With Facebook at over 1 billion members, Twitter with 645 million members, and Google+ passing the 300 million user mark, it’s evident social networks are a great place to connect with consumers. And although social media has many marketing benefits in its own right, it’s also a powerful SEO tool.
Social Media’s Influence on SEO
How exactly does social media impact SEO? Here are three examples:
Increases Organic Search Rankings
One of the ways search engines decide how to rank site listings is by their perceived value. Of course, search engines are computers and not people so they can’t make their own judgements, which means they must rely on specific data to help them decide what is really worthwhile. Part of the data they look at is social media signals (tweets, “likes,” +1′s, comments, etc.). Basically, the more social signals your content receives the greater its chances of ranking higher in search listings.
You can improve the number of social media signals your brand receives by having awesome content that motivates people to “like” and share it. You should also make your content easier to share by having prominent social buttons available on every page of your website.
Gives You More Exposure
Both Google and Bing offer social search options for their users. This means, when someone enters a query into a search box they are given both organic results and results from their “friends.” If your business happens to be that person’s friend, any content you’ve ever posted which relates to their query will appear at the top of their search listings — this gives you high rankings just by being associated with them!
Still, even if someone isn’t a friend or fan of your business, you can still appear in their personalized search results if one of their friends has ever mentioned your brand.
For example, let’s say you’re in the air conditioning repair business and Google+ user, Jan, is using social search to find an air conditioning repair service. She’s unaware of your brand and doesn’t follow you through any social networks; however, she is a Google+ friend of Betty who recently used your services and wrote a positive comment on your Google Places page. A link to Betty’s comment appears in Jan’s search listings and, because Jan is a friend of Betty, she clicks on that link and sees your brand. Since Jan knows and trusts Betty,Voilà, she decides to choose your business for her AC repair.
A similar scenario occurs between Bing and Facebook users, so by being socially connected, you not only increase your exposure but make your brand appear more trustworthy — a surefire way to increase traffic and conversions.
Connects You to the Mobile Crowd
Social networking and mobile devices go hand in hand, and overall user time spent on mobile gadgets is soon expected to surpass time spent on desktop computers. Thus, more social shares and consumer to brand interactions are happening mobily. This means by participating in social networks you have greater access to the rapidly growing mobile audience, and having your brand always available to people no matter where they are creates the possibility for more likes, shares, traffic, and all the things that make up good SEO.
Of course, it also helps to have a mobile friendly website and to create content suitable for devices with smaller screens and for people on-the-go.
Best Ways to Take Advantage of Social SEO
In response to the social media boom, Google, Bing, and others have tweaked their algorithms to place more weight on social media interactions. This means a webpage’s ranking is largely determined by people’s “votes” (i.e. the number of likes, shares, comments, retweets, etc.) After all, what greater way for a search engine to deliver meaningful results than by taking cues from real humans?
If you want your business to stay competitive online, you have to join the social media game. And not only must you play the game, to improve your SEO, you have to play the game well.
Here are some strategies for optimizing your social activities:
1. Brand Your Posts
By using your brand name in posts, Google can more easily associate your name with your chosen keywords. This will make it easier for search engines and users to know what you’re about, and it allows you to promote your actual business name instead of an individual’s social profile.
It’s important to push a cohesive brand image and “personality” across all your digital channels. This includes traditional things like always using the same logo and design as well as having each channel support the messages delivered on your other web properties. For instance, if your website says you’re a “fun” company that loves helping people then prove your point by using your social network page to chat with customers, answer questions, and provide light-hearted entertainment.
Also, always encourage or entice visitors to checkout your other sites as it provides more opportunities for engagement, and the traffic will help your search rankings.
2. Choose Relevant Communities
There are hundreds of social media sites out there, and they all have their own vibe and general interests. If your brand doesn’t fit in with the community, don’t try to force it on them – there are plenty of other networks to choose from. Instead, join sites where members are truly interested in your products or services and where others in your industry hang out.
3. Have Links to Social Accounts on Business Webpage
When you place your social links directly on your website homepage, Googlebots can readily see that those particular profiles belong to your company. Being able to connect your entire web presence strengthens your credibility and gives more keyword power to both your social and website pages.
