Are You Making Social Media Contribute to Your SEO?

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Are You Making Social Media Contribute to Your SEO?

We have been hearing it for years now. Google refused to comment on it and digital marketers keep speculating the “Does it, or doesn’t it?” question from every possible angle. The general consensus has been that social media does, to some extent, affect search rankings for a URL or brand page.

Relationship between social shares and links

Image Credit: Dan Zarrella ( Used with permission.

All of Google’s reluctance to feature other social networks has finally buckled with the official inclusion of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks in their Knowledge Graph.

Google and other search engines out there purportedly pick up on “social signals” that emanate from links popular on social media, i.e. those that have been liked and shared multiple times.

According to SearchMetrics’ annual survey of the various factors that affect search, Google+ sits at number 3, one step ahead of even “large quantity of backlinks” which was once considered the holy grail of SEO. In fact, 6 out of the top 10 factors that this study found to matter the most to SEO are related to social media.

Can you, as a marketer, use your social media efforts to gain visibility in the SERPs?

Invest in Great Content

Great content is like a magnet. You don’t need to push it down users’ throats or timelines; readers get drawn to it automatically. Whether you create it yourself, outsource it, or curate from other publishers, the end goal is to associate your brand with content that is:

  • Useful
  • Unique
  • Interesting
  • Share-worthy
  • Timely

And of course it doesn’t always have to be on your social network. Posts that have the best chance of being shared are those you can control – and typically reside on your blog. Check out this interesting post on what the brightest and the best are doing right with their content marketing.

An extremely popular blog and strong social sharing means users trust your content. Google views this sort of enormous popularity as votes in favor of your brand, and consequently increases your authority in their algorithm, which ultimately translates to a higher ranking on searches for associated keywords.

So, great content = social media popularity = authority for your website = better search rankings.

Don’t Ignore Google+

Whenever there is a conversation about social media, the usual suspects crop up in the discussion – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and recently, Vine. Google’s much maligned and downplayed social network Google+ rarely gets a mention when it comes to serious social media strategies.

Bad move.

You see, Google built Google+ with the intent of capturing social media market share. While that did not really happen in terms of monetization, Google turned it around and made Google+ a definite factor that affected search rankings for brands across the board.

Google+ is even more important if you are a local brand and local search is your raison d’etre. From creating a brand page on Google+ Local to getting users reviews from fans on your Google+ page, to posting interesting content with a local flavor, Google+ has the power to make or break your local search rankings.

google search for hair salons chicago

Screenshot of Google search captured on 11/24/2014

If you notice the seven pack in the local search results above, every single one of the hair salons listed in it have an active Google+ account and multiple Google+ user reviews.

This means, whatever your views on Google+ may be, you better be active on the network and update it with all your business information. I’d also recommend posting content tailored to Google+ some killer content on it, if you want Google to humor those ‘social signals’ that we discussed earlier in this article.

Some of the key factors that up your SEO quotient on Google+ include:

  • The number of people following your G+ page
  • The authority of your followers
  • The total number of +1s and shares that your posts get
  • The authority of people and brands that +1 or share your content

Personalized Results

A controversial result of search engines looking to social media to improve search results is the personalization of one’s search results. Search engines and browsers track your ID when you are signed in while performing a search.

Any results generated are matched against the results preferred by your immediate circle of friends on social media and ranked in that order. The social network primarily used by Google for this purpose is – you guessed it – Google+!

When you search while signed into Google, you’ll see an icon like the one below. This icon indicates that this particular search will whet its results against experts before taking any action

personalized results

Screenshot of Google search captured on 11/24/2014

Eric Enge demonstrates the impact of social based personalization through this simple example.

Google search personalization example

Image Credit: Eric Enge ( Used with permission.

Enge claims that the result that shows at spot number 2 on a search performed when he’s signed into Google shows up at #12 when the same search is performed incognito. He explains that four of his friends from Google+ like the link referred to here. Hence the enhanced search ranking for this result when Enge is signed in.

