Over the past two years, a number of Google employees, including John Mueller, Matt Cutts and Gary Illyes, have stated that the search engine does not use social media signals as a ranking factor. On the surface, this would seem to suggest that social media and SEO do not go hand-in-hand in quite the way people once thought.
Nonetheless, many of those providing SEO services continue to highlight the importance of sites like Facebook and Twitter, and various experts in the field still assert that social media does have a significant role to play in improving search visibility. So why are social signals important for search engine optimisation purposes?
Building Your Brand
Although Facebook posts or Twitter links may not influence your rankings on Google directly, social media can play a more indirect role in boosting your SEO. In particular, social networks are a superb way to increase brand awareness, generate trust and help your domain to gain authority with your target audience.
All of these things can pay off within the Search Result Pages (SERPs) in the long run. For instance, increasing brand awareness can help to generate more visits for your website and social media can play a key role in developing a reputation as an expert or reputable voice within your area of specialisation. This, in turn, may lead to lower bounce rates.
In addition to providing an indirect boost for your rankings, social media can help to improve your visibility within search results. After all, social media profiles show up in the SERPs, just like web pages. Therefore, the content on those profiles can be edited to target specific keywords in much the same way.
Meanwhile, any good search agency would point out that your rankings are not the only thing to consider with regards to SEO. To provide an example, Google sometimes displays Google+ information for businesses in the right-hand sidebar of its SERPs. This means the simple act of setting up a Google My Business page can increase visibility and lead towards good reputation management.
Other Search Engines
Finally, marketers should not forget that, despite its high market share, Google is not the only search engine. In actual fact, according to research from ComScore, Bing accounts for 20 percent of the search engine market, and Yahoo!, Ask and AOL represent a further 15 percent.
While Google have been clear in stating that they do not use social signals for SEO, Bing have offered a much more social media-friendly message. In various interviews, employees have confirmed their algorithms use factors like how often a link is shared on social media and the authority of the accounts sharing it when calculating rankings.