Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has evolved from what once was a strictly technical orchestration of architecture and coding designed to speak to search engines. Now, successful SEO is a complex weave of technical strategies with consumer-based marketing techniques and sophisticated personalization of user experiences. A significant and rapidly growing factor in a comprehensive SEO strategy now is the strategic use of social media. It pays off to know social media’s impact on SEO and to leverage it for the success of business.
What is Social Media?
Social Media is a blanket term for the many online sites where users can easily establish a profile or brand presence, and interact with one another directly. One can write posts, comment on what others are doing, or share what they find by passing the information along to other users. This is the opposite of more traditional websites, where there is an owner/provider of content that is monitored for multiple consumers. Instead, social media sites are public and interactive places where many voices are heard and shared. Current popular social media sites are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, Quora, and Reddit.
Social Media by the Numbers
Social media participation is vast and growing. According to Brandwatch, in July 2015 there were 2.3 billion active social media users worldwide, with another 1 million added every day. Facebook is the single biggest player, averaging 1.09 billion active daily users worldwide as of March 2016. Twitter reports 310 million active monthly users. YouTube traffic has increased 40% per year since 2014 and totals 4 billion total views per day. For organizations trying to attract followers or customers, these numbers are too big to ignore.
How Can Social Media Affect SEO?
Current search engine algorithms evaluate websites and determine ranking based on a variety of factors. Among the most important are relevancy and value. Relevancy is fairly straightforward, primarily based on keywords. If someone searches for a certain word or phrase, those keywords are what the search engine uses to find that information so that it’s relevant to the searcher. Value is a more subjective factor. Search engines determine the value of a site partly based on its popularity. Popularity is determined by how many people visit the site, and how many links there are to that site from others. Search engines assume that if a site has many visitors (who stay and interact with the site) and many links to it from reputable outside sources, then it’s probably a valuable site. Both factors help to elevate the ranking of a site in the SERPs.
Perceived value and popularity of a site or a brand can be significantly enhanced through social media. When social media users like, follow, share or comment about a site or a company, brand awareness naturally grows. Each endorsement or recommendation of the brand or the site increases its authority and trustworthiness because people are more likely to trust a recommendation from someone they know, or from someone they know has no vested interest in that company. More tangibly, this activity also increases the number of published links back to the site on all of these different social profiles. If the people they’ve shared it with also share it (and then they share it), this growth can become exponential. It’s the essence of an organic, grassroots campaign that can elevate an organization’s growth and revenue dramatically.
Best Social Media Practices to Boost SEO
Overall, the most effective social media strategy is simply to be where the target audience is, with a consistent and effective message, actively working to attract and engage users.
On social media, location matters. For instance, a brand whose message would be delivered effectively through video would benefit from a presence on YouTube. Pinterest is a popular site for crafts, home decorating, fashion, beauty, and food. Google+ has a reputation for being populated with tech-loving users. LinkedIn is focused on business, and Twitter is especially known for current events or popular culture. Ideally, an effective campaign utilizes multiple social sites and determines which ones are best for their outreach, after some experimentation.
As you would for a website, keywords matter within social media; many platforms provide a search function for finding people and profiles as well as topics. Twitter hashtags support trending topics by connecting those keywords.
Consistency across multiple platforms is important for brand awareness, although different platforms require different approaches. Twitter only allows 140-character tweets (posts), so brevity is a virtue there. YouTube only supports video, but Facebook can support text posts, images, recorded videos or live streaming videos.
No matter the platform, it’s important that users can identify the brand quickly and easily, typically through the company logo. However, a consistent tone or ‘voice’ contributes to recognition, too.
Because link-building matters, each social profile of an organization, as well as each post or status update, should have a link back to the website posted clearly.
Engage the Brand
The primary goal of a good social media and SEO strategy is to engage users with the brand. There is a multitude of ways to do that within each social media platform:
- post helpful ‘how-to’ tips or informative articles
- post a video
- ask a question
- start a discussion on a relevant topic
- post a quiz or a survey
- offer a reward for a specific action
It can be helpful to simply ask users to share material or follow a company. The higher quality of the content, the more likely that is to happen. Some companies engage with individual followers or share interesting or inspiring stories from customers. Striving to achieve a humanizing voice on an individual level can make any organization more likable and therefore more popular and shared.
Optimize Content for Social
Effective social media practices also apply to the content posted outside of social media platforms, on an organization’s actual website. The key is to optimize posts for social media. Start by producing high-quality content users will want to share, such as articles, videos, infographics, fun quizzes, etc. Attention-grabbing titles and easy-to-read text are important because social media users typically scan material quickly. Images are critical for the same reason. The adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words” can be quite accurate on social media. Social sharing buttons on each article or blog make it easy for users to share content to the masses. These buttons require only a click to share the material on the corresponding social media site.
Social + SEO = Success
Social media is constantly changing and evolving, but it has such a big impact on SEO which makes it worth learning how to effectively use. Together, they can increase brand awareness and revenue for any organization.