A jump from #2 to #12 is a huge shift for a URL, don’t you think?

Personalization influences not just rankings, but also inclusion in the results itself. Google stopped showing post authors’ headshots in search results after doing so for three years. But (surprise, surprise) your posts on Google+ still show up with authorship attribution to your signed-in followers. These snippets are believed to have better click-through rates.

Google+ results in Google SERPs

Screenshot of Google search captured on 11/24/2014

With profiles on other social networks recently finding inclusion in Google’s Knowledge Graph, it could be a matter of time before signals from these also start finding direct attribution in the SERPs.

Image Sharing Sites Add Huge Value

Images are the lifeblood of social media. From larger images on Facebook timelines to Twitter adding images into their feeds to the explosive popularity of image curation sites like Pinterest and photo sharing sites Instagram, everything points to the voracious appetite social media users have for images.

Here’s an interesting tidbit for you: Google shows image results for 40% of all keywords searched in the universal search results. This is over and above the dedicated image results you get from an image-only search.

Image results from Flickr, Instagram, and Pinterest all get pulled for image searches made on Google, Bing, and other search engines. This is a treasure trove of ranking elements that too many brand owners completely forget to capitalize on.

The next time you share images on social media, here are some important additions you need to make:

  • Make sure the images you share on social media link back to your site.
  • Fill in detailed ALT text and Title tags for images on your site are destined to be shared on social media.
  • An oft-ignored SEO marker is your image name. Name your image with keywords important to your brand and which also describe the contents of the image.
  • Use keywords in the URL linking the image back to your site.
  • Optimize for Twitter Cards and Facebook Open Graph.

Summing Up

What we’ve always suspected has been confirmed by search engines – social media platforms (and not just Google+) make a real difference to your SEO. Have you noticed any remarkable results connecting your social media and SEO journeys? Please share them with me in the comments!


Featured Image: Screenshot taken December 2014

Rohan Ayyar

Rohan Ayyar

Project Manager at E2M Solutions
Rohan Ayyar keeps the conveyor moving at E2M Solutions, India's premier digital marketing agency. He also doubles at, which helps companies build a remarkable... Read Full Bio
Rohan Ayyar
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  • paul

    Have you actually ranked a site for a competitive KW using the above methology?

    The above would get shot down very quickly in a decent forum so please stop this crappy advice.

    • Rohan Ayyar

      Yes, Paul I very much have. Each of the above helps a little bit. I hope you don’t doubt the importance of great content or personalized results in Google+. So that leaves images. Do a search for and let me know if you see a Pinterest board in there. If, however, by “competitive KW” you mean “payday loans” I’m sorry SEJ isn’t the right place. We can discuss further on a “decent forum” – can I find you on Warrior Forum or Black Hat World?


    Exactly Rohan….

    I also got in the same situation… I checked my ranking for a keyword of mine and my Google plus profile link was at spot 9th for that keyword and i was so excited

    but when i checked it for the same keyword in my office (where i was not signed).. I was unable to see any Google plus profile link… Lol

  • Michael Smith

    Social sharing is always be the topic of discussion. I always recommend my team to give more focus on Google plus signals, because if we do some reasearch on ranking factors,we will easily find that G+ signals are as important as other social signals. @Rohan, what is your thought over social link profile? If you have good profile and if you are sharing different different things at one time, will it be give you impact on your main site?

  • Munna

    Exactly happened with me. When I searched by my keyword I saw that one of my posts showed in the 5th position of the first page on google. I was extremely excited, but after a few times I dig up that when I signed out it was not appearing on the first page anymore (..I felt very sorrow that time.
    Your content writing tips are so important for any newbie..
    Thanks Rohan Ayyar…..)

    • Rohan Ayyar

      No reason to feel bad, Munna. Personalized results can help you convert more – people who are familiar with you directly or indirectly are more likely to transact with you. As for overall rankings (that you see when you’re signed out), you’ve simply got to try harder. :~)