Today more than ever, the worlds of search engine optimization (SEO) and social media are blending together. You might turn to social media channels like Facebook to search for local restaurants. When you’re considering a retailer to shop from, you might search Google to find their Twitter page before heading to the store. As social media and search engines are frequently used in the same web sessions, both traditional SEO and social SEO are important components of your overall social SEO strategy.
Social media and SEO integration make perfect sense. A social media SEO strategy can help your business build deeper relationships with customers, optimize your content to appear higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) and on social, and help you better reach your audience where they spend the most time.
The rankings of Search Engine Journal’s most popular global search engines for 2021 show that people are using social media channels in a similar way as traditional search engines. No surprise, Google ranks number one on the list, but two of the other top search engines rounding out the list are social media search engines:
- #2: YouTube with more than 2 billion logged-in users a month and more than 1 billion hours of video play each day
- #4: Facebook with more than 2 billion searches a day—more than Microsoft Bing, a traditional search engine
The popularity of these social search engines shows how SEO and social go hand-in-hand. Most Americans use some form of social media:
- 81% of Americans use YouTube
- 69% of Americans use Facebook
- 40% of Americans use Instagram
On sites like these, you can search for posts, hashtags, and content similarly to how you do on search engines. You can find a new pair of shoes on Instagram, get a recommendation for a dog walker on Facebook, and find product tutorials on YouTube that motivate you to make a purchase.
Social media interactions can also have a meaningful impact on your search engine rankings on Google. As people engage with your content on social sites, that can increase its reach and help you climb up in rankings for search engine results.
You can also use social media cues to inform your SEO strategy. After all, social platforms are where your leads and customers spend most of their downtime. Paying attention to what social media users are talking about and how they’re interacting with your brand provides valuable insights on how to optimize your website content.
Here’s more on why social media is important for SEO and how to implement a successful social SEO strategy.
How does Google use social media?
Google doesn’t directly state social signals as a ranking factor in its search algorithms, but it’s safe to say they’re still a factor.
What are social signals in SEO? Social signals in SEO indicate how your content engages social media users. Social ranking factors include:
- How many times a web page is shared on social media
- How many times a web page has been “liked” or interacted with on social media
- How much perceived reach and presence your site has on social media
Though Google denies using social signals as a ranking factor today, there was definitely a time when the search engine valued them. Back in 2010, Google’s Matt Cutts confirmed social signals were a ranking factor, only to go back on the statement a few years later.
Plus, Google can deny, deny, deny, but the data tells a different story. As Neil Patel reported, a 2018 study by Hootsuite tested SEO results for articles with and without promotion on social media and the pieces with the top social shares received an average 22% increase in SEO results during the test. Patel also mentions another study by Optinmonster that confirmed Hootsuite’s results.
Then, you have a search engine like Bing. True, it only has about 6.79% global desktop search engine market share. However, Bing has clearly stated it uses social signals to determine search results.
In Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines, the search engine has stated that social media influence plays a factor in search result displays. Social signals indicate that followers share company website content widely, which the search engine has factored into its relevance algorithm.
We feel it’s safe to say social media engagement does impact search, even if it’s not a directly stated factor. Since we’ve seen Google change its mind about algorithm factors frequently over the years, history has shown that it very well may pivot on social signals in the future, too.
What does matter to Google is quality. Google states its algorithm focuses on providing “the most useful and relevant information.” Social signals show that users find a website to be useful and relevant since they’re engaging with the content and sharing it with others. In that sense, strong social signals correlate with strong content that could also perform well in search engines.
That’s why we recommend a social SEO strategy as a key part of a comprehensive, effective SEO strategy for any enterprise organization. Creating one can give you an advantage over competitors that don’t do so.
Why social media and SEO integration matters
So, if search engines like Google state they don’t directly factor in social media signals when determining your search results, why should you care?
