Do Social Media Shares Influence Search Engine Ranking?

In this latest episode of #BiteSize, Brian Dean shares his insights on whether social media shares for articles has any influence on their search engine rankings.

Brian Dean

Brian Dean is one of the world’s most sought-after SEO experts and the founder of, a popular blog that focuses on actionable SEO and digital marketing techniques and strategies.

Transcript of the Video

There is a lot of conflicting evidence about whether social signals – Facebook likes, Tweets, and Pinterest Pins directly influence rankings. Google confirmed couple of years ago that they were using those signals and one of the reasons people say they came out with Google Plus was a way for them to measure that stuff.

If a 1,000 people like a page, and 10 people like another page, it’s a good signal that that page is popular. And that’s what Google wants to show. So why would they only use links when they have this great data that’s sitting there.

But, they eventually found out that social signals weren’t a great indicator of a constant quality. One reason is that not all content gets social shares. Say you have something that treats haemorrhoids. You can come up with the best piece of content in the world but no one’s going to share that on Facebook. So social signals for most industries just don’t apply.

On the other hand, if you had a great resource for haemorrhoids, you might get links from other sites that are helping people with the problem. They might link to it.

The other issue is that, with links, people game the system. So as soon as people realise that Google is using links mainly to rank sites, they start creating fake links, they buy links. It still happens all the time. And there are sophisticated ways of identifying fake links and devaluing them. They haven’t been able to do that with social signals, mostly because they don’t own these properties.

Very few people use Google Plus. Facebook is a lot of Javascript which is hard for the Google bot to identify, a lot of it is private – where a lot happens within closed door between your friends. Twitter has an API, but there’s a lot of spam on Twitter so Google basically has to figure out, what’s spam and what’s not. Sounds easy in theory, but it’s a very difficult job.

So before they start implementing this stuff, they don’t want to rely on social signals before they get the spam thing down. Another issue is that right now they have an agreement with Twitter where they use their API for indexing. So say they build twitter tweets into the algorithm as an important ranking factor and tomorrow Twitter says, no actually Facebook bought us and we’re going to shut off the API. Their algorithm is suddenly a mess without any warnings. They’re not going to put themselves in that position.

So, directly social signals don’t have that much effect on rankings, but indirectly they can. Because the more eyeballs on your content, the more likely you are to get links. So if you have a 1,000 people that see your content, you’re more likely to get a link than when 5 people see it. And as you do email outreach, and people see that your content has a lot of social shares, it increases that level of social proof and increases the likelihood that they’re going to link to you.

You definitely want to promote your content with (social media) outreach. Because you don’t need to be on Twitter for people to share your stuff on Twitter. You don’t have a Twitter account and your content can go viral on Twitter. Your actual tweet has very little to do with it and the same story with Facebook, etc.

So I’d recommend, if you’re serious about content promotion, focus on building your email list and using email outreach to promote your content. And the social world will take care of itself. You don’t need to be there for Twitter to blow up with your content.

Rahul Varshneya

Rahul is the co-founder of Arkenea, a mobile app consultancy building experience rich apps for startups and businesses, and author of The Appreneurship Guide