4. Join Google+
It’s true, Google+ is not the most popular social network, yet businesses that join Google+ are getting awesome paybacks in the forms of greater exposure and improvements in local search rankings. Whether you attract a lot of visitors to these pages or not, just being a member can help your SEO.
5. Set up Author Tags
Google has a relatively new feature that lets online writers link their author information next to everything they create. Once set up, your picture will appear in search listings beside all your articles, blog postings, etc. Additionally, users can easily click on your name to access your Google+ page and discover more of your content. Having all your publications connected can give you greater SEO influence.
6. Tweet for Faster Indexing
Twitter’s millions of members and powerful status means it gets indexed way faster than your lowly (comparatively speaking) business blog. However, you can ride on Twitter’s coattails by posting urgent messages or links to other content directly in your tweets. Like everything on the social network, they will get indexed right away.
7. More is Better
While you always want to have quality followers, social media is never a case of ‘less is more.’ It’s always about getting additional followers, likes, shares, comments, backlinks, retweets, etc. So, always keep pushing and reaching out to new people, because the more you have the better you will rank.
8. Make Videos and Images Your Best Friend
Currently internet users are very image-centric, which is reflected in the popularity of sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube, and The Chive. Sometimes looking at pictures is just easier than reading, and they certainly have the ability to deliver a message much faster than words alone. Quite simply, if you want to get people’s attention, put interesting images in all your posts.
Not to mention, YouTube is the second largest search engine, so if you haven’t yet created a YouTube channel, then you are missing out on a wealth of SEO opportunities as well as the chance to connect with folks in their medium of choice.
9. Make it Nearly Impossible for People Not to Share Your Stuff
When someone reads a fascinating article, has a belly laugh over a picture, or discovers a load of helpful facts in an infograph, he can’t help but share it with someone else – people have some sort of innate desire to show off what they’ve found. If you can provide such sharable content, you’re stuff will spread like wildfire, and your site will soar to the top of the rankings.
10. Use Keywords
Just as keywords are used in blogs and on websites, you can incorporate them into your social content to make it easier for interested users to find your stuff and to get the attention of search engines (remember, everything in social media now influences search results).
Start by integrating keywords that you already use on your website, and use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to pinpoint other relevant keywords. Just keep in mind, the most searched words aren’t always best since they come with a lot of competition. So sometimes it is smarter to choose lower volume keywords that more specifically match your niche and are not as competitive.
When using your keywords, try to incorporate them into your titles as much as possible as they carry the most weight in the “eyes” of search engines. Sometimes this can be a pain to do when you’re trying to come up with something catchy, but it’s worth the effort and, with a little creativity, you can use your keywords and have a captivating title.
11. Analyze the Data
Data tracking has long been a strategy for standard SEO, and it’s equally helpful with social SEO. In fact, with Google Analytics, you can specifically track the social media traffic to your website.
To do this, just create a custom segment in your Google Analytics Report:
- Go to your dashboard, click on “Traffic Sources”
- Click “create a new advanced segment”
- From there you can add your “sources” for the new segment, which should include all the social networks you associate with. To make sure the program accounts for all traffic, just use the networks’ names (e.g. Facebook) and not their URLs (e.g. Facebook.com).
Google Analytics is great tool because you can track the success of the links you have posted. Not only does it show the URL, it also shows the numbers of visits, page views, and the average amount of time that people stay on your page.
After your new social media segment is set up, you can compare it against all your other traffic. This is great for seeing how social media activities influence overall traffic and for finding ways to improve.
12. Choose the Right URL Shortener
Long URLs are annoying in social media and, especially in the case of Twitter, take up too much room. Social media gurus have long used URL shortening tools to abbreviate them; however, not every shortening program is created equal. It’s important to use a program that uses a 301 redirect back to your original URL, so you keep all the valuable link juice. Also, some tools, like bit.ly, even offer analytics (for free!) and have a pro-service, which allows you to use the same abbreviated domain on all your links while providing more detailed analytics.
Although Bit.ly is a fantastic tool, Goo.gl. is even better. It’s the most straight forward URL shortener. It shows you the URL, the short URL and number of clicks all on one page.
