There may be some ideas out there that social media is absolutely necessary to achieve good search engine rankings. In our opinion, that statement is incorrectly worded.
The main question is, "Are SEO best practices enough for top search rankings?" We believe it's not. Why you may ask?
Today's Social Media
In today's world, social media continues to play a huge role in shaping society. As more people sign up on social media platforms and learn, read and share information, products and services, it only makes sense that search engines would be looking to incorporate specific social signals into their algorithms.
Social media provides extremely useful information for what people like and dis-like and it makes sense that they would like to measure this in order to provide more relevant search results to their users.
Backlinks Just Aren't Enough
Over time, search engines have begun to give backlinks less value, and in fact, Russian search engine Yandex recently took links completely out of their algorithm in favor of other external signals.
Matt Cutts from Google has also made it known that they too have tested dropping backlinks from their algorithm, and though he mentioned that they were unable to maintain the high level of quality in those tests, it wouldn't be a surprise to us if Google continues to devalue links over time.
So what does this mean for onsite SEO?
It means that having your website completely optimized will not always be enough for top search rankings.
With so many SEO factors to consider now, social media being one of them, it is important to make sure you are covering a combination of these factors in your digital marketing strategy. Factors such as SEO, links, social media, content, usability and conversions all play a role in today's search engine rankings.
If your content does not provide value, people won't read it and share it. If your website is hard to navigate, people won't stay and convert. These are all signals that search engines can use to determine if the site itself is of low searcher value.
So What Does this Mean for Social?
It means that even if search engines don't count the number of "likes" a post received or the number of +1's, the content it's self is most likely high quality content and "likes" and +1's are only a byproduct.
So what is happening now?
Now by being active on social media and sharing your high quality content and developing a reputation, now you are having more users visiting your site, now you're having higher conversion rates, user time on site has increased, user revisits have increased, etc.
So through social media, it can provide a solid assist because the same signals are taking place that the search engines are looking for when high quality content is being read and shared by users.
In the end, SEO, links, high quality content and awesome user experiences are awarded through search engine rankings and social media can undoubtedly make a large impact in addition to those factors.
With social media having such a huge impact in today's world on how we learn, discover and share, it is definitely not an avenue we should ignore and absolutely a search engine ranking opportunity we should embrace!