Quick: an ultra-prominent social media personality (think: Oprah-popular) links to your website. Does that improve your website’s search rankings on Google? It has to, right? The answer may surprise you.
Various marketing groups have done studies concluding that links which appeared more frequently on social media, or links which were used by prominent users on social media also ranked higher in search engines. But their findings may not be what they seem.
Here are 4 things you need to know about how social media relates to your website’s search rankings:

  1. Google has confirmed that their algorithm does not give preference to links from social media sites, and that the prominence of a particular social media profile doesn’t get weighed more heavily than any other link from social media.Google’s Matt Cutts insists that any link that can be made between social media prominence and search engine rankings is not causation, but correlation. Meaning, high quality content is likely to be linked to both from social media and from other websites (and the latter does affect SEO).
  1. But Google hasn’t ruled out the possibility of using social media in its algorithm in the future. In the same video above, Cutts hints that as online identities become more unified, social may indeed become important for search rankings.
  1. While links from social media links may not positively affect your website SEO, it’s important to remember that Google ranks most social media sites very highly, and for that reason, if you create social media profiles for yourself or your company, these pages will be among the top search results when someone searches for you. In a way, that does give you control over your SEO, by letting you round out your first search results page with other valuable information about yourself via your social media profiles.
  1. Other online marketers have asserted that the lack of connection between social media and SEO shouldn’t stop you from focusing on social media. The important thing to focus on is not how social media helps you do on Google—it’s that social media sites are search engines in themselves, and they’re only going to become more important going forward. Amassing social media followers is, in a way, the same thing as ranking highly for a particular keyword—in both cases, your website becomes visible to a growing number of people.

As you can see, the ways social media affects your website’s SEO are complex. But with the social media landscape changing as quickly as it is, one thing is for sure: companies should not discount the importance of social media for search rankings too quickly.
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