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In our modern world, social media is now one of the first places where many customers are interacting with businesses. But what is truly interesting to note is that social media now has a strong influence on consumer search behavior, too – and some platforms are turning into veritable search engines themselves.
In fact, 54% of social media users have searched for new brands and their products specifically through a social platform:
Now, all good marketers know that social media plays an incredibly significant role in the marketing mix for both B2B and B2C organizations. But many fail to see the connection between social media and SEO.
To be clear here, social media is not a direct SEO hack. In terms of social media’s influence on search engine optimization though, the lines are still a little bit blurred. Back in 2010, both Google and Bing stated that social signals were being used to determine rankings for the SERPs. However, Twitter temporarily blocked Google’s access in 2014, causing a backlash that resulted in Google announcing that they were changing their policy on social signals.
But although Google has stated that social media does not directly impact SEO, it does still seem to have some effect on the search engine’s ranking factors.
Let’s break down the ways that social media is proven to have significance for search engine optimization.
Social Media's Significance for SEO
First of all, social media influences SEO factors because it can give a business more credibility and visibility – two of the most important ranking signals that Google uses. One of the most basic rules to SEO is to increase the number of internal and external links as well as brand mentions and keywords in order to boost visibility.
The more active your business' social media platforms are, the greater your presence will be on the web – and these accounts will often show up on the SERPs when your brand's name is entered:
Another key SEO factor that social media can influence is intent.
Search engines are constantly trying to offer their users the most relevant results, such as providing an answer to a question. Social media posts (particularly videos) can be used for these results. For instance, when you search for “How to clean out roof gutters” the top results are all YouTube videos – thanks to Google and YouTube’s partnership:
So, if a social post can clearly answer the searcher’s question or contains similar keyword phrasing, it can pop up as a search result.
It is also interesting to note that while Google reportedly does not use social media as a ranking factor, Bing still does. Google certainly has the greatest hold on the market share in terms of online search engines, but keep in mind that about 25% of all queries in 2018 were handled by Microsoft’s service.
So, clearly, social media comes into play in some form or another – and marketers should be paying attention and incorporating social media tactics into their SEO strategies. Although the use of social media cannot guarantee your business a top spot in the SERPs, it can help in several ways.
Let’s discuss some actionable strategies that your marketing team should be using in order to influence their SEO with social media.
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Use Social Media to Promote Relevant Links
Although social media does not currently qualify as a dofollow external link per say on Google, sharing on-site content through your social accounts can boost visibility. Furthermore, people will often share content that they find interesting or relevant to their own followers, which can help improve your business’ credibility and online social presence while simultaneously reaching wider audiences.
However, it seems that social engagement does play a role in Google’s ranking factors. According to Moz’s latest report, social signals (including Facebook and Twitter engagement rates) made up to 3.47% of Google’s ranking factors. While this number is pretty small, it is interesting to note that Google recognizes the importance of social engagement and puts it into consideration when determining search rankings.
Clearly, the kind of content that you are sharing on your social media certainly matters if you want to increase engagement rates. The reason that most people will actively follow a brand or share a post is because they find the content useful, humorous or insightful.
But it is also interesting to note the kind of content that people do not want to see from businesses on social platforms.
Sprout Social’s survey found that 41% of people will unfollow a brand if they don’t share information that is relevant to them, and 30% would unfollow if they found that the content didn’t necessarily fit with the brand’s voice:
Filler content can often hurt a business’s online engagement rates. When brands share content that doesn’t necessarily resonate with their audience, engagement numbers tend to be fairly low.
Some companies mistakenly think that the best way to build engagement is by sharing content that is similar to “normal” accounts, such as funny memes or by asking leading questions to incentivize people to answer in the comments. However, this kind of content really has nothing to do with the business’ target audience, so it does not generate meaningful engagement.
These posts are also often a result of the company trying to hit their posting quota for Facebook. Instead, your business’ social pages should be focused on sharing content that drives genuine engagement because it is directly applicable to your followers.
If you take a look at review platform Trustpilot's Facebook page, you can see that they often share links directly to their company blog about subjects that are highly relevant and informative for their audience:
And as a result, these posts receive great engagement and are more likely to be shared.
Also, using social platforms to promote internal links is a win-win. It generally has higher engagement due to relevancy and it can also help to grow organic traffic as followers share it on their own personal pages, driving new traffic when they follow the link.
As always, when it comes to sharing on social platforms, the most important thing to remember is connecting with your audience.People follow brands on social media in order to learn more about the company or their products and gain access to exclusive content – not to share generic information. Click To Tweet
By keeping your focus on content relevancy, you can significantly grow engagement numbers, which will, in turn, help your overall SEO.
