Blog Post

Social Media and Search Engine Rankings - Still no causal data


For years now, people have been screaming about the looming impact of social media for search engine optimization. As always, we get questions from our SEO reseller community about this very regularly. As social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook have moved into center stage, people have naturally asked:

Do Tweets and Facebook page fans directly impact my search engine rankings?

Well, the answer - from a purely scientific / causal standpoint - continues to be NO. And it's not from lack of trying. Here is the latest post over at SEOMoz discussing their recent attempt at establishing cause and effect. Everybody and their mother really wants this to be the case. Why? Partly, I believe, this is because it's new and exciting and the SEOs of the world want in on the social media trends. The social media guys want to be able to show the benefits of their services go far beyond the direct audience they can reach. But with all new technologies, it's important to keep things in perspective and not go overboard.

There is no doubt that social media is a great strategy for generating traffic

Let me be clear, as I've been in every blog post on this topic: Social media is a critical portion of every online marketing strategy. Running your business without one is not smart as you are missing a huge opportunity.

  • Social media is a great way to engage with existing customers
  • Social media is a low-cost way of spreading your message (i.e., the new PR)
  • Many businesses get leads directly from social media

But back on-point for this blog post, does social media move my website up in Google's search engine? Matt Cutt's has weighed in on the social media / search rankings debate. If you listen carefully, you will hear him stress all of the great benefits of social media. He talks about how using social media to get your word out may lead people to then read your site and link to it - an indirect impact on rankings. But he steers clear from implying that Google is using social media as a ranking factor in their algorthm.

At HubShout, we obviously think social media is important. We've worked hard to include social media features in our products and software. But as Rand points out, there is still no causal data supporting the idea that more Tweets and Facebook Fans improve rankings. In fact, if you read the SEOMoz conclusions, you see statements such as "perhaps I overestimated the impact of Twitter... on SEO."

Conclusions

I'm sure the social media cheerleaders will continue to push the idea that your Google rankings will improve if you just Tweet and build a Facebook Page. The data I've reviewed suggests this is not true today. That may change in the future. I think there is a sufficient business case for executing a well thought-out social media marketing strategy completely independent of search engine rankings. All of our SEO resellers should be pushing these products in an effort to boost leads to their customers. Direct clients need to either run an in-house social media campaign or outsource it to someone. That being said, I prefer to keep things simple and organized. In my book this means, do SEO, do PPC, do Social Media Marketing and run an email marketing campaign. But just don't mix them all up in your head to the point where you don't understand what each initiative can and can't achieve for your business.

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