We all know that everyone is on Instagram nowadays, being one of the largest social media platforms. Instagram is no longer a place to share photos and content but is now a very powerful platform where we can build our brand image and reach our target audience via a targeted, integrated marketing campaign. 

SEO, on the other hand, is still a very important marketing channel to focus on in 2020. In this age where content marketing is very saturated, SEO as a way to get our content noticed by our target audience is more important than ever. 

It’s no secret that one of the most important keys to SEO success is the number of backlinks. So, would Instagram shares count as viable backlinks? Would ‘likes’ matter in improving our SEO efforts? On the other hand,  can we implement SEO on Instagram? 

In short, is there any direct correlation between SEO and Instagram at all? This will be the topic of this guide. 

Do Social Shares Really Matter for SEO Ranking? 

With how big Instagram, Facebook, and other social media platforms are nowadays, it would only make sense that Google, Bing and the other search engines would take account of social shares in their ranking algorithms. 

According to Google themselves, their mission is to deliver the most relevant and reliable information for their audience. So, Google’s search ranking algorithm is tailored to make sure that high-quality, relevant, and helpful content gets found by as many relevant users as possible. 

On the other hand, when someone shares an Instagram post, it would generally mean that the post is valuable, or at least, interesting. So, in this social media age where everything is social, isn’t measuring social shares a great way to determine whether the content is relevant and valuable? 

However, even if it actually makes sense for social shares (and other social signals) to be a direct ranking factor, Google has confirmed that social shares—at least at the moment— is not a ranking factor and (at least not directly) won’t affect your SERP rankings. Why? Simply put, because social shares are not yet trustworthy with too many variables. It is, for example, more difficult to check whether a social share is paid for compared to a traditional backlink.

Keep in mind, however, that Google always has a very complex search algorithm that is always changing, and Google has always been very secretive about its complete algorithm. 

What about the other search engines? Although Google is the undisputed biggest search engine, Bing and Yahoo combine for a little bit over 10% of total searches, and around 20% in the US. According to Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines, social shares are direct search rankings. However, Bing also confirmed that they only take account of high-quality social shares, so we can’t use the common link schemes and paid social shares.

It is speculated that Bing (and Yahoo) simply look at the amount of traffic coming from these social shares to determine their quality. For example, when a link to a page is shared 1,000 times on Instagram but only has less than 50 visitors coming from this Instagram link, it’s quite obvious that the link is not relevant and/or is a spam link. 

It is understandable that for most of us, the focus is on Google. Although Google has claimed that Instagram shares and social shares, in general, are not a direct ranking factor, it doesn’t mean that social shares and social signals won’t contribute to SEO at all. 

Instagram For SEO: How Social Shares Indirectly Affect SEO Rankings

We obviously can’t underestimate Instagram engagement and Instagram marketing in today’s digital marketing environment. And, although social signals are not a direct Google ranking factor, various studies have found strong connections between social shares (and social signals) with SERP rankings. 

Websites that rank higher on the SERP tend to have significantly better social signals, and here are some important ways Instagram and social media can actually help your SEO efforts: 

 

  • Getting more links

As discussed above, backlinks are still one of, if not the most important SEO ranking factor. The more shares you have on Instagram and other social media platforms, the more people are going to be aware of what’s shared, and the more opportunities people are going to link to it. 

Remember that there are a lot of influencers, bloggers, and high-quality publications on Instagram. When you get a lot of shares, even getting just one backlink from them can be very valuable. 

 

  • Building a loyal audience

Click-through rates of your SERP results are a direct ranking factor. On the other hand, if we have a proper social media presence—or even better, build an audience—-, we can significantly increase the likelihood of people clicking on your site’s content when it shows on the SERP. 

Also, the more social presence you have, naturally you’ll have more visitors on your site. In turn, more visitors to your site will help boost your SERP ranking, especially if they also engage with your page. Why? Because again, more engagements to your site will help you get more opportunities for backlinks. 

Social media including Instagram can be an effective way to help you build your brand and build a community for your loyal audience. By reaching more people who wouldn’t have otherwise found you, you can improve the CTR of your search results. 

 

  • Helps in branded searches

Social media profiles tend to rank really high (and often on top) on searches with your brand name in the search phrases (branded search). If your social presence is good, for example, if you have a lot of Instagram followers, it can also help in boosting your website’s ranking on branded search queries. 

For example, if you just launched a new brand named “XYZ”, then probably Google didn’t recognize XYZ as a brand at the beginning. However, if your Instagram profile (say, @XYZ_Instagram) gain a million followers, Google can now understand that you are a brand by studying the context of your Instagram page. 

End Words

While your Instagram presence and your social shares, in general, won’t directly affect your site’s SEO results, there are at least three ways how your Instagram presence can contribute to your site’s search ranking: by helping the search engines to understand the context of your brand in branded research, building a loyal audience to improve your search CTR and engagement, and by creating more opportunities in getting high-quality backlinks. 

Bio: Mike Khorev is an SEO expert who helps SaaS, software, IT,  technology, B2B and startup companies generate more leads and sales and grow revenue online. He offers expert advice on marketing your company the right way through performance-based SEO, inbound marketing, conversion rate optimization, search engine marketing and many other online practices.