The answer goes back to quality:
- A high-quality website that engages users will likely also have high engagement on social media. Quality content can help you win on both social media and SEO.
- As users engage with your website and share it on social media, that exposes your website to more users. That can increase potential search algorithm factors like pageviews, time spent on a page, pages visited on your website, bounce rate, etc.
- As more people interact with your brand and share it with their followers on sites like social media, the more likely you are to build trust and authority in your space. That can help you increase relevance to searchers’ results.
- High-quality content that users engage with on social media gets extended life. A single post could be shared for years, which can serve as a powerful lead generation tool for your business.
- The more brand reach you can get using channels like social media, the more likely others will link to your website on their own quality website. High-quality backlinks can help you climb the rankings.
High-quality content will naturally reach more people as people share it with others and link back to it, including by using social media. As content becomes more popular on social media channels, it can also get a boost in search engines.
How to incorporate social media into SEO strategy
If you’re an enterprise business, your SEO and social experts may fall under different departments or teams. You might have copywriters, graphic designers, and community managers pumping out social content on your content team, SEO gurus monitoring your analytics for your SEO team, and webmasters ensuring your pages are optimized for search and users on your dev team.
We’re not saying you need to create one big social media SEO department. We do, however, recommend collaborating and sharing insights across siloed teams to make your work more efficient and effective. Here are some ideas on how to do so.
Research and testing
Both your website SEO data and your social media data provide a treasure trove of information that can help both teams make better decisions. For research and testing, the following methods can strengthen a social SEO strategy.
- Use social analytics to inform content strategy. As you see previous content that has performed well on social media, you can build upon that content by creating new blog posts or videos you then share on social media, and so on.
- Look at the best-performing web pages on your site. Highlight those in your social media content calendar with content and calls to action (CTA) that fit each platform. Reach new audiences on social channels.
- Listen to social media chatter. What are your followers talking about? What topics interest them? Use those insights to optimize your website content.
- Test product and service promotions. You can use data on what users are engaging with on social to apply to other marketing campaigns, like paid advertising. You can give a promotional boost on social media to products and services that aren’t performing well.
- Use SEO keyword research for social media content. Add keywords you rank for on search engines to social media content so you can increase your visibility in social media search engines, as well. Some platforms, like Conductor, integrate social mentions into query research to inform usage. Then you can adapt queries to reflect the tone of your social channels, which might diversify the ways people will find the content they’re looking for.
- Follow social referral journeys on the website. Look at how visitors from social media sites interact with your website. Do they engage with certain pages or products? Do they tend to drop off on certain pages? These insights can help you better understand your social media followers and your website user experience.
You waste valuable time and resources when your search and social teams operate in silos where each team has information that can benefit the other but isn’t sharing that data. Come together to share plans, reports, data, insights, strategies, and test results so you can work smarter.
Optimize your brand presence on all digital channels
Social media is where people build relationships with brands, get customer service, and socialize online with friends. Websites provide information, take consumers on a journey, and offer useful content.
Ideally, you want followers and visitors to both your website and your social media pages to grow in tandem. It’s important to align your brand experience across all your online platforms, including social media. For effective social SEO, here’s what we recommend.
- List social media site buttons on each website page to make it easy for website visitors to visit and follow you on social media.
- Enable social sharing of your website content via buttons like “Facebook Share” or “Tweet This.”
- Add social content to your website where appropriate. For example, embed YouTube videos for product tutorials on your product pages. You could ask social media fans for permission to feature their testimonials on your website.
- Make sure all your social media sites have a link to your website in your contact information. For local businesses, it’s especially important to ensure you have accurate address, city, state, ZIP code, and phone number information, as well.
- Fill in all social media info fields for your profile. The more relevant keywords you’re able to feature in your profile, the more likely you’ll be to show up in search results on the social media site and potentially in search engines.
- Promote content from your website in user-friendly language on social media sites. For example, the copy you use on your website may be more professional, whereas the copy you use on Snapchat should target a younger audience.
