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Do social signals such as shares and likes count as backlinks for SEO?

One of the hotly debated topics over the past few years have been whether social signals (e.g. social media Likes, shares, and so on) contribute toward a site’s higher ranking in SEO. A few years ago, staff from Google apparently stated that social signals were not used as a ranking factor for web pages. The thought was based on the following:

  • It’s easy for anyone to create fake social media profiles and post links to those pages. With so many social media platforms and the possibility of many fake accounts makes Google wary of using those as valid back links.
  • The authority of social media pages where links are shared isn’t easily established as it can be for regular web pages and websites.

Due to these and some other concerns, the understanding in the SEO community is that social media signals don’t contribute (or not as much) to a site’s organic search ranking and SEO.

However, during testing, some web pages with many shares across social media have shown improvements in their organic search rankings. But that may be because of the indirect effect of sharing. Links that are shared extensively over social media get a lot of exposure and are much more likely to be picked by someone and included on their website or blog.

The bottom line is that sharing on social media is encouraged and the more social signals you pick up, the better it will be for your brand, inbound traffic, and has the potential to get back-links if some from those who see your link decide to link to your web page from their site.

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