New Study Reveals Best Social Media for Search Ranking

An Austin company tests the effects of Google+, Twitter and more on six dummy sites.
April 30, 2012

There are entire businesses—and literally hundreds of thousands of web pages—devoted to improving your Google search ranking. Optimize keywords! Get some backlinks! Hit up social media!

But which are the best social media outlets? Search engine optimization (SEO) company TastyPlacement put the networks to a not-totally-scientific but still revealing test, pitting Google+, Facebook and Twitter against each other.

The Austin-based company created six websites based in six similarly-sized U.S. cities and let them sit for 10 months. Then the researchers spent a month promoting five of the websites in one of five ways: Twitter followers, tweets and retweets, Facebook shares and likes, followers to the site's Google+ business page and Google+1 votes to the homepage. The sixth site received no promotion to act as a control.

At the end of the month, the company measured how each site's search engine ranking changed for a set of keywords. The changes over the month ranged from dropping 1.22 results to a rise of 14.63 rank positions—suggesting that social media does have an influence on search results.

The Winners

Perhaps not surprisingly, Google+ had the greatest effect. The website linked to a Google+ business page with 100 followers, yielding a 14.63 rise in search position. The website that had 300 Google+ votes rose 9.44.

Observed TastyPlacement: "It's probably not surprising that Google's plan to cut out the crowdsourcing middleman by enticing users to directly vote on a site's relevancy would positively affect rankings."

Facebook promotion had a small but demonstrable effect on the rankings. After 70 Facebook shares plus 50 "likes," the test site here rose 6.9 in the rankings.

A Tweet Defeat

Twitter made a poor showing, at least in this study. After 50 tweets (and some retweets)—some original and some from the company—the linked site rose just 2.88 in the rankings. The truly bad news for fans of Twitter promotion is that the Twitter-promoted site actually did worse than the site with no promotion at all, falling 1.22 in the rankings, versus the no-promotion site dropping only 0.11.

Although the data shows some interesting trends, the company admits that the study "isn't statistically ideal," noting that it was meant to be a rough comparison over the effect of social media promotion versus none at all. The researchers added that "Regardless of individual results, this study is another confirmation of the growing consensus that any well-rounded SEO strategy will have to embrace an element of social media signals."

What do you think is the social media for SEO rankings? Do you agree or disagree with the test's assessment of what works?

Photo credit: TastyPlacement