Do social shares correlate at all with SEO?

Rand Fishkin of Moz wrote a fascinating Whiteboard Friday article recently, making the claim that except for the top 10% of content producers, social media sharing appears to have no impact on SEO. Go read the article first.

This struck me as a very broad claim. I wanted to see how I might find that out for my site. As with so many things in digital marketing, your mileage may vary, and I felt instinctively certain that my experience is different from the aggregate.

Using one of the many SEO tools at my disposal thanks to SHIFT Communications’ data-driven marketing technology toolkit, I took a look at my website’s inbound links vs. social shares. I did a Spearman regression with Rand’s hypothesis that there should be absolutely no correlation between social shares and inbound links.

What did I find?


Above, we see a modest positive correlation between social shares and referring domains (which are the domains that contain inbound links to my site). While it’s not amazing, it’s also not zero.

I even took a look at Rand’s own site, (and Rand, that link with equity is on the house):


Above, an R value of 0.445 with a p value less than 0.001 is far from no correlation. In fact, it’s a moderately strong correlation.

What we’ve proven is that the aggregate statement “social has no bearing on inbound links” is an extremely broad statement. As with anything in metrics, analytics, and statistics, there is no substitute for doing your own work, with your own data, and analyzing for yourself. You can start with a hypothesis derived from a broad, aggregate statement, but do not make the fatal mistake of assuming the aggregate whole also represents your business. You’ll drive your business into the ground.

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Are people using social media during the holidays?

Emilio Murphy asked,

Instinct says yes, of course, but instinct isn’t data. So what might we look at?

First, let’s get a sense of whether people are using social media at all. Using the fantastic resources at data-driven PR firm SHIFT Communications (disclosure: my employer), I first examined the usage of common phrases like “good morning” and “what’s up” using Twitter as a data source. While Twitter has biases, it also has the largest publicly available data stream for analysis:

People saying common phrases on Twitter.jpg

As highlighted above with the arrows, usage on Thanksgiving is in the lowest quartile, while Christmas Day is in the third quartile. New Year’s Day is in the first quartile, indicating high usage. So, the basic answer to Emilio’s question is yes, people are around and using their devices.

Are people engaged with social media with brands? Let’s look at the venerable New York Times:

NY Times Per Post Engagement Average.jpg

Above, we see that Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day are in the lowest quartile for people engaging with their posts (favorites, retweets), while Christmas Day is in the second quartile, near the very top. Note also that while Thanksgiving is low in engagement, most of the fourth quarter of the year is in the lowest quartile. Engagement overall is a problem during this period, not just on specific days.

Finally, let’s ask the money question: is anyone talking about buying anything? To ascertain this, I looked for people saying the exact phrase “go shopping” and did NOT include a URL in their tweet:

People saying the exact phrase Go Shopping, no URL.jpg

Above, while volume is lower, in the thousands rather than the millions, people expressing their shopping activities appears to be quite high.

Should you post on social media during the holidays? As long as you have something relevant and interesting to post, the answer appears to be yes. People are around, people are using their devices. The greater challenge you’ll face is posting something worth reading and discussing, not activating the audience.

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What A Single Email Address Unlocks for Marketers


Email marketing is now undisputedly the most powerful marketing tool in your toolkit. Not only does it provide one of the only sources of reliable reach for the average marketer, your email marketing program is now the most powerful advertising tool you have.

For years and even today, connecting your social media accounts to a Gmail account with your contacts list has been the fastest way to jump start any social media account.

For years, we’ve had access to email-based remarketing in Twitter and Facebook. In case you missed it, social networks have allowed you to upload your lists, such as Twitter:


and Facebook:


which by default also includes Instagram…


and with Google’s latest announcement, now includes Gmail, AdWords, and YouTube ads.


A properly collected, opted-in email address opens up new worlds for you as a marketer. You get access to the customer’s inbox, which has always been the case. But now you have access to social media, to visual media via Instagram ads, to video via YouTube ads, to remarketing lists for search ads, display ads, and so much more.

If your marketing strategy doesn’t include plans for a robust email marketing database, stop what you’re doing and refine your strategy until email capture is built into everything you do.

Build email address collection into everything you do.

Skill up on your basic best practices.

Clean up your lists.


To paraphrase Glengarry Glen Ross, always be capturing!