SEO + Social Media & Audience Development

How Social Media Affects Search and Online Business


Kim Clark

on 6/11/2014

As a website owner, you already know that social media is kind of a big deal and that it can play an important role in a marketing your website. But, did you know that social media can affect your organic search results too?

Understanding how the search engines take your social media presence into account will provide better direction on how to leverage social media to improve your search engine rankings.

What is Social Media?

Here’s a quick overview of what social media is:

Social media’ is the common term for the websites and services people use share things with others that are connected to them in their social network. These places include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google+
  • My Space
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • Tagged
  • Flickr
  • Meetup
  • Etc, ad nauseum.

Does Social Media Directly Affect Rankings?

How well you rank during specific searches with the search engines is a complicated algorithm of many different factors. These factors include the relevance of your site information to the terms or phrases in the search being done, the age and size of your site, how many links are pointed to your site – just to name a few.

Until a few years ago, social media had no effect on organic search results. In the last few years, however, social media has emerged as an organic search ranking factor. In Search Metrics’ Ranking Factors Rank Correlation study, they found that Google 1+’s and Facebook shares either exceeded or equaled backlinks as a ranking factor. In addition, Facebook likes, Pinterest activity, and Tweets all contributed to better ranks on the search engines. A full 7 of the first 8 ranking factors could be categorized as social media ranking factors.

Kind of a big deal, indeed.

How Social Media Indirectly Affects Your Rankings

If impact on organic search rankings isn’t enough to pressure you to engage in social media for your brand, consider this: social media is just another great place to market your site.

  1. First, social media gives you a great place to show and grow links back to your site. Links are still a very important to your search engines rankings. Depending on which study you review, links are still one of the top ranking factors. Fact: Social engagement begets links and links beget traffic. Traffic begets higher search results. It’s the way of the world (as we know it, anyhow).
  2. Second, social media marketing grows your brand. When you engage with people on Facebook, you become more ‘real’. You are no longer a faceless corporation without connection to your prospects and customers. Instead, you react and engage with real people with real issues related to your business. It’s like an actual relationship. Though it’s hard to quantify the effect of this engagement, it does translate to more business over the long term, so long as it’s done correctly.
  3. Third, social media drives valuable traffic to your site. This traffic is already interested in your business because of your social media, which generally means better conversion rates.
  1. Fourth, if you share valuable content on social media that people find interesting they will want to share it. They share it to make themselves look more interesting or to pass on advice to the other people on their social media network, but regardless of why they share it, they are making more people aware of your business.

From their social media site, one of their friends may share it, and so on and so on. Before long your content is all over the place and so is the awareness of your business and your social media site. You have just personally touched an interested audience that is larger than anything you could hope for with other traditional advertising methods, and it didn’t cost you a dime of advertising budget. (We’ll talk about the cost of maintaining all these social presences in terms of man hours and intangible costs in another post.)

All-in-all, social media has become an integral part of online business. Not only will it help your organic search engine rankings, it has the added effect of growing your brand, establishing relationships with real customers, and affecting your bottom line. The takeaway is clear:

Get engaged in social media. It will yield results in both the near term and the long term success of your business.

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