Optimize Your Profiles with Important Information
Remember, social media platforms are turning into search engines of their own these days. It is now quite common for people to look for a company's contact information on their Facebook or LinkedIn account page. Plus, Google will also use this data to create profiles with relevant information for search queries.
You can see how social media information comes into play for Paw Commons Pet Resort. Google pulled data from their Facebook account specifically to highlight reviews – and a direct link to their account is listed right in their Google profile:
Customer reviews are another important SEO factor. Moz’s report also states that review signals (including quantity, velocity and diversity) make up 15.44% of ranking factors.
By publishing customer reviews on Facebook and other social platforms, you can work to increase rating visibility. This not only influences your ranking, but it can also help you draw in more customers.
The average customer reads at least ten online reviews before they feel that they can trust a business. By making these reviews even easier to find through social channels, you can simultaneously improve trust and nurture more conversions.
Marketers should be well aware of ways to use their social media profiles to supplement necessary information that Google often searches for during common customer queries. Facebook and LinkedIn are the primary sources for basic contact information, such as the office or store address, hours of operation, and phone numbers.
Remember that this doesn’t just apply to your company social accounts. If people within your company use their personal social profiles to promote their work or are considered thought leaders in their industry, then they should be optimizing their profiles as well.
For example, people can include a link to their company website in their Twitter and Instagram bios to help boost brand awareness every time they share a piece of insight:
Including these links and information can also be quite useful for Google when users are searching for specific people who work for a business, such as trying to find the CFO, CMO or head of HR.
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Use Social Channels to Build Awareness
Finally, social media can have a more indirect influence on SEO by building brand recognition that leads to organic traffic. So many customers are now learning about brands and products directly through social channels, whether it be by searching for them specifically – such as using Pinterest to find a piece of furniture – or following influencer accounts that share them.
It is really good for all businesses to diversify their reach by using multiple social platforms to engage with different segments. Every social channel offers their own unique spin on networking, and the people who use them have different preferences and intent.
Take a look at research from Convince and Convert. The age groups for the most popular social platforms vary pretty widely, with LinkedIn, Pinterest and WhatsApp being more widely used with audiences over the age of 35. Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter, on the other hand, have more users under the age of 35:
By diversifying their content specifically for each channel, businesses can grow their followership by connecting with wider audiences. Brands need to take advantage of these platforms and see how they can work their content into their sales strategy to boost recognition – and drive traffic to their site.
There are several ways to do this:
1) Create Viral-Type Content that Fits Each Channel
As much as audiences vary from channel to channel, so do their preferences and motivations. Sites like YouTube and Twitter are best for helping audiences discover new things, whereas Instagram and Snapchat are better for building more personal connections:
In order to create highly engaging content, marketers should adjust their content based on the why behind each platform.
For instance, YouTube is most commonly used for discovery and entertainment. The marketers at BlendTec decided to capitalize on this by creating their own show called “Will It Blend” – which features their powerful product.
They have tried to blend everything from an iPad to a baseball – and many of their episodes have hundreds of thousands of views along with 877,000 subscribers. This content fits in well with the intent of YouTube and builds awareness in a fun and engaging way.
2) Partner with the Right Influencers
There’s no doubt that influencer marketing is a popular way for brands to grow their reach. But can it help with SEO?
Again, it won’t have a direct influence, but it is one way to build up awareness. Plus, it can drive traffic to your website if influencers embed links in their blogs or tag your company name in their posts.
For example, Herdez recently partnered with food blogger and influencer Emilie Eats to promote their guacamole salsa. Emilie created a recipe that was shared on her Instagram, with Herdez tagged in the post:
Emilie also shared the recipe on her blog, which had an embedded link to Herdez’s website:
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3) Build Non-Promotional Brand Awareness
You don’t just need to focus on promoting products and services via social channels; they are also an opportunity to build awareness about more important subjects that really matter to your audience.
Customers these days really appreciate brands that take a stand on social topics, such as human rights, environmentalism or even political views. For example, the clothing brand Aerie focuses a lot on diversity and inclusion, along with body positivity. Their posts have a lot more to do with promoting realistic body types and supporting causes like the Special Olympics than just selling clothes:
People tend to be more likely to share content that supports a cause they feel passionate about, as opposed to a post with an outfit they like. Non-promotional content can be extremely beneficial for growing awareness in a positive way.
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Although social media may not be a direct SEO ranking factor today, there is little doubt that things could change as these networking platforms become even more important in the sales cycle.
However, there are certainly some search benefits that social media can offer brands, so marketers need to understand how to capitalize on them to improve their SEO strategies.