10 min read
Have you ever come across a topic where no one tells you what exactly is going on?
The effects of social media on SEO rankings is one such elusive topic in the digital world.
I decided to cover this topic because I wasn’t satisfied with the answers. I wanted to deep dive into how social media affects SEO because I see immense potential for business here.
Matt Cutts instantly shattered a popular marketing belief when he said-
“Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index.”
With this video, he ended speculations about the effect that social media has on SEO.
Sadly for many of us, Google does not take into account how popular you are on social media before deciding your SERP’s.
For SEO experts this is old news. However, the topic somehow manages to pique interest even today.
Moreover, with good reason.
For one, the sheer volume of users on social media, Facebook at 2.32 billion and Twitter at 321 million active users, are some of the greatest mediums of our times to reach a targeted audience. (Source)
Then how can it be that Google ignores such fantastic mediums of marketing before deciding SERP’s?
A while ago, there was a trial of sorts between Google and Twitter that went awry.
Search Engine Land reported that “Google’s agreement with Twitter to carry its results has expired, taking with it much of the content that was in the service with it.” (Source)
In response, Matt Cutts (from Google at the time) said in the above video-
“Search engines crawl the web looking for pages and collecting information to rank them better. However, if a site or page were to block this access (Twitter for example), there would be no way of tracking data, leading to inaccurate results.”
Users update content on their social media profiles by the second.
Google does not want to rely on social media signals that might not exist tomorrow.
Suppose user Y follows user Z. A few seconds later user Z blocks user Y for inappropriate language. The search engine would continue displaying the earlier relationship until it becomes aware of this update.
Then how is it possible that more than 58% of marketers who have been using social media for one year or longer improved search engine rankings?
An interesting study, “Project Elephant,” was conducted in 2018 by social media management company Hootsuite to understand the question:
Can social media help improve search rank?
To start with, blog articles were divided into three categories. The content was published and monitored for over two weeks. The categories were:
And the results were:
The experiment was limited to Twitter, but we can assume the conclusion to apply to most social media platforms.
The fact that posting on social media has a direct impact on search visibility was thus established. If you’d like more details on the experiment, here’s the link.
This is excellent news for us marketers because no one believes that social media can have a direct impact on the bottom line of business. Also, our jobs are always on the line for lack of numbers. This study arms us with enough evidence to go ahead and invest in the medium of our choice.
Here are some tips on social media behavior that can add value to your SEO ranking:
Intermittently, I keep meeting clients who want to have the same strategy across all social media channels.
Their content calendar has a single post for each handle that they want to resize, reword and post on different handles.
Given that each channel has a different way of engaging their users, how is that supposed to work?
Look at this stat for reference.
Engagement with brands on Instagram is ten times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest, and 84 times higher than Twitter. (Source)
Which means that if you choose Instagram for your brand, then you need to work on creating a fantastic visual journey through your account.
Take a look at these Apple accounts on different channels:
View this post on Instagram
Commissioned by Apple. "I enjoy the fact I can capture my ideas and share them instantly with the world. I typically have a sketchbook filled with ideas and doodles that I constantly go back to. I used a very sturdy tripod, studio lights, iPhone, and seamless background paper to create these animations.” #stopmotion #ShotoniPhone by Evan H. @hiltonic_
A post shared by apple (@apple) on
On Instagram, they tag the handles of users who provide them with visual content. Whereas, on Facebook, they cross-promote Youtube where longer video content is available.
If you don’t have the time to manage multiple accounts, then choose a handle that suits your schedule and company the best.
Your expectations from and hence the strategy for each handle should be different. Organically build a user base that is responsive and ready to engage with you.
A substantial yet unresponsive following on any handle is a wasted investment. Once you have gained the trust of your audience, you can begin to harness the power of social media for SEO by diverting traffic to your website.
The screenshots below are a glaring example of the difference in not just strategies but effort as well.
With 17.5 m followers, Starbucks makes a powerful statement with its fun and exciting content.
On the other hand, Nestle Coffeemate with 22k followers has content that you wouldn’t see the point of scrolling through.
You see what I mean.
Be honest about what your audience wants to see.
Your brand’s product promotion in every single post is definitely not one of the reasons people will follow you.
This becomes even more essential because you want to increase the share-ability of your content.
Share-ability increases the lifespan of a piece of content, showing up on feeds repeatedly when users engage with it.
Content that is made with effort and thought shows. People don’t mind navigating off a social media platform if they see value in it.
Focus on not just great visuals but also the real offer behind the visuals. If you want to boost your SEO with the help of social media then you want to create a deal that’s click-worthy and of real value to someone.
Posting on social media can:
Backlinks are a definite ranking booster. However, if a person shares your content on their profile, it won’t count as a backlink. The link has to come from a website or blog that has a high authority domain.
If an influencer has shared your article on social media, you can contact them and ask for a backlink through their website. Most times people won’t mind because everyone is looking for fresh and engaging content.
Our team at (business name) wanted to thank you for sharing our post about (topic) on your profile. Our team worked very hard on creating this piece.
