For any business that wants to establish a web presence, social media is a must. Establishing yourself on social networks like Twitter and Facebook is at the core of an effective marketing and branding strategy. But it also has a significant impact on search engine optimization – though perhaps not for the reasons you might expect.
Search engine optimization has always involved a certain degree of guesswork.
Certainly, Google has released guidelines to help us along – we know for a fact that certain things are ranking factors, even if we don’t always know their precise impact. Page speed and performance. Mobile compatibility and website secure. Content quality and content length.
Over the years, there’s been a lot of contention over what impact, if any, activity on websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube has on a website’s position in the rankings. On the one hand, Google has been a bit flighty on the issue – engineer Matt Cutts has both said that social signals are a factor in ranking and later made the opposite claim. Similarly, the jury is still out on whether or not backlinks from social media count as links from an authoritative source.
On the other hand, evidence that social media success has a direct correlation to website success isn’t exactly difficult to find. As noted by Search Engine Journal, social media isn’t a ranking factor, doesn’t mean it does not have any impact on rankings. It’s just that the impact it has is a bit more subtle – a bit more indirect.
Because whether or not Google claims otherwise, there’s definitely a correlation. A business with a high number of likes, shares, and follows on Facebook does better on Google. Multiple studies have confirmed this.
The power of social networks lies in the influence they create, and every social metric is ultimately a means of measuring that influence. By generating conversation around your brand, they help you create a following and spread awareness to people who might otherwise never know you. By helping you cultivate strong relationships with your audience, they establish you as a trusted name in your industry.
All of these factors contribute to your business’s reputation – and by association, the reputation of any websites your business maintains. And reputation matters a great deal, especially considering Google’s recent algorithm updates. They’re all about quality – about helping Google direct people to the best possible search results for their needs.
About Expertise, Authority, and Trust – or E-A-T, as they’re referred to in Google’s content quality guidelines.
Said guidelines are fairly extensive, enough so that we could compose an entire piece on their intricacies. Instead, we’re going to focus on how social media can be a signifier of content – and website – quality. It’s a bit of a complex interplay, but what it comes down to is this.
A business with a passionate following on social media gradually becomes better-known to the world at large. By working with both fans and influencers, it starts to make a name for itself. And with that increased visibility comes increased engagement, improved traffic, and higher conversions.
If it helps, here’s a simple analogy. Imagine a small business sets up shop in a new town. At first, nobody knows what to think about the business or how to feel.
The owner, however, quickly becomes active in the community. They host fun events that bring everyone together, actively reach out seeking friendships, and prioritize providing expert service to the customers they do receive. Eventually, people start talking.
And as people talk, they consider more and more that this business might be worth their time – that they should patronize it.
Social networks are like that small town on a grander scale. They’re supercharged word-of-mouth marketing. And just as establishing yourself as a leader in the community can make you more trusted and beloved, establishing yourself as a leader on social media goes a long way towards promoting a positive brand reputation.
It’s also worth considering that social networks all have their own search engines, each with its own rules and ecosystem. An understanding of these search engines should be part of your SEO strategy. It should be treated with the same importance as on-page SEO.
Right. Safe to say we’ve established why social media is important to search engine optimization. Now all that’s left is guiding you through how you can use it to boost your ranking.
We have a few starting recommendations to that end.
1. Find your brand’s voice
What do all the most successful brands and figures on social media have in common? With very few exceptions, it’s that each of them has created their own distinctive personality. Their own unique voice.
Take a look at your audience and how they communicate with one another? What other brands do they follow, and what is their attitude towards those brands?
More importantly, look at your own business. What values does your brand represent? What ideals is your organization founded upon?
These are all factors you need to consider – because together, they’ll inform your tone and language.
2. Be as descriptive as possible in your profile
What is your business, and what does it do? Where are you located? What other social channels do you maintain, and what’s the best way to reach you?
The key here is to be as descriptive as possible while remaining concise. Anyone viewing your social media account should be able to tell your brand identity at a glance. Additionally, make sure you include high-quality imagery on your profiles.
3. Create high-quality, shareable content
What do your users want to see? Answer that question, and focus your content strategy around that. Establish a good content cadence – maybe a few posts a week at first. And for content on your website, include social sharing buttons.
When sharing content directly to a social network, optimize it for search on that particular network. Use the right keywords and hashtags. Include eye-catching, rich media. Video performs particularly well across all platforms, but especially on Facebook and Twitter.
And don’t forget to leverage each social network’s unique functionality – Twitter’s ability to create curated lists of influential feeds, Facebook Events, Instagram stories, etc.
4. Spend time as a user – not just as a business
At the end of the day, social media is about relationships. Your interactions on social, regardless of what network you use, should be predicated on that fact. Seek to be an active member of the community first, and a business owner second.
Join groups related to your industry, and provide advice based on your expertise. Interact with your fans by sharing playful updates every now and then – not every post needs to include a CTA back to your products. Augment your own content with third-party posts you feel would be useful to your followers.
In other words, treat social networks as communities – not just selling tools.
The best advice I can give someone who’s trying to figure out the ins and outs of search engine optimization can be summed up in one phrase: focus on your audience. Understand and respond to their needs, provide them with content and services that are valuable to them, and actively engage with them on social media in a way that resonates. If that sounds more like marketing and outreach than search engine optimization, that’s no accident.
These days, they’re more intertwined than you might expect.