This is one of the most common beginner’s question regarding SEO. There are many theories as well as many experiences of people who have noticed changes in rankings and impact on organic visits after an AdWords or social media campaign, but these experiences are quite different and vary from those who did not notice the difference to those who claimed that their ranking had improved or deteriorated. Many SEO agencies even offer SEO packages that include “social signals” as a generally accepted SEO practice at the cost of a month’s maintenance.
What is the logic behind the theories that Google Ads and social networks influence rankings?
There are plenty of theories about this. Some argue that it is logical for Google to favor you by paying them for Adwords, while others argue that Google even ranks sites worse that pay for Adwords to make them pay more and longer.
As far as social networks are concerned, the situation is different. Just as links are a measure of the authority of certain sites and pages, so should be shares and likes. Google has realized this and at one point tweets were indeed one of the ranking factors. Why Google terminated this will be explained in the following paragraphs.
If by any chance Google+ turned into the most popular network and took over the primacy of Facebook, we would probably have had signals from that social network as a ranking factor, but that platform was recently shut down.
What does Google say about all this?
When it comes to Google Ads, Google representatives have always pointed out that Adwords does not in any way affect the ranking on Google.
For social networks from the time Google terminated tweets as one factor, Google representatives also point out that signals from social networks do not affect rankings. Gary Ilies explains this in a way that Google does not have control over the data, nor does it have complete data, and therefore cannot rely on them (the reason for the tweets being terminated as a ranking factor is because Twitter one day simply stopped providing data to Google, which significantly influenced the ranking changes). So Google does not have a full control but depends on some “third party” and is not ready for such risk.
Is Google lying to us?
But like we said earlier, there are a really large number of people who have experienced that after an AdWords or social networks campaign, their ranking has changed for certain phrases.
People’s experiences should never be ignored, and many people have thought that for some reason, Google doesn’t want to admit to using Adwords or social media signals as a ranking factor. By some logic, the reason would be to keep people from spamming and artificially improving their rankings. The truth is, Google is not lying to us, after all.
Why then do people have different experiences?
The fact that Google does not use social networks or Adwords as a ranking factor does not mean that they cannot have a positive impact. There are many ways that you can indirectly contribute to your SEO, and this is especially true for newer sites and sites with less traffic:
- After the campaign (either on social networks or AdWords) the site was seen by a certain number of people. Some have decided to link to your site and thus strengthen the authority of your site (this kind of likelihood is not very high unless you were promoting some very interesting article, say).
- The more likely option is that people remember your brand. Your brand was subsequently typed in by Google looking for your site. Many SEO experts claim that brand popularity is one of the ranking signals. We haven’t had either the confirmation or denial of this claim for now, but it could be one of the reasons.
- The most likely option is that your site has not had a great visit so far (we’re talking about new sites, which most often have this kind of experience). After the campaign, Google recorded a visit to your site even though it is not organic. At this point, Google might give you some points for the user experience. The better the user experience, the more it will affect your ranking. If the user experience was not so good, your ranking might become even worse than before.
So to sum it up. Google claims that signals from social networks and Adwords do not affect rankings. This is true, but the points you can get from Google for good user experience and the popularity of your brand can be accelerated a little bit this way.
If you have a different opinion, I’d love to hear it in the comments.