If you want to see a lively discussion, gather a group of web designers or search engine optimization experts together, and ask them all together whether social engagement and sharing – viewers “liking” your posts, sharing them with their followers, commenting on them, etc. – boosts your search engine optimization.
This has been a question of interest for many in the Internet marketing community for a long time. It’s known that Google has the ability to crawl social content, so is it factoring that data into search rankings? Is the social activity surrounding your account a signal for trust, authority, and new content?
There probably isn’t an answer that will satisfy everyone, but here are a few things you should know to support either side of the argument…
Google Says Social Sharing Doesn’t Influence Search Rankings
It only makes sense to start with Google’s own statements on the topic. And for their part, they say that social sharing definitely does not impact search engine rankings directly. Spokespersons have said on a few occasions that it is simply not used as a search signal for their purposes.
The engineers at Google don’t have any reason to lie about this, so we should probably take them at their word. So that closes the case on this question, right? Not exactly, because there are still a couple of other factors around social engagement and SEO to keep in mind.
But Social Engagement Still Counts
While having activity on your social accounts might not boost your website’s visibility directly, it still could help your search engine optimization campaigns in other ways. That’s because social shares lead to increased page views, more activity on your website, comments on your blog, and more frequent mentions of your brand.
Each of these is a positive search signal, meaning that they could indirectly cause customers to find your website, whether it’s through Google or other means. And, when considering the always-murky subject of authority and trustworthiness within search algorithms, having positive social activity certainly can’t hurt your cause.
Social Sharing May Still be Incorporated in Future Algorithm Changes
One more thing to keep in mind is that Google’s engineers have been steadfast in their assertion that social sharing doesn’t factor in search rankings now, but they haven’t ruled out such a switch in the future. And, for those of us who are paying attention, there are lots of reasons to think the company might still incorporate these types of indicators in future updates.
After all, Google has gone from cataloguing all it can on the Internet to helping searchers to find the most relevant results. As more and more content is shifted into the social space, it only makes sense that shares, likes, and other activity are going to be scrutinized more heavily.
The bottom line with social sharing is that it probably doesn’t give you an immediate and direct search engine optimization boost. It is a good sign that your content marketing plans are working, however, and that others consider you to be a timely, relevant, and trustworthy source of ideas and opinions.
So, while you should absolutely do everything you can to encourage social engagement and sharing amongst your fans and followers, don’t make it a cornerstone of your SEO efforts, and certainly don’t pay for any kind of false activity. Instead, post strong content so engagement happens naturally, and then watch your Internet marketing results improve over time.