How Readership, Timing and Social Shares Affect SEO and Earned Media Value


Michael Burke, MSR Communications 

An “earned” media placement from a journalist stands in contrast to paid media, such as advertisements, in that it provides more credibility than advertising and is more influential in purchasing decisions. However, even with what would be considered excellent media placements, it’s not always easy to determine the value, as many of the metrics used in advertising, such as clickthrough rates, aren’t available, and may not indicate the actual value that the article has to business.

In a recent study we analyzed more than 400 articles collected by TrendKite, which provides metrics on earned media, such as readership, social shares, and SEO impact (through the MOZ score) to discover correlations and patterns that might be helpful in predicting and influencing an article’s impact.

Both social media shares and SEO impact are generally agreed to indicate value in earned media. We looked at several common metrics for evaluating earned media to see how they influence social sharing and SEO, asking:

  • What is the effect of timing on social shares?
  • What is the effect readership size on social shares?
  • Does the number of social shares that an article receives influence its SEO impact?

To maximize social sharing, companies/agencies may target publications with larger readership and work with editors to get articles published on Monday through Wednesday, as conventional wisdom holds that these are more effective days. In some cases our findings confirmed conventional PR wisdom–in some cases, the data countered it.

Most Enterprise Tech Articles Get Little “Socialization”

Notably, the vast majority of articles are shared infrequently through social channels. In fact, about 275 of the 419 articles we looked at received eight or less social shares:


How Readership, Timing and Social Shares Affect SEO and Earned Media Value - Chart1


Any day is as good as any other

Surprisingly, when it comes to generating social shares, it doesn’t appear to be preferable to post an article on any particular week day. While we did see slight upticks in the average number of social shares on Monday and Friday, the difference wasn’t statistically significant. (Note: we didn’t include weekend articles as we found that a relatively small number of enterprise tech articles actually post on weekends.)

Higher readership doesn’t equate to massive social shares

While there is a correlation between the size of the publication and the number of social shares, it’s much weaker than we anticipated. As the following chart indicates, we saw an increase of less than one social share per every additional 10,000 readers that a publication has.


How Readership, Timing and Social Shares Affect SEO and Earned Media Value - Chart2


In short, it may take very large increases in readership to produce noticeable increases in social shares. So while a goal of maximizing social shares may be a factor in choosing between targeting a major source like The New York Times vs. a small trade outlet, it wouldn’t be a factor in choosing between two publications that have readerships that are within a few hundred thousand of each other–chances are readership size won’t matter noticeably.

Social Shares, in Very High Volumes, May Boost SEO Impact

Finally, we looked at the relationship between social shares and SEO impact. Even though the correlation wasn’t particularly strong, the relationship between increasing the number of social shares and SEO impact was high enough to make social boosting tactics worth considering: on average, an additional 100 social shares could boost the MOZ score by 3 to 7 points (on a 0-100 scale).


How Readership, Timing and Social Shares Affect SEO and Earned Media Value - Chart3


While this increase might not sound like a lot, such a lift could strategically influence a Google page ranking. For instance, a MOZ score boost of only a few points might mean the difference in being ranked above or below a competitor. This is of course a best case scenario, but nevertheless, it is worth considering, particularly since social shares can be organically generated with minimal resources. For example, a best practice that companies should follow is to circulate a “media alert” for every positive article and encourage/reward employees for sharing through their own social channels. In light of our finding that the vast majority of articles for enterprise tech receive eight or fewer shares, companies have an opportunity to differentiate themselves–chances are, their competitors are not putting much effort into social share boosting.

Michael BurkeAbout the Author: Michael Burke has worked with some of the world’s top brands on marketing and PR strategy, including The Myers-Briggs Company and AirBnB, as well as dozens of cutting edge technology clients. As a director and data scientist at MSR Communications, he’s living his dream of applying data science to MarComm.