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Social Media and Search Ranking Correlations Are Flawed

A recent article discussing the effectiveness of leveraging social media suggested that businesses should use correlation reports. However, the article failed to recognize the problems with correlations.


Most of the population wakes up at sunrise. Does that mean people waking up cause the sun to rise? Of course not! Just because there is a correlation, does not mean there is causation. Social media and search rankings are no different. You can write hundreds of witty, popular tweets about “shoes” but your site is not going to rank higher for “shoes”. Your Twitter retweets and Facebook likes won’t move you higher up either.


So, how can we better understand the relationship between social media and search rankings?




Google, Bing and Yahoo! all personalize search results. Personalization means we should all get different search results based on our personal interests and previous search behavior. For example, after logging into your Google+ account, Google assigns session keywords to your user profile. Your social media account can be connected to your user profile, too. Rankings, therefore, can be directly affected and increased due to personalization of search engines.


Yahoo! and Google are the leaders of personalization. For every searcher, an engine creates 3D cubes which include:

  • Range of topics (breadth)
  • Time spent on each topic (length)
  • Sub-topics within a topic (width)


The “filter bubble” is the main limitation of 3D cubes.




Reviews are essential! Reviews are a strong signal for localized SEO ranking. When marked up with schema microdata, they also increase click-through rates. Critical tools for this include Google Reviews and Trust Pilot and will help build customer confidence and engagement.Indexable Tweets


Google indexes tweets. Although this doesn’t raise search rankings, it increases brand visibility. More visibility affects brand awareness which impacts brand searches and shows credibility. Over the coming months and years, these factors will add weight to your search ranking.


User Centric Content


Social media is about visibility and engagement. Social media attracts new visitors. Clicking a social media icon on a site may take a new potential customer to your Facebook account. If you publish engaging, informative articles and posts here, then you are increasing trust and encouraging loyal customers to return.


Facebook “likes” on posts increase the chances of a site referral. Increased average session duration and pages viewed per session are important factors for a search engine’s algorithm. Note that UX has more ranking weight on mobile devices.


Social media is about communicating your content. Increasing natural link building (by attracting bloggers to link to your domain, for example) is another way to increase your visibility.


Adding Media to Resource Pages


Resource pages can be spiced up by adding media. This increases natural links and the amount of time spent on a page. Having an embedded video, for example, encourages the user to stay on your site for more time.


Keyword Awareness


Social media influences us all and changes our environment by using information. That brings us to keyword awareness. Develop a new, trendy keyword and toss it into the social media world. With enough hype and popularity, we will start to search for it.


Don’t listen to correlation data! Social media does not impact organic rankings. Social media is a useful tool for your business but understand both its limitation and opportunities.

Dave Thoma

Former Amazon exec with 25 years of eCommerce & digital marketing experience. I enjoy having fun while helping others to succeed. I'm a 3-time "cancer" survivor, frustrated golfer and coffee nut (not necessarily in that order).

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