Your social media interactions can affect your search rankings in many ways. While the direct benefits are rather limited, the indirect benefits are often misunderstood.

The 2013 Moz Search Ranking Factors showed that pages that have tweets, Facebook likes, Google+1’s, and comments rank higher in search results. There are basically three connections between search and social. The first two connections are indirect correlations and the third one is actual causation.

Sharing leads to links and links lead to higher rankings

Social media sharing makes your content more visible. The increased visibility also attracts links. If a blogger, author, or journalist comes across your content and likes it, they may link to it. Pages that have a large number of incoming links always rank well in search results.

Remember that social sharing is unlikely to improve your search rankings if it does not lead to links. Social influencers will be able to increase the reach of your social posts, but they can’t improve your search rankings because they don’t attract links. If you want social sharing to improve your rankings, you have to ensure that your posts are visible to content creators who may link to it. These include fellow bloggers and journalists.

The relation between user engagement signals and social media

Search engines want to show the most relevant results when people search for a particular keyword. Bounce rate and time on site are two important factors they use to measure relevance.

What is bounce rate

When a user searches for a particular keyphrase, the search engine will show ten listings. The user will click one of these links. After visiting the site, if the user discovers that it wasn’t relevant, they will click on the Back button. This is considered as a bounce. If the user clicks the Back button as soon they visit the page, search engines will assume that the page was not relevant. Social interactions are also used to measure relevance.

Impact of Google + activity on your search results

Google + activity has a direct impact on your search rankings. Google + posts are shown in search results when someone who has added you to their circle searches for keywords included in your Google + posts. +1’d content also tends to rank well in personalized searches.

Google considers links as social signals, so if your content attracts links from social media or other sources, you will automatically rank well in search results. Keep in mind that Google detests link spamming. All of your links should be natural. Links created with the sole objective of improving your search rankings are more likely to be penalized.

Leveraging Indirect Benefits

Higher rankings are just one of the benefits of increased social activity. Successful search marketers are all active on social media because of its benefits. Social media is a great place to build relationships and every aspect of marketing depends on relationships.