Social media’s impact on search rankings

Feb 20th, 2024

Search engines consider a variety of factors when analysing how your content will rank organically on results pages. While many brands see social media as a valuable asset for brand awareness, many overlook the impact of optimising your social media channels for search engines. Although the amount of influence social media has on search rankings is highly debated within the industry, there is no doubt that there has been an influx of social media pages and posts showing up on SERPs.

Social media SEO (or social SEO), is when you optimise your social media profiles so that your brand is more discoverable, both in the social media feed – and on typical search engine results.

As more people start to use Social Media in a similar way to traditional search engines, and search engines increase the amount of social media posts they share on their results pages, Social SEO becomes an increasingly important factor for marketers to consider.

What are social signals?

Social signals are engagements on social media channels that impact your post and profile performance on that channel, these include:

  • Likes: Positive feedback given by users on social media platforms to indicate appreciation or approval of a post, photo, video, or other content.
  • Shares: Action taken by users on social media platforms to redistribute content from another’s profile to their network, increasing its visibility and reach.
  • Comments: Responses or reactions provided by users on social media platforms to engage with and contribute to discussions related to posted content.
  • Followers: Users who choose to subscribe or “follow” another user’s profile or page on social media platforms to receive updates and content from that user.
  • Inbound links: Hyperlinks directed towards a particular website or webpage from external sources.

A social media post that gains a surge of social signals prompts search engines to believe that the content is valuable, trustworthy, and helpful to users – which increases the likelihood that the content will rank.

For example, if you were to share a blog on LinkedIn and it were to receive a surge of social signals, this would not only signify to search engines that the content is useful, but would also likely increase the volume of traffic clicking through the link and visiting your website.

Social signals are at the centre of the debate on the true impact of social media on search rankings. Whilst some search engines such as Bing confirm that social signals do have an influence on search results, others like the search giant Google, claim that social signals do not have an impact.

Are social signals a Google ranking factor?

As previously mentioned, social signals are not an official Google ranking factor. That being said, it would be foolish to completely disregard its impact.

There are several pieces of evidence that contradict Google’s claim that social signals don’t have an impact on their SERP rankings – and while correlations don’t necessarily mean causation, the evidence is too numerous to ignore.

Hootsuite tested SEO results for articles with and without social media promotion, and found that articles with the most social shares received an average of 22% more organic search results.


In a study that analysed over 23 million social media shares, CognitiveSEO found a strong correlation between rankings and a strong social media presence.

There are ways in which social signals can indirectly influence (see below) rankings that may provide an explanation for the above correlations.

Regardless of whether its social signals or other social media influences that impact search engine rankings, the public is starting to increasingly trust information they find on social media. With other search engines acknowledging the value of strong social signals to determine the usefulness of content – Google may have to rethink their stance, and include social signals as an official ranking factor in the near future.

Bing’s perspective on social signals

Unlike Google, other search engines such as Bing, do acknowledge social signals as an official ranking factor. In Bing’s guidelines, they state:

Organic links are often responsible for something “going viral” on social media. When a content becomes popular, there is a dramatic increase in the number of links pointing towards it. Search engines consider such links to be a sign of valued content.

Increasing brand awareness

Having a strong digital presence on social media means that your brand is more likely to resonate with your audience, and provides them with a better understanding of your products and services.

When conducting a search associated with your products and services on search engines, they are then more likely to visit your site when they see your brand name and recognise a company they know and trust – thus indirectly increasing organic traffic to your site.

It also increases the likelihood of people searching directly for your brand on search engines when they have a need for the products or services you offer – again leading to an increase in traffic to your website.

Building backlinks

Building a bank of backlinks is an important part of any successful organic search strategy and is a key area of focus for any SEO agency. Sharing links to your website on social channels can help you establish a strong backlink strategy by potentially increasing the number of clicks to your website, and therefore leading to an increase in your search engine ranks.

Profile Optimisation

Social media profiles are indexed on search engines – meaning they can appear on results pages. This helps increase brand visibility online, because social media profiles for your brand can appear when associated key terms are searched.

While the direct impact of social media on search engine rankings remains debated, there’s undeniable evidence of the influence of factors such as social signals on rank.

Whilst Google claims that social signals are not an official ranking factor on their platform, other search engines like Bing recognise their impact, indicating their importance in the broader SEO landscape. Despite Google’s claims, studies show correlations between social shares and organic search results, suggesting a relationship between social media presence and search engine visibility.

Regardless of whether the influence of social media is direct or indirect, as the use of social media as a search engine continues to increase in popularity, optimising your social profiles to encourage increased engagement is crucial to a website’s visibility, traffic volume, and search engine rank.

Ready to explore how social media can amplify your organic search efforts?

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