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You Ask, I Answer: Measuring Social Media Impact on SEO?

Sergey asks, “Is it possible to measure the impact of your social media on SEO? If so, how would you do this?”

I’d look at content which has been socially shared and its SEO performance versus content that has not been. Using the SEO tool of your choice, extract the data and look at the difference in the metrics to get a sense of the correlation, then set up a testing plan to establish causality.

You Ask, I Answer: Measuring Social Media Impact on SEO?

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In today’s episode, Sergei asks, Is it possible to measure the impact of your social media on SEO? If so, how would you do this? So that’s a good question is one that comes up a lot? Can we make any informed guesses about how social and SEO may work together? Can we see an effect of social media on SEO? That’s a really good question.

And there are a few different ways to handle this.

The Gold Standard would be to set up a trial to set up an experiment to create some content that is socially shared, and some content that is not.

Here’s the challenge, you don’t have control over the audience, right? If you publish a blog post, and your audience follows it, and they start sharing it, well guess what they technically ruined your experiment, even if you didn’t want that shared, because that’s just the nature of how social media works.

So to judge whether or not social media and SEO have any kind of relationship we have to do.

It’s essentially propensity matching to try and create, in retrospect, those two sets of data, one set of blog posts or content of any kind, that has not been shared, and one set that has been.

So how do you do this? Well, we would take data from the SEO tool of your choice, I’m going to use h refs here, which is one of the tools I like using, and let’s go ahead and type in my blog here.

And what I get is, you know, some of the blog posts on my website, and let’s go ahead and remove that filter there.

And when you look at this, in depth, when you look this up close, what you get are the traffic, that a site gets the number of referring domains to that URL, which is a good SEO indicator, right? Because we know that referring links and referring domains are still the bulk of what constitutes good SEO, and then the social shares for any given post.

So what do we do with this information? Well, it’s difficult to do a mathematical analysis like this just as is because you’re going to run into what are called balance problems.

Especially if you’re dealing with marketing content, or stuff that’s been marketed to people, again, you don’t have control over who shares what so you’re going to get an imbalanced data set where more content has been shared, and probably that has not been.

So in order to get a true apples to apples comparison, we have to separate out similar apples from both buckets.

Apples, in this case, content that has been shared content has not been shared, that are similarly shaped, right, if again, if you think about physical apples, if you’re trying to compare, you know, the average health of apples, you have one basket of apples, where the apples of the size of basketballs and the other basket where the apples of size golf balls, you’re going to get a very different result, even if there’s tactically the same number of apples in each basket, because they’re just wildly different.

So in order to get a true compassion, we will want to find blog content, or whatever content that has similar traffic, or similar referring domains or other similar SEO measures, and some and similar social stuff together.

So here’s how we do this.

We start by going in the data.

And then we essentially pair it up, you know, one to one for data that does that is similar, and that, and then we look at the difference between those two datasets.

So what we see for this match data is that for content that has been socially shared, we’re gonna call that our treatment group.

Because we’re going to look for any number of shares in Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, the lump that together and call that a one like yes, this has been socialized, socially shared, and they’re all three rows of zero, we call it a zero, like has not been shared.

So we have our control, the stuff has not been shared, we have retreated, the stuff that has been shared.

When we look at the traffic, what are the traffic differences? For stuff that has not been shared, on average, 38 visits from organic search on stuff that has been shared ad visits from organic search on the traffic on the number of free domains 10 referring domains on average, the mean for non shared 46 for shared.

Now, what does this tell us? This tells us that stuff that has been shared tends to have better SEO metrics out of this pool.

In this case, this was 36,000 pieces of content.

In this particular selected group.

Now, this is marketing content, right, largely to marketers.

And so you would have to run this on your own content, right on your own website, with your own social metrics to do the same thing but for your stuff.

This is not gospel.

This is not generalizable This is mostly my stuff.

And so I see that for my SEO efforts, social sharing seems to have a beneficial relationship to it.

Now, here’s the catch.

This is retrospective, right? And this is as good as you can get with causality.

Unless you actually set up that experiment you eat again, even then you have no control over what other people do so like the other people can mess up your experiment.

So by doing this kind of matching, this is as close as we can get in with real world data.

I take this away to say that sharing has benefits for my SEO.

And in some cases, like the number of referring domains, it’s substantial, right? It’s it’s a decent chunk of stuff.

What do I do with this information? I keep sharing, right? If I saw that, there was no change between the control and the treatment.

In my data.

I go, you know, it doesn’t seem like you’re actively sharing and promoting stuff on social media has an impact.

But I do I know, I, I share an awful lot on social media.

And so I see the benefits of it here.

This is how to measure that impact to get a sense of is it working? The challenge here is it doesn’t tell you necessarily ways that you can measure the say in an application like Google Analytics, we had to pull an SEO data from social data from a third party application.

I would want to ideally substitute in Google Analytics data, if possible to match things up by URLs because Google Analytics has better data.

And you can get paid level organic search data straight out of Google Analytics.

So that’s the approach I would take to find out, does social media have any kind of impact on your SEO? And again, I can’t emphasize strongly enough, this is my data from my websites under my control.

This is not other people’s stuff, your answer will vary.

Your answer will vary.

So please don’t assume that this applies to you.

Right, you have to run this test for yourself.

But it’s a good question.

And and it is a statistically challenging question to answer.

There are a number of techniques that try to take real world data and backfit it essentially into an experiment like setting to get a more clear answer.

This is one of the better methods, it’s called propensity score matching.

But you have to do it for yourself, you cannot rely on a third party to do it.

You can’t even rely on an industry, industry level survey because again, everybody’s gonna be different.

Right? What IBM does on its website, it’s gonna be very different than what I do with my website.

And their content is different than that’s, you know, what marketingprofs does on their website is very different from what’s on my website.

And so we have to, we have to do apples to apples with our own stuff as much as possible and not look to general industry examples.

So good question.

for follow up questions, leave them in the comments box below.

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


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