I had the pleasure of speaking on the “Search & Social: A Winning Team” panel at SMX Israel today, along with moderator Aaron Friedman of Five Blocks and Tzvika Avnery of WiseStamp. As the head of a digital marketing agency who fields many questions from clients, I used my presentation time as a way to put to rest some of the most common myths surrounding the intersection of social media and search engine optimization (SEO).
Here are the 10 points covered in my presentation.
#1. The number of fans on a Facebook fan page affects search rankings for content shared on that page.
Myth: Unlike domain authority, Social network follower numbers do not impact content rankings within the search engines, as the ranking algorithms do not take follower numbers into account.Social network follower numbers do not impact content rankings within the search engines Click To Tweet
For more evidence of this, check out the 2014 video from Matt Cutts where he very clearly debunks this one.
#2. Social profiles like Facebook pages and Twitter accounts rank well in search results.
Fact: It’s true. Social media account profiles often rank very well for company or organization names. It’s a good way to “own” the top 10 results for your brand name. For some great examples of what to do, and what happens when you don’t, check out this post from Search Engine Land on the topic.
#3. Social networks are their own “search engines.”
Fact: Social networks are increasingly used for searches, with Facebook receiving 1.5 billion searches every day. By comparison, Google has more than 3 billion daily. While the social networks have a long way to go before they pose much of a threat to Google for search dominance, the introduction of Facebook’s Universal Search may boost this trend.
#4. Social authority – the number of followers for a Facebook page or Twitter account – might eventually matter for SEO.
Possible: Search signals and ranking factors change periodically, and this could eventually affect the SERPs. Moz’s 2015 survey on ranking factors, excerpted above, shows that page-level social metrics are already strongly correlated with better search ranking. As Google moves away from traditional ranking factors like links and domain authority, it’s reasonable to assume the strength and social authority of followers may eventually play a role in the ranking factors.
Of course, not everyone agrees with that.
#5. When a page is shared heavily in the social networks, Google ranks the page higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Myth: Great content ranks well in search and is heavily shared, showing there is a correlation between those two. But heavy sharing of posts does not cause them to be ranked higher in the search engines. As shown earlier in the Matt Cutts video, Google does not take those factors into account in their algorithm. More confusion with correlation and causation is to blame.
#6. If SEO is your goal, focus your social efforts on Google+.
Myth: Google + is now treated largely the same way as other social networks in the search engines. Google is no longer displaying page post results as part of search cards.
#7. Employee advocacy – when employees share a company post – will boost ranking in search results.
Myth: If you didn’t believe Matt Cutts, you can also take it from Eric Enge: “Google doesn’t use Facebook as a discovery, indexing, or ranking factor.”“Google doesn’t use Facebook as a discovery, indexing, or ranking factor.” Click To Tweet
In addition, Google is only able to “see” social media posts when they are posted to public profiles. As most users maintain some privacy on their accounts, those posts aren’t accessible to Google. Finally, social networks links are nofollow links, so they do not contribute to rank in the same way.
#8. Social network group activity and posts can display in the search results.
Fact: Google can and does index posts in group activity where the groups are public. But … many groups aren’t public, a trend that’s expected to increase as LinkedIn has diminished moderation options for public groups.
#9. Sharing content on Twitter can cause it to be indexed and displayed faster.
Possible: A thorough Twitter experiment conducted by Stone Temple Consulting makes a convincing argument that sharing otherwise invisible content can get those pages crawled and indexed more quickly. From their post on the topic: “We believe it’s almost certainly the case that Google saw the initial tweet on Twitter and it caused that first visit by Googlebot to the #singersongwriter page. Given the Followerwonk Social Authority level of 54, this was not triggered by the highest authority people that tweeted that page.”
Side note: If you want a top-notch approach to testing an SEO theory, the methodology and attention to detail this team uses is brilliant.
#10. Using URL shorteners, like Bit.ly, harms SEO.
Myth: Assuming the link shortener you’re using works with a 301 permanent redirect to the content, there’s no harm to the SEO value of using shortened links. Among the most popular tools, Twitter, Bitly, Owly, TinyURL and is.gd all use 301 redirects.
TL:DR; Best Practices
When we reduce these facts down to action items, we’re left with five best practices for handling search and social as part of your digital marketing strategy.
- Produce great content and share on social – make it appealing to humans, not Google’s algorithms.
- Own your top 10 branded results by claiming your name on social networks.
- Track content performance with Google URL Builder and shortened URLs as needed.
- Encourage employees to share posts for increased reach and industry dominance – not page rank. (We’ve got a great post explaining how and why to do this coming next week.)
- Skip scammy practices – buying fans, paying for +1s/shares/comments – as it won’t help SEO and will harm your organic following.
Thanks for attending! As always, I look forward to answering any questions!