Are Social Media Search Engines More Relevant Than Google?

social media search engines are the new SEO

If you don’t subscribe to Neil Patel’s Quick Sprout blog I suggest you do. He is one of the original thinkers on all matters social and SEO. I quoted him just a few posts ago about Google’s newest algorithm and whether keywords counted anymore. Now he’s made a convincing case about Why Social is the New SEO.

Social Networks are Search Engines

In his post, Neil quoted Matt Cutts, who is head of Google’s webspam team, as saying that social signals – such as Likes, followers and social mentions – may count in Google’s search algorithms. It’s not quite clear to Neil. So all that work in building followers and social relevance doesn’t matter if Google says it doesn’t matter?

Here is where Neil makes his very valid and original point. Sure, Google is important but it’s not the only search engine. As Neil states, “Social is the new SEO because social networks themselves function as powerful and widely-used search engines in their own right.”

YouTube (although owned by Google) is the world’s second largest independent search engine. Every second of every day, 1,140 searches are performed on YouTube. Every minute, 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.

Rather than worry about Google search finding you a video, you can go directly to the source, YouTube, and search for what you want.

Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn have very sophisticated search engines. Results can be filtered by name, gender, subject, geography, companies, and schools – however you want to slice and dice it.

You can find the information you need about almost any subject or the right expert on social networks. But if you want to be found you’ve got to be posting relevant content. Here’s where keywords do matter.

Google AdWords

We’ve talked about Google search, but what about Google AdWords? You can run but you can’t hide from Google AdWords. Search for something and ads relating to that subject will follow you wherever you go. Advertisers have found these ads to be very effective.

Facebook and Twitter have been in the news lately. Financial analysts want to know when their market value will be justified by income from advertising. Darren Huston, CEO of discount travel provider Priceline, made news the other day when he stated to Bloomberg News that ads on Facebook and Twitter had failed to deliver results. “For Facebook and Twitter, we have endless amounts of money,” Huston said in the Bloomberg interview. “But we haven’t found anything there.”

So why haven’t Facebook’s 1.2 billion users and Twitter’s 947 million users produced for advertisers? Maybe it’s because these ads are seeking out users when it’s the social networks’ users who need to initiate the search.

Google AdWords works because users think of Google primarily as a search engine. Most people don’t think of social networks as search engines. They’re communities where you make personal and business connections.

But if Neil Patel is correct that may change, as users understand the value of these networks as search engines where you find things to buy as well as people to meet.

Leave a Reply


  1. Nice post,Jeannette!
    I actively use Linkedin, Google+ and Twitter. Since I am new in this field, I am trying hard to understand the SEO techniques and strategies.

    • Tuhin — It’s important to understand SEO. But the first priority is to always write the best content you can for your readers. As the experts all say, don’t write for the search engines.

  2. Jeannette, I don’t feel qualified to say which is more relevant though clearly the situation is fluid. I did note the comment from Darren Husten and asked the same question that you pose as to who is seeking out whom. Just based on my own opinion the last thing I am looking for on Facebook is adverts and on Twitter I simply find them annoying clutter. Maybe there are products or services that can benefit from these channels though few spring to mind.

    • Paul — Having managed advertising campaigns in a previous life, I know that with repetition an advertiser will eventually reach the people who are looking for the company’s product. For example, when I was in the market for a digital camera I suddenly started seeing ads for digital cameras. Now these ads were running all along but I didn’t look for them because I wasn’t in the market at the time. That’s why we all become so irritated when we see the same ads over and over again. We’re not looking but someone else is.

  3. I found Adwords to be quite a waste of money and I believe that is a consensus of many. Not only are they annoying as Paul points out but they do not produce results for the advertiser; hence people stop using them.

    • Tim — Adwords are basically auctions. The highest bidder wins and their ads will show up high in search results next to organic searches. For fun, I once ran an ad for my business and it was at the top of the Adwords! By the time I told my friends, I had been knocked off by a higher bidder. Adwords work but they require a big investment to pay off.

  4. Would personally love it if, to quote you, social signals – such as Likes, followers and social mentions – would count in Google’s search algorithms.

    Personally believe Facebook forcing ads on its members is a major reason advertisers don’t get value for money. Have used one of the existing tools to stop Facebook displaying an abundance of ads on my timeline.

    Another problem with Facebook ads that members of Facebook represent anything under the sun. It hence needs to be an ad that targets everything from kids to pensioners in all countries in the world.

    You can create general Facebook ads for something that all human beings could use like toothpaste, soap or Coca Cola. But in order to reach your target group somewhere in the world you need to use Facebook’s targeted ads. But when members, like me, can use tools to not see such ads they are not a great option for an advertiser.

    But Facebook needs to justify their market value. So currently Facebook is on a drive to start charging members. The revenue has to come from somewhere:-)

    Haven’t you noticed that you don’t get as many notifications as you used to? If you want to get notified as often as in the past, you will need to pay.

    • Catarina — I agree that Facebook (and other networks will follow) will be giving you less free information and you’ll need to “pay to play.” Maybe the free ride for all of us on social networks will gradually go away.

  5. Very interesting. I’ve spent so much time and effort building my platform and ‘brand’ via social media. I certainly hope it is all working together on my behalf.

    Regarding Google AdWords: it really frustrates me when something I’ve searched haunts me by following everywhere I go. How I wish we could turn that feature off.

    • Doreen — I agree about ads following you. A few months ago I searched for winter boots and now ads for boots follow me everywhere. Stop! I’ve already bought my boots.

