Social Media and SEO: Do Social Shares Affect Your Ranking?

The Philippines takes the top spot as the heaviest internet user across the globe. The average Filipino spends 10:02 hours a day surfing the internet using any device. Along with the heavy usage, social media also grew more popular in the country. Penetration is now at 71 percent, higher than the global average of 45 percent.

Online Media Consumption and Digital Marketing

The strong digital economy in the Philippines is disrupting almost every company, whether big or small. Many businesses are now rushing to establish their presence online to try and dominate the virtual space. As such, brands turn to digital marketing techniques, which partly explains the rising popularity of search engine optimization or SEO.

SEO is becoming popular because it’s what you need to rank high on Google’s search pages. Also, you can easily incorporate this strategy into your marketing campaign for free, as long as you have the right tools and techniques. This means even small business owners can implement SEO to keep up with the bigger players in their respective fields.

Plenty of factors affect SEO rankings, including website optimization and content production. But one frequent question in the industry is whether social media activity and presence influence SEO performance.

The answer, according to many SEO experts and agencies, is yes. But only indirectly.

Social Media and SEO

Google doesn’t consider social signals in its search algorithm as indications of authority and relevance. In 2014, Matt Cutts, the former head of search quality at Google, released a video to explain why the search engine doesn’t factor in social media signals. The reason is it’s easy to cheat the system by having multiple bots reshare the same link. Also, Google can’t rely on social signals that may not be as strong the next day.

But this statement from Google was five years ago, and social media has gotten way more complex since.

Industry experts conducted studies to test whether Google’s algorithm remains the same in terms of social media performance. Hootsuite’s experiment shows there’s a correlation between higher rankings and social media shares and likes. The high-ranking content on search engines typically have a lot of shares, likes, and retweets on social media.

Social Media SEO Strategy

It’s not the social media activity per se that has an impact; it’s the result of that activity. When your social media post gets a healthy amount of engagement, other websites are more likely to pick up your content. This means your post gets additional backlinks, which increase your ranking.

Social media profiles also rank in search engines. Often, social media profiles are among the top results when you look for brands online, making it a viable marketing tactic. Consumers also get to know your brand better through your social media channels. As such, it pays to regularly share relevant and timely content on your account.

People now use social media channels as search engines as well. In Search Engine Journal’s ranking of the most popular search engines in the world, YouTube landed the number two spot, right after Google. And Facebook came in at fourth, following Amazon at third. This is because consumers tailor their search behaviors and methods depending on their intent and query. YouTube is popular for how-to videos whereas Amazon is for retail goods.

Finally, just because Google doesn’t factor in social signals in their ranking system doesn’t mean they never will. Google rolls out huge changes to its indexing and crawling methods each year, and this may change social media’s impact on SEO.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t hurt to try and use social media to supplement your SEO strategy. It’s a tactic worth exploring, especially in the Philippines where people are big social media users. But whatever technique you use, make sure it ties in with your overall marketing strategy and goals to ensure favorable results.

Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.