We are small and new, and this helped us get some amazing traffic to our social media handle.
We wanted to see if your team could give us a backlink or mention on your website for the same article on one of your blog posts. It would really benefit us with our SEO.
Thanks for the mention and your time.
An external link to your online property could be included in your social media bio or a post about your company. This will redirect followers who are interested in knowing more about you to your website.
Take a look at how booking.com uses external links in their bio to drive traffic to their website where the offer is.
When a user shares a post on their timeline, their followers will view, engage or share the post. This will contribute to traffic being driven to your website.
For example, look at this post by Tesla that earned @kristinabunny and @minimal_duck a link to their profile. Tesla has 5.7 million followers. Imagine how much traffic this post would’ve boosted for these two users.
Earning links is a long term plan. Make sure that you keep working with that goal in mind.
Create content that connects well with influencers to earn backlinks that can shoot up your popularity.
The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule has had its share of recognition in the world of social media marketing.
It states that 80% of your social media posts should be non-promotional, i.e. inform, educate, and entertain your audience, while only 20% should directly promote your business.
However, as in any creative field, there is always a counter to any principle.
Tanya Hall, CEO of Greenleaf Book Group, begs to differ. She says, “There isn’t one single perfect percentage that will be a magic potion to boost your social media presence overnight.” (Source)
I agree with both.
While each individual and business is unique, continually promoting your business without adding any value to your follower base is almost a crime in the world of social media.
Take a look at this fantastic campaign by Domino’s Pizza last year.
I love pizza. I would follow a pizza brand solely for the food visuals. However, Domino’s knows it takes more than excellent food photography to stay on top.
They launched a campaign called “Paving for pizza” that made pizza fans go crazy.
The motto: “Bad roads shouldn’t happen to good pizza.”
The mission: To repair customer nominated cracks and potholes so pizzas can reach homes safely.
It was a campaign that combined food and a social cause, which frankly is not so uncommon.
The messaging however touches a soft spot for pizza lovers.
Watch the full ad to know what I mean:
Domino’s looked like Pizza heroes with this campaign.
Domino’s has carved a niche by successfully launching many such campaigns.
Here’s another campaign called Pizza Turnaround that’s original and is addressing a real problem.
When rolling out a campaign, use the same messaging throughout your website and social media handles.
Use UTM parameters on each handle to effectively track which handle is giving you the best response. You could even use call tracking services if your campaign requires people to call you.
Creative campaigns are a great way to establish yourself as a brand and increase brand recognition. Asking people to visit your site becomes plain sailing when your offer is well composed.
When you search for ‘bill gates,’ the below screenshots are the top results.
It’s composed of Tweets by Bill Gates and some Youtube videos about his life. This is an effect of social SEO. Social SEO encompasses optimizing your page for increasing your discoverability.
Which means that you cannot leave out important information or keywords while filling out your profiles description. You want to make sure that you include the phrases people are searching with.
Your keywords, hashtags, and NAP (name, address and phone number) need to be consistent with every single digital property you build, including social media.
Even when you are uploading content, plan your keywords and hashtags with each update to match the ones on your website.
Suppose you are a bakery and its Easter. You know the keywords people will be searching for are ‘easter bunny cake’ and ‘easter eggs’ with bakes or cookies as variations to this search. Uploading a post with a picture of your merchandise is not enough.
You need a copy that is descriptive and has hashtags that people and Google can find you with.
See how we made sure that the critical information is there but is woven into the description.
Engage with your audience, reply to comments and post frequently. Be an active member of the social media community.
When selecting the keywords, you are working with keeping the following advice from Long Tail Pro guide in mind:
“Generalized keyword terms are hard to rank for due to the high level of competition. For instance, the term ‘pizza,’ has over half a billion competing sites with six million searches. The front page of Google for the term ‘pizza,’ is dominated by big brand names like Pizza Hut, Domino’s, and Papa Johns.
If you’re hoping to rank nationally or globally for the search term ‘pizza’ – well, good luck with that, you could spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to rank for ‘pizza’ and never get anywhere.”
Remember all the boring fields you left out while making a profile?
Well, go back to it and fill in every little field that you can to make it easier for the channels to understand who you are.
Do not ignore Google+ on your list. Google loves it when you play in their sandbox.
Fill out every little detail that you can.
If your website is not already optimized for local SEO, click on this link.
Keep your company, personal or blog information updated on your handles.
Social media is recognizing how important local SEO is and has started to display results accordingly.
Search for a store, and it displays results according to your location, just like Google.
However, it gets even better with Facebook’s local insight for businesses.
It shows you the demographics of the people near your store who saw your ads.
This works well for physical stores and measuring the foot traffic coming into the store with the help of an ad.
Don’t ignore Google Plus when creating a social media strategy. It helps Google know how accurate your information is across platforms and rank you better because you look trustworthy.
Social media platforms are showing impressive search capabilities and are being hailed as the next big thing in competition with search engines.
What happens next is the only speculation for now.
In the meantime, tell us in the comments what makes your social media handle differently.