  6. Hi! I am still trying to figure out SEO and all the rules. I am on Twitter and Facebook. However, I have been using Twitter more to promote my blog and eBay business. I also love Pinter-est and Stumble upon. I find it daunting sometimes because there is so much to learn and there are so many social media websites. I just try to do the ones I can now and keep reading up on new techniques from other qualified people. This is a great post and gives me food for thought. =)

    • Crystal — I think it’s almost impossible for any one person to be able to keep up with all the social networks and figure out which ones work for your business. You’re making progress so don’t worry too much if you’re not everywhere.

  7. It makes some sense to me that the social platforms in total matter, and can, in fact, make a difference. I haven’t worked on them all as hard as I should but I’ve done my share of building my network on each platform. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out as time passes. 🙂

    • Susan — I think you’ve done great and you seem to be very active on social networks. Sometime you just have to take on faith that something is working.

  8. Hey Jeannette,

    I think it was what last year when social mentions started showing up in Google! So that in itself was a big step. I’m not sure how much social shares will really be accurate because like anything else we all know those can be faked too. It’s sad that some people count more on the numbers then the interaction but I guess that’s the best way for Google to gauge things I’m assuming.

    Either way I think that eventually the social media sites will be filtered in there somehow. They’ll figure that all out I’m sure.

    I agree though because when I want to find a video tutorial about something I go directly to the source. When I want to find someone or certain information I’ll go to Facebook or Twitter’s search feature. When I want to find them on specific platforms I go to them and not Google. This should be interesting though to see how this all pans out. Only time will tell.

    Thank you for sharing this and hope you enjoy your week.


    • Adrienne — There’s been a lot written in the past couple of days about Google not using social mentions in rankings, all the more reason to use the search engines of the social networks. It makes sense because you’re more likely to surface the person or information you want where users are posting it.

  9. Excellent point Jeannette. We do pay attention to social media all the time, and as you say search within it, as well as comment etc. We’re just so tuned into Google as the be all & end all that we forget all the other things that are of value.

    • A.K., Google may give you more organic search but I believe the searches and connections you make on social media networks are more valuable in the long run. You are connecting with other people with similar interests.

  10. A year ago I had no idea the importance of social media. I thought it was for kids to communicate. Boy did I get an eye opener. I am starting to see a boost in my website. I haven’t touched or updated the website in a couple of years. What is making the site’s SEO improve is social media. I am still not a fan of Facebook, but that may change. You are so right about YouTube. I can search something to see where my company comes up and if I have a video of the product, it will place higher in Google than an organic search.

    • Arleen — Because your website hasn’t been updated recently, your blog is what’s getting Google’s attention and improving your SEO. Google sees that you are publishing new content and rewards you.

  11. Great post Jeanette. The landscape in social media is always changing and our reasons for doing things are always having to be reassessed to reflect those changes. I was reading an article today that Google was contemplating getting rid of Google+. It seems like not along ago we were all resigning ourselves to having an account on Google+ in order to facilitate searches. I use LinkedIn to search for stuff and really like that platform, but I\’m not a huge fan of Facebook, I just find it too much of a mix.

    • Debra — I’ve read some negative stories about Google+ lately, too, but it’s difficult to believe they’re throwing in the towel. Google has the money and resources to throw against Google+ and I’d be very surprised if they didn’t continue.

  12. Facebook search is lousy. So no competition there. Twitter’s is quite good, but most people won’t think to use it. You mention YouTube and Google+ – both owned by Google. Years ago a friend wrote about Bing – does anyone you know use Bing for search? I am more likely to trust Google search results than Google Ad Words results. “Google was contemplating getting rid of Google+” – no! Says me. I like it. Oh, well.

    Good post – good ideas to ponder. Thanks, Jeannette!

    • Leora — the problem is that search engines return searches they decide you should see. Ask two people to search a keyword and the results will be quite different. So the search engines are filtering the information we get and we may be missing things we really need or want.

  13. Jeannette,

    I’ve been blogging quite a bit about SEO lately and not social media because I find SEO easier to control. I’ve maintained for a long time that there are some very simple steps that we can take when blogging that will optimize our posts for the search engines. To me, participating on social media sites is more time consuming.

    You and I have discussed many times that visitors from organic searches don’t stay on our sites as long as referral traffic. Like Adrienne (and many other of your readers), I believe there is a lot of value to building relationships. I think most of us agree that we can’t neglect either SEO nor social. We need both.

    Recently, I wrote a #FridayFinds post about getting started with SEO and one of the articles that I highlighted was by Dr. Peter J. Meyers on In his post, he suggested searching on one of our blog posts to see how it returned in the SERPs (search engine result pages).

    When I searched on a recent post, (it had not been indexed by Google yet), my article (on my blog) came up #10 on the first result page. What was interesting to note is that:

    – #2 was my post on Scoop.It
    – #3 was a tweet of my post by Pam Moore (@PamMktgNut).
    – #4 was a Google+ share by Adrienne Smith (@AdrienneSmith40).
    – #5 was my article on

    There was nothing scientific about this exercise and thinking back, I was probably logged into Google+ when I did this. (That does customize the results.) It was interesting though and I believe that it shows that social shares have the potential of driving more traffic to my site than my SEO efforts.

    As usual, thanks for an interesting post that has got the conversation going.

    • Thanks, Sherryl,for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment. You’re quite right. We need SEO and social. From everything I read semantic search is the next big thing. Google will be evaluating content more than keywords and back links. Part of that evaluation will be social shares, as people will share what they find useful. I haven’t been active on BizSugar but I may start as that is the kind of affirmation of content that Google will reward.