Because social media shares are not Google ranking factors, many companies ignore social media in their SEO efforts. That’s a mistake for two reasons.
First, while social media shares have no direct impact on SEO rankings, shares can indirectly improve SEO in very meaningful ways.
Second, other aspects of social media marketing aside from shares have a positive effect on SEO.
This article explores six of the most important ways social media improves SEO.
1. Backlink Generation
Backlinks are a tremendously important ranking factor — so much so that an SEO campaign may devote well over 50% of its budget to developing high-quality backlinks.
Social media shares encourage backlinks — when your social media marketing activities are conducted with SEO in mind. What does that mean?
- First, it means your social network community is designed to attract followers with an enthusiastic interest in reading and sharing content about your company, products, services, and/or industry. For the most part, such followers will be customers, prospects, industry peers, suppliers, and people in related industries. These are the people who are interested in linking to your shared content on their blogs and websites.
- Second, it means that your social media communication strategy includes and perhaps emphasizes scheduled sharing of on-site content strategically important to your SEO campaign. While having backlinks to any page of your website is helpful, links to those pages that you want to rank highly produce the best SEO results.
- Third, it means that the quality of your shared on-site content is high. Google’s algorithm evaluates content qualitatively. If your content is relevant, free of grammatical errors, useful, engaging, and authoritative, it will inspire people to link to it.
Fourth, it means that you engage followers on social media to encourage or even request a backlink. This is best done personally and selectively–blanket social media messages asking for links are interpreted as overly self-promotional and will backfire.
2. YouTube Optimization
YouTube is the world’s largest social media platform and the world’s second largest search engine, exceeded only by its parent company, Google. Optimizing video on YouTube and connecting your YouTube videos to your website have tremendous SEO value. An optimized YouTube channel and keyword-optimized YouTube videos generate views on YouTube and then send relevant traffic to your website. If your videos do a great job of selling your products and services, that referred traffic will generate conversions, the overriding goal of any SEO campaign.
Keep in mind that video is a search category for Google. Videos posted on your YouTube channel may rank very well for general searches on Google when properly optimized. If your business involves products or services that need to be seen to be sold, you cannot afford to overlook YouTube’s SEO potential.
3. Instagram Optimization
Everything about YouTube and SEO applies to Instagram and SEO.
Instagram is an excellent platform for products and services that are visually interesting — which can be just about anything if you approach your marketing creatively. For instance, plumbing is not a particularly glamorous industry, but photos that depict the steps to install a showerhead will be extremely useful and interesting to the Instagram community when the need arises. If you connect your Instagram photos to your SEO strategy, especially in terms of images containing your target keywords, you will improve your brand’s visibility for your most important products and services, as well as generate referred traffic from Instagram to your website when people are in the market for what you sell.
4. High-ranking Social Profiles in Google SERPs
Your social media profile pages may rank higher on Google SERPs (search engine results pages) than your website content. This can even hold true for branded searches: for instance, a company’s LinkedIn profile page often outranks its website’s home page. Facebook profile pages also tend to rank highly for branded searches, and branded search queries may generate a section for your company’s tweets on the SERP.
Depending on what the Google user is looking for, links to your social media content on Google SERPs may attract a considerable number of clicks. If your social media content is well optimized, with links pointing to your website — including links to the home page and strategically important SEO pages — those clicks can ultimately result in conversions.
With respect to Twitter, keep in mind your most recent tweets may appear in their entirety on Google SERPs. Make sure your tweets always reflect well on your brand and inspire clicks from your target prospects.
5. Boosting Conversions
Facebook profile pages have an important feature: customer reviews. If you cultivate positive customer reviews on Facebook, you will not only improve your brand perception, but you will also give your SEO campaign a very large helping hand.
That customer reviews strongly influence buying decisions is a well-known fact. For this reason, your Facebook page can help close sales after SEO has brought visitors directly from Google to your website. Why? Because these SEO visitors will want to check out your company’s Facebook reviews before they make a buying decision. Social media thus becomes a component of your SEO campaign’s conversion strategy. The path is: Google search ̶ to website ̶ to Facebook profile ̶ to website ̶ to inquiry form submission or online order. Complex … but common!
While other social media sites don’t feature formal customer reviews, they do reveal what sort of communication you have with customers. Again, search engine traffic to your website will lead interested prospects to explore your social media pages to better understand how you engage with your customers and how being your customer would feel. What conclusions will they reach based on your social media customer interactions?
6. Improving Website Ranking Factors
As illustrated throughout this article, when visitors come to your website from social media sources, they are likely to be very interested in what you sell. This high level of interest is important from an SEO perspective because it encourages website activity that Google loves to see: long visits, visits to multiple website pages, repeat visits, and low bounce rates. By improving the quantity and quality of your website’s traffic, social media thus helps improve your website’s overall authority and thus its rankings.
It’s Not Automatic
A key takeaway from all this is that while social media can help SEO, this doesn’t happen by itself. What is needed is ongoing communication between your SEO and social marketing teams, a unified strategy, carefully executed activities and high standards for content quality.
Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, a Chicago-based Internet marketing company that specializes in SEO. With decades of marketing, sales and management experience, Shorr has written for leading online publications including Forbes and Entrepreneur, and for the American Marketing Association.