If you just spit your coffee across the room and said, “What do you mean, social sharing doesn’t contribute much to SEO?” Please give us a few minutes to explain. Don’t worry. We’re not going to try to convince you that social engagement isn’t important. It is. But maybe not in exactly the way you think.
Google Cares about Links Very Much. Shares? Not so Much.
Link building is a critical part of any SEO strategy, with earned media still being the king of the hill. But link building is admittedly difficult. For years, many PR professionals, SEO experts and marketers believed that social shares could be an effective substitute. It turns out that isn’t really the case. Research from MOZ and Buzzsumo that looked at more than one million articles shows that there is very little correlation between social shares and SEO. As importantly, there is very little correlation between shares and links.
Google has actually said, “We don't look at social shares to determine rankings." Why is that? Moz’s co-founder Rand Fishkin gave one possible explanation in a recent Whiteboard Friday vlog. He explains that research has shown that very few articles with a high number of shares also have a high read time. “It turns out a ton of things that people share socially on the Web, they don't read at all,” he said. “They may click Retweet. They may even include the URL. They might share it on Facebook. But they, themselves, may never have even visited that content. Sounds crazy, but I bet you've done it.” I’ve done it.
So, for the record, the fact that I’ve linked to Rand’s post in this blog will help his rankings. The fact that I hit the button on his page to Tweet it, won’t. So does that mean that Rand shouldn’t care about my Tweet? Am I just Tweeting in the wind, so to speak? Not at all.
Social Engagement Still Matters and it Should be Measured
Social engagement may not have a direct impact on SEO, but it is a critical barometer of how well messages are reaching the market. Social can help expand the reach of your brand and create an aura of trust. How did I find the Moz vlog that earned a link from me? Someone shared it on LinkedIn. Did they even watch it, perhaps not, but Moz has earned people’s trust that the content is worth sharing. I thought this vlog was great and now I’m talking with you about it. That’s how social engagement leads to other goodness.
Measuring social engagement lets you recognize trends in how well your content is impacting your brand. Understanding which types of content and which channels earn the most links, shares, likes and comments gives you a road map for developing future content.