is the largest social media networks, with over 1.2 billion users in 2014. That is over 10% of the total population. In the US only, there were more than 7 out of 10 people were using Facebook. Therefore, Facebook is definitely worth including as part of your social media strategy.

Twitter reported 255 million users in 2014. They may be a smaller platform than Facebook, but still has a large number of influencers who can help create visibility for a business. Twitter also has a larger male following, with almost 50% more men on Twitter than women.

Instagram has over 200 million users and is quickly growing. Instagram is most prevalent amount teenagers.

Google+ has 540 million users, however, external research shows that almost half of these do not actively use Google+.

Pinterest had around 70 million users in 2014, but is rapidly growing, and lean more towards the female demographic.

LinkedIn had more than 300 million members in 2014, making it another major social network. LinkedIn is great for building a strong network of connections.

There are many other social media networks to consider, including Snapchat, YouTube, WhatsApp and Quora.

Effective use of social media results from nurturing relationships that build the brand’s reach, authority and trust.  Social media provides a great opportunity to build brand awareness and positive associations, so that when a customer is ready to make a purchase, the company’s brand is on the mind of the customer.