13. Provide Social Buttons AND Links
The importance of including social buttons on all your content is fairly obvious, but you can also add widgets or easy-embed direct links alongside your social buttons too. With this strategy you’re covering all your sharing bases as it is simple for people who aren’t involved in social media to share your stuff, and it’s a quick way for anyone to let others know about content in a more traditional way.
14. Set Canonical Links
Although the word “canonical” probably makes you want to ignore this tip altogether, don’t move onto the next suggestion just yet, as this one is not nearly as complicated as it seems.
To put it simply, a webpage often has several different URLs if the page is accessible through more than one access point. This can make it difficult to reap the full benefit of a page’s link juice if it is dispersed among multiple URLs (even if they visually direct to the same page). Additionally, it makes it harder to track the analytics for a particular page, which you’ll want to do accurately when monitoring social campaigns.
Thus, you have to choose your canonical (preferred) URL and indicate it as such to search engines by including the “rel=canonical” tag to the <head> section of non-preferred URLs. Similarly, you can use a 301 redirect to send traffic to the target URL. Whichever method you choose, Google has detailed instructions on the correct way to set them up.
15. Check Site Speed
Although speed testing the site may not normally fall under the social media manager’s duties, it’s important to get with the development team before launching a new contest or campaign to ensure the site can handle the potential increase in visitors. Also, speed is considered in search rankings, so it is simply good practice to always keep the site running at optimum rates.
16. Choose Meta Descriptions Carefully
The meta descriptions you write for your blog and other content has little value in regards to search engine rankings; however, it does have a huge impact on click-through-rate. Essentially, this is your place to “sell” your content to readers and encourage them to click on your link. This blurb not only shows up in listings but also under all the links you add to your Facebook page — those few sentences can cover a lot of ground, so choose them wisely!
Make Quality Content Your Priority
While all of the above tips will certainly give you a leg up on the competition, even all of them combined can’t match the power of quality content. Search engines are treating social pages like any other website; they’re crawling them, looking for inbound traffic, engagement, likes, and other things that signify value for searchers. So, fantastic content on both your main website and your social pages is the best weapon for attracting visitors, keeping them, and achieving your goal of SERP domination.
What is Great Content?
For content to be great it has to matter. Don’t just slap up a blog or an infograph because it’s Monday and that’s the day you’re supposed to post something. Instead, give everything you create real meaning and energy. Readers can sense if you have genuine excitement for your topic — so, get fired up and put passion behind your posts.
Also, to stand out in an overcrowded marketplace, you have to find a way to make your content different (or at least better) than everyone else’s. Otherwise you’ll just blend in with the other online noise.
Promote Your Content
The act of creating awesome content doesn’t guarantee anyone will ever see it. You have to let people know it exists. Of course, the best way to rapidly spread info online is through social media. So, after you post something on your website or blog, don’t forget to then promote that content socially by tweeting about it or mentioning it in a social update. You can even recycle the content directly onto your social page (properly formatted, scaled down, etc. for the medium).
In addition to promoting it yourself, have your whole team spread the word through Twitter, Facebook, etc., and don’t forget to tell people in the “real world” about your content too. Although it’s always great to get the attention of social influencers, don’t focus on them exclusively — tell everyone! The more who know the better your results will be.
Getting significant results in social media takes time, but stick with it and the payoff will come. If things are slow-going, don’t slack off and start posting sporadically or you’ll lose followers and things will only get worse. Post regularly, post smart, and Google and visitors will soon find value in your content.
SEO and Social Media Teams Should Collaborate
Today, SEO and SMM are so entwined they’re barely distinguishable. For this reason, it’s vital for your business’ SEO and social media teams to work together and combine social, search, and content into a singular-goal driven campaign.
Everyone on the team should know their individual jobs and understand they have to work together and overlap skill sets to get the most out of all marketing channels and to ensure their targeting the same audience.
When that happens, you’ll find your audience starts to build naturally, and it will become even easier for your business to stay on top of the SERPs.
Social media should be a critical component of every SEO strategy. Yes, there are other important elements that are part of smart SEO, but no one can deny the traffic and brand awareness a well-executed social media campaign can bring. Why would you want to miss out on such huge potential for growth? If your business has been dragging its feet on joining the social media trend, it’s time to get on board and reap the SEO benefits.