Digital Insights

How Social Media Affects Search Engine Rankings

Published: November 26, 2014

When Google spokesperson Matt Cutts says that social signals are not part of Google’s search engine ranking algorithm, you have to take his words with a grain of salt. Not that I believe Cutts would intentionally lie about the impact of social media, but he is such an accomplished wordsmith and orator that he could give lessons on dancing around the facts to the Washington political elite and be paid very handsomely for his efforts. What Cutts hasn’t told us is that social media does indeed influence search results outside the bounds of the ranking algorithm, specifically in terms of search engine visibility, rankings, and traffic.

Social Media’s Impact on SEO
Google as well as other search engines use social connections and activity to personalize the order of search results. For example, if someone liked or shared one of your web pages, that particular page will likely appear in a higher position in that person’s search results. If that same person were to have a social connection with your brand, your content would similarly be more likely to appear prominently in the user’s search results.While inbound links from trusted authority sites carry more weight than most social shares, social media is an acceptable method of obtaining valuable secondary links. Most links from social media platforms are nofollow, which means that they do not pass link juice back to your site. However, they do generate traffic, which in turn helps to improve your site’s authority in the eyes of the search engines.

Because social sharing increases your site’s visibility, bloggers and other influencers in your niche may be exposed to your content. If it’s quality material and would be useful to their following, you may earn a valuable dofollow link.The more pages you have indexed by Google, the better. When relevant content that is optimized for your target keyword gets shared across your social channels, you have the opportunity to rank for additional pages.

How Effective is Social Media at Improving Search Results?
In a social media experiment reported by, 6 new websites in the same niche were built in 6 similar-sized cities across the U.S. Here’s how social media affected their Google search rankings:

  • One website had 100 Google+ followers added to its G+ business page and experienced a 14.63 percent improvement in rankings.
  • A second site improved rankings by 9.44 percent with the addition of 300 Google +1 votes.
  • Another site that received 70 Facebook shares and 50 Facebook likes saw rankings improve by 6.9 percent.
  • When another site received 50 Tweets its rankings improved by 2.88 percent.

How to Leverage Social Media to Improve Your SEO
Creating great content and sharing it across your various social media platforms is one of the best ways to improve your search engine rankings. Be sure to present a variety of formats such as text with photos, infographics, and videos. Your minimum social media commitment should include a presence on Google Plus, Facebook, and Twitter. These networks have the largest number of active users and will give you the best opportunity to generate a volume of social signals. If you primarily market to other businesses, you might want to consider adding LinkedIn. Be sure to add your social buttons to all relevant web pages to encourage social sharing of your content.