6 Effects of Social Media on SEO & Where to Integrate Efforts

By Gregory Lee in SEO on July 1st, 2015

Not long ago, social media was considered a platform for brand awareness and audience engagement and many wondered about social's effect on SEO. For almost 10 years now, SEO experts have speculated, experimented, and even asked Google spokespersons how social media affects SEO.  Google gave conflicting answers, correlation studies could not prove cause and effect, and the relationship was considered indirect by most. But recent changes make social media an irrefutable part of SEO.

effect of social on seo

Gregory Lee, SEO Director for BKV will be at SES Atlanta on July 9 discussing "The Effect of Social on SEO" at the Champagne Roundtables - Meet the Experts.

Social Media, A Growing Factor in SEO

Signs of social media’s impact on SEO increased bit by bit over the last 10 years between the times social media was an entertaining buzz, dismissed as a teen gossip forum, to its present state as an active channel reaching the majority of consumers.  Social media impact on SEO became undeniable within the last 5 years.

2010Danny Sullivan tries to nail down Bing and Google on the technicalities where social signals affect organic search rankings.  We learn that search engines do NOT factor in likes or votes, but DO factor all of these signals:

  • Google & Bing measure author authority
  • Author authority helps weight links that are shared/tweeted
  • Number of retweets/shares of an article are a signal
  • The same link shared on different platforms helps prove its legitimacy
  • Twitter has more transparency with search engines and provides a more clear signal than Facebook (where a lot of user activity is private)

2011 – Google+ launched. Also, Google Analytics launches Social Data Hub, where content and KPIs are captured from social sites such as Google+, Delicious, Reddit, Disqus, Meetup and others.

  • Now we know Google can measure KPIs and track conversations about a brand.

2012 – Social Sources added to Google Analytics.

  • Now we know Google can identify which websites are social networks.

2013 – Google Hummingbird algorithm launched, which improves semantic search, a more intelligent way of understanding meaning within context.

  • Now Google knows what we are talking about when we ramble on a subject.

2014 – In late January, Matt Cutts of Google states in a video that the search algorithm does not use signals like number of Twitter followers and Facebook likes. Available web pages of social sites are crawled, indexed and analyzed like any other website.

  • What? Social signals are ignored? This conflicts with Google’s 2010 statements.
  • However, this confirms brand mentions, links and the surrounding social content is included in analysis for semantic search.

2015 – Social networks grow audience and develop search and advertising capabilities. Twitter and Google deal allows Google full access to tweets. Pinterest launches promoted pins. Instagram launches keyword based search.

  • Twitter has 302 million active users – and Google has full access
  • Facebook has 1.44 billion active uses – and Google has partial access
  • Youtube has 1 billion active users – and Google owns it

What your brand says and how your audience reacts happens in the same space...and Google is watching

Effects of Social on SEO

It’s the job of SEO companies to decipher Google statements, perform research, experiment and determine strategies and tactics for SEO.  From an SEO perspective, social media activity can be a very effective tool to boost visibility in organic search.

Social can:

1. Appear in search engine results (channels or posts, i.e., Google-Twitter deal)

This has been a long time reputation management tactic to own your brand presence on many social platforms to rank on page one for your brand terms and push down rankings for content you don’t control. However, more than ever, we are now seeing posts appear in search results for non-brand searches. A tactic to leverage this is optimizing social posts for non-brand keywords and driving traffic back to your website. Since Twitter is now included in mobile search, you can increase your brand’s real estate in search and amplify your voice by consistently tweeting from your official brand twitter account.


2. Be used as a search engine

Google reps always tell us that YouTube is the second largest search engine. Often the same tactics for helping your social messaging surface in Google and Bing will also help your posts or profile rank in a search performed within a social platform.  Facebook has launched several initiatives combining search, content and crowdsourcing that strategically compete with Yelp in local search and reviews. On June 23, Instagram announced its new search function based on keywords, popularity and likes.

3. Distribute engaging content - and promote it

This is the basic bread-and-butter use of social – promote your content! But to make optimal use of this tactic, the trick is to carefully choose the content and audience. A great SEO tactic is to target influencers with your content. This is where “going viral” comes in.  Getting shares is good, but you get a more long-term boost in rankings if you can use your social reach to attract links from bloggers and journalists.

4. Give brand authority signals to search engines

Brand authority is thought by the SEO community to be about 9% of Google’s search algorithm. That is one of the biggest chunks that you can reasonably affect through your own efforts. Brand name mentions on social networks, social check-in sites and review sites are an easy place to establish and then grow via a steady stream of optimized messaging and content.

- Your social team can boost brand authority by mentioning your brand in your social messaging or engaging users in conversations about your brand.

- Local SEO is an entire subset of SEO that in part focuses on creating citations and structured citations where search engines can crawl and recognize your brand name and associate it with an address and phone number.

- Wikipedia can be considered a social site in that the content is user generated and edited.  Wikipedia provides brand signals, images and content that often is pulled directly into search results for every listing as well as Google Knowledge Graph. Google previously used its own data platform called Freebase to populate Knowledge Graph search results. Freebase was open to the public for editing, adding content and pulling content.  It was used by sites like Facebook to power business listing pages, often for check-ins. Now Google has closed Freebase, hired one of its founders, Denny Vrandecic, and is migrating all the data to Wikimedia. Your business listing on Wikipedia today is what DMOZ was 5-10 years ago. It’s essential for Google to see you as a notable business.

5. Provide links that search engines credit via shares or tweets

Despite social platforms using “rel no follow” code on links, search engines do count these links and weight them based on the authority of the user who shares them. That is why it is so important to carefully choose the content and audience when sharing links to your website.  The overarching strategy here is getting retweets and fostering relationships with influencers.

6. Provide search engines topic relevance for your brand

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm tries to understand the semantic relationship between your brand and topics where you are an authority. There is a web of interconnected information and conversation out there. Social media can be a platform to establish where your brand fits into this information, so that search engines can reward you with visibility for searches within the topics you own.

Where to Integrate SEO and Social Media

Social media and SEO efforts tie in closely around blogging, PR, link building and local SEO. Mobile web development also plays a strong role in SEO and social.  The majority of social activity happens on mobile devices, so for social efforts to pay off, you at least need mobile-optimized landers. Overall SEO and social strategy should be aligned around content development and audience segmentation.  Here are a few examples of where SEO and social tactics can be coordinated in blogging, press releases, and link building.

  • Blog content is often a longer version of what gets pushed on social
  • A blog is often the highest linked area of a website (besides the homepage)
  • Shares for evergreen content can quickly boost inbound links that the content was intended to attract over time
  • PR, paid social, and outreach can all be coordinated to attract links to  content


For effective SEO, it is important to share strategy and oversight across channels.  SEO is no longer a matter of inserting keywords and building links. However, the main SEO principles of the past are still true today.  The difference is that so much activity has gone online, that optimization of your off-site signals must diversify across various social and PR channels.  What you say and how your customers and audience react is all in the same space. And search engines are watching, counting and reporting on the owners in that space.

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