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This week we’re doing something a little different and posting a guest blog, Do  Social Media Mentions Help SEO? from our friend Dawn Mentzer at Internet marketing company Straight North, which provides SEO, PPC and web design services.

Do Social Media Mentions Help SEO?

Word of mouth. It has always been a dominant force in attracting customers, and the power it wields has exponentially increased thanks to social media. I admit to trying new restaurants and buying products after Facebook friends posted status updates about their positive experiences. I know I’m not alone.

But does word of mouth on social media (i.e., social media mentions) help SEO?

Tasked with assessing if social media efforts are worth their time and resources, many marketing professionals have pondered whether mentions can make a difference in how a website ranks in online searches.

What Is a Social Media Mention?

Social media mentions are a subset of the big picture engagement often referred to as social signals.

A mention is when someone mentions your brand’s name, or tags your brand’s account in a social media status update or tweet.

Social signals encompass mentions and more:

  • Your number of followers or fans
  • How many people like your posts or tweets
  • How many people share your posts, or retweet your tweets
  • How many people comment on or reply to your posts or tweets.

The Searchmetrics 2016 “Rebooting Ranking Factors Google.com” study found a high correlation between social signals and websites’ ranking positions. Web pages on the first page of the SERP tend to have more social signals than those further down the line.

Realize that a combination of factors may contribute to that. After all, it stands to reason that brands with websites in the top positions on Google are usually big-name companies that happen to have a strong social media presence, as well. But to play devil’s advocate, we shouldn’t blow off the correlation as mere coincidence, either.

Can Social Media Mentions Affect Your SEO Results?

Google’s stance has been that they don’t use social signals in their algorithm. The obstacles that stand in their way include qualitative and quantitative hurdles.

  • Qualitative challenges — With the dynamic nature of social sites, and their relationships and numbers constantly in flux, Google may not always be able to adequately evaluate the authority of a mention source to estimate the value of the mention.
  • Quantitative challenges — Google cannot crawl all content on social sites. Its access to social media sites depends upon agreements brokered between Google and the sites. Even when Google can crawl all the pages of a social site, it doesn’t mean it is indexing and ranking all of them. Overall, the data Google has from social sites may be too small a sampling to have algorithmic value.

Despite this, SEO specialists as a whole concur that social media activity plays some role in achieving rankings on Google.

In his book SEO 2017 Learn Search Engine Optimization With Smart Internet Marketing Strategies, Google certified professional Adam Clarke shares that Google+ and Facebook social media activity stand among the strongest ranking factors within Google’s algorithm. While not weighted as heavily, Twitter activity is also considered by Google and used in determining position in the SERP. Other social media sites, such as Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest, appear to have a far less significant impact on SEO.

Where Does This Leave You?

Regardless of how much or how little social mentions and signals directly impact your SERP ranking, keep this in mind:

When people mention your brand and share your content through social media, you can readily gain more followers and boost awareness of your brand. The more fans who mention your brand in a positive light, the more credibility you build. That naturally leads to more website visitors — people who might follow your blog, subscribe to your newsletters, buy products from your online store, and tell their friends and followers about your brand.

I’m at a loss to think of a more cost-effective and universally accessible way to generate that degree of word of mouth and build brand momentum.

Also, realize that the greater your brand’s exposure on social media, the more likely influential content creators will discover you and include links from their content back to your website. Backlinks from authoritative websites remain a major ranking factor with Google.

When fans and followers show your brand love on social media, it sparks a chain reaction that can ultimately move the needle on your website’s ranking on Google. While Google may not use social media mentions as a direct ranking factor, mentions of your brand can influence other important ranking factors like backlinks.

You can use tools — such as Google Analytics, Moz and Viraltag — to get a feel for how social media is affecting your SEO results. But to gain a more thorough understanding of its impact, consider talking with an Internet marketing company to help you make your social media presence a stronger component in your SEO efforts.