By: Shammi Farook

If you were to ask a group of digital marketers how social media affects SEO, you are likely to receive a different answer from each person. Many will claim that the more social media interactions your content receives, the higher your page rank will be. They will likely cite SearchMetric’s SEO Ranking Factors report, which tells us that what all highly ranked websites have in common is an abundance of social signals. Others, however, will claim that this kind of data demonstrates correlation and not causation, and that social media has no direct effect on organic rank.

So, does social media impact SEO? The answer is yes, but not in the obvious way we think it does.

Understanding the Relationship Between SEO and Social Media Marketing - Small Business Website Design, SEO, and Online Marketing Blog | High Level Marketing  - Screen_Shot_2014-11-19_at_11If we look at the evidence from SearchMetric’s report, we can see that the study shows a positive correlation between social signals and higher rank.

The keyword here is correlation, not causation. Many things correlate with one another without causing the other. Here’s a great example: the correlation between the cost of bananas and suicides by hanging, strangulation, and suffocation. Are the rising prices of bananas causing Americans to hang themselves? Probably not.

Understanding the Relationship Between SEO and Social Media Marketing - Small Business Website Design, SEO, and Online Marketing Blog | High Level Marketing  - correlation

But that doesn’t mean that social media has no relationship with SEO. There are actual connections between social and search, but they indirectly affect each other. In fact, content marketing, social media marketing, and SEO are often grouped together because all three strive to do the same thing: growing your audience. When the three are working in sync, you can increase your website traffic and convert readers into buyers.

Social Sharing Can Lead to Link-Building and Higher Rankings

It’s not impossible, but a lot of things have to go right in order for social sharing to lead to effective link-building. But it comes down to your SEO and content marketing. If your content is fresh, engaging, and relevant to your audience, readers will share your content. This increases your page’s visibility, which means it may get noticed by a content creator who may subsequently link to your website. This can definitely increase your rankings. Remember, it’s not the actual social activity that matters, but what happens as a result. It’s no longer about squeezing out as much SEO juice as possible—it’s about how your content marketing, social media strategy, and SEO can work together to boost your authority.

Google+ Matters More Than You Think

Not much of a shocker that Google will factor your Google+ presence in page rank. But what many people are largely unaware of is that Google+ activity directly affects rankings. If you are signed into your Google+ account and search something that someone in your circle has posted about or “+1’d,” that content will come up first. Google search results are personalized for those logged into Google, directly affecting rankings. Here are some great graphics created by Orbit Media that demonstrate the effect Google+ has on rankings:

Understanding the Relationship Between SEO and Social Media Marketing - Small Business Website Design, SEO, and Online Marketing Blog | High Level Marketing  - social-activity1

Understanding the Relationship Between SEO and Social Media Marketing - Small Business Website Design, SEO, and Online Marketing Blog | High Level Marketing  - search-social-1

To improve your organic marketing, spend some time everyday updating your Google+ page with engaging content for others in your Google+ communities to share. Create posts with bolded headlines to make it easier for both users and search engines to read. 

SEO is No Longer About Dotting Your I’s and Crossing Your T’s

In the past, SEO has been very technical, but as we’ve seen with Google’s algorithm changes, now more than ever, content is king. You’re probably sick of hearing it, but it’s true. Search engines are smarter than we think. Google is more interested in the kind of content you are sharing and how relevant it is for users. It’s not solely about keyword density or meta descriptions—it’s about how you use those keywords to answer questions your users are genuinely asking.

Capitalizing on Indirect Benefits

If you want to rank higher, create an outstanding content marketing strategy, optimize your SEO, and integrate your social media activity into it all. The important thing to take away from all of this is to create a website or a page that people love. Google’s kind of like that mean girl in high school whose approval you absolutely need in order to make it. If everyone else likes you, so will Google.