Love it or hate it, social media is a key part of any business's marketing strategy, and is a powerful tool for communication and overall brand development.
With that in mind, many business owners and marketers working on improving their local rankings often wonder how social media affects local SEO — but the answer isn't exactly a simple one.
Contrary to what many people believe, social media is not a ranking factor for Google. This means that Google doesn't currently look at social media when determining where to rank web content.
On the other hand, some other search engines, like Bing, have stated that social media is a key ranking factor.
Whether or not social media directly impacts rankings on Google, Bing, or any other search engine, it can still indirectly impact your overall local SEO efforts and online visibility in a number of different ways.
How Does Social Media Impact Local SEO?
Does Social Media Affect Rankings on Google?
As we mentioned above, Google does not directly look at the social media pages of businesses to determine where to rank their websites or business listings. So, how many followers you have on Instagram or how many likes your last Facebook post got aren't going to directly impact your local search ranking on Google.
This might sound a bit confusing, because you're likely to come across a lot of information online stating that Google does take social signals (things like comments, shares, and likes) into account when determining rankings. This is because there is some evidence to show that Google did experiment with using social signals as a ranking factor in the past, but it does not currently do so.
We know how much Google loves to experiment with new ranking factors in its algorithms, so it's possible that social signals will affect Google rankings more sometime in the future, but for now they don't seem to be having a direct impact.
Does Bing Look at Social Signals as a Ranking Factor?
Contrary to Google, Bing has stated in the past that it uses social signals to some extent in its search algorithm, but exactly how significant the impact is remains uncertain.
Bing has mentioned that while their algorithm does take into account some social signals, the emphasis is more on traditional ranking factors such as relevance, quality of content, and the overall user experience.
In other words, social signals, such as the number of social media shares or likes a page receives, may play a smaller role in Bing's algorithm compared to factors like on-page SEO, backlinks, and content relevance/quality.
What About Social Media and SEO for Other Search Engines?
Google and Bing account for more than 95% of the search engine market share worldwide, with smaller search engines like Yahoo and DuckDuckGo accounting for only around 1% (give or take) of the market share each.
Because of the relatively low usage of these alternative search engines, it's harder to say whether or not their SERP rankings are affected by social media (we just don't have access to enough data).
However, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo are powered by Bing, so it's likely that these search engines also use social signals to determine rankings to some degree.
Other search engines with around a 1% market share include Yandex, a Russia-based search engine, and Baidu, a China-based search engine. Some sources, including leaked information about Yandex's ranking factors, suggest that social signals do affect rankings on their SERPs.
Whatever the effect of social media is on these search engines' rankings, with Google being the undisputed leader of local search, and Bing coming in a distant second, anyone doing local SEO and social media should mainly be focused on improving rankings for Google and Bing.
Possible Indirect Benefits of Social Media for Local SEO:
- Social Media Profiles Can Rank on Google
- Can Drive Website Traffic and Engagement
- Provides Opportunities To Promote Content
- Can Help Generate Backlinks
- Contributes To NAP Consistency
Social Media Profiles Can Rank on Google
Regardless of how much social signals matter to search engine algorithms, social media profiles themselves can still rank on SERPs.
Ideally, a business's website and listings should outrank their social media profiles, but having potential customers come across a social media profile is better than nothing, especially if it leads them back to the company website in the end.
Can Drive Website Traffic and Engagement
All your social media profiles should have a link to your business website somewhere, and this can help boost website traffic and engagement, which in turn may indirectly affect local SEO.
As with social media, site traffic is not a direct ranking factor for Google, but there does seem to be a high correlation between high site engagement (things like longer times on pages) and higher search rankings.
While correlation doesn't mean causation, it's safe to say that more site traffic and engagement certainly can't hurt your local SEO efforts.
Provides Opportunities To Promote Content and Generate Backlinks
Quality content is one of the most important ranking factors for Google and other search engines, and social media is the perfect place to promote your content and try to get backlinks, or links on other sites that lead back to a page on your site.
The more eyes you get your (quality) content in front of, the more likely people are to share and link back to it, which can help boost your local SEO by building domain authority (DA) — a proven ranking factor.
Contributes To NAP Consistency
It's well-known in the local SEO world that NAP consistency, or Name, Address, and Phone number consistency, across different online business directories, review sites, and other platforms can affect SERP rankings.
As such, ensuring consistent NAP information across social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn may help boost your local SEO efforts.
What's the Final Takeaway Regarding Social Media and Local SEO?
While Google, the dominant player in the search engine market, doesn't directly use social signals for rankings, other platforms like Bing have acknowledged the significance of social ranking factors in their algorithms, albeit to an uncertain extent.
But the influence of social media on local SEO isn't limited to direct ranking factors. Social media profiles themselves can appear in search engine results, providing additional visibility for businesses.
Moreover, the indirect benefits of social media, such as driving website traffic, promoting content, generating backlinks, and contributing to NAP consistency, can positively impact local SEO efforts and overall online visibility.
As search engine algorithms continue to evolve, the role of social media in local SEO may shift, so keeping an eye on industry updates and adapting strategies accordingly is crucial.
In the current landscape, a holistic approach that integrates social media efforts with other SEO tactics is likely to yield the most effective results for businesses aiming to enhance their local online presence.