- Strategize social content and shares with keywords in mind. You want your content to pop up in social media search engines when users are searching terms that relate to your content. Use hashtags to increase the likelihood of your content getting found in social SERPs and seen by more users.
Remember that your social media pages could also pop up in Google, Bing, or other search engine results when someone searches for your business. Apply the same marketing best practices to social media as you would your website, so what people see on social media represents your brand well.
Use social media conversations to gain organic traffic
As we detailed in a June 2021 post, the amount of organic traffic Google sends has declined nearly 15% between 2016 and 2019. One major reason is that Google is providing answers to users’ search queries directly in the search engine—no clicks required—through result types like featured snippets. A way to address this problem and gain organic traffic is to listen to social media conversations.
Why is this impactful? Generally, as topics and hashtags gain popularity on social media, we also see an increase in related search keywords, volume, and the number of results shown. When you address those topics on your website—through a blog post, for example—you can take advantage of the current search intents.
We recommend using social listening tools to gain insights. There are a variety of tools on the market that show you what social users are talking about online. You can use these tools to monitor your own brand mentions throughout social media conversations, as well as chatter that’s happening directly on your social media channels. You can also use social listening tools to see what’s popular with social media users in general across platforms.
Social media listening tools work similarly to how you would use Google Search Console data and MSV for keywords: to understand volume, popular hashtags, and other ways language related to your topics is used on social media. Then, you can apply those insights in your website copy, blogs, and other content on your site. By aligning your content’s keywords with prominent chatter in social media, you can speak directly to the audiences you’re trying to reach.
How to optimize content for social media?
Social media can be a powerful link-building tool when social media users link to your content on their own websites. It all starts with high-quality website content. You want to:
- Create content followers will want to click on, engage with, and share. Doing in-depth research is key. You need to know your audience, which will differ across social platforms.
- Follow SEO best practices. This includes having metadata, optimizing for high MSV keywords within the copy, and focusing on user-friendly content.
- Provide useful, relevant information to your target leads and customers. Focus on providing valuable content that helps customers vs. selling to them.
- Translate content into eye-catching or interactive social graphics. Writing up a caption isn’t the final step. Focus on creating social graphics that summarize the content in a way that stands out in users’ newsfeeds so you get their attention.
Effective link building starts with the website user experience. Your website should be easy to navigate on all devices. It should be intuitive and simple to interact with, providing users with the exact information they’re looking for and need. A website that’s a helpful resource for your target leads and customers is more likely to be shared on social media and appear higher in relevant search queries.
Bottom line: if your website isn’t optimized for search, it’s probably not going to perform well on social media, either.
In addition to a user-friendly website, you can make your social media efforts more effective by creating content your users want to engage with. Using buyer personas, you should know which channels your leads and customers spend time on. You should also research whether they like to watch videos, read long-form blog posts, click through slideshows, or consume other types of content on social media.
That can help you create better content. Maybe your users love sharing infographics. Or, they might prefer creating silly videos on TikTok. You can meet customers where they are through strategic content creation.
Again, consult with your social media team to see what types of content perform best for your brand pages and for your competitors. You can use social listening tools to monitor competitor performance on social media and apply those insights to your own strategy and content creation.
Also, make each piece of content social media-friendly. Here’s a reminder to add social sharing buttons to each post.
You may also want to enable commenting that requires a social media log-in. A post with a lot of comments or that sparks debate could be one users return to frequently to revisit comments. More pageviews could also facilitate more engagement with your website overall.
How does social media management affect SEO?
How you manage your social media accounts will also influence how successful your content is. For example, if you simply push out the same links on all your channels at the same time on the same day, your followers may stop paying attention. Conversely, a witty post that’s customized for that particular social media audience and platform with an enticing CTA on the same piece of content will likely generate far more clicks.
Social media managers should pay attention to making their post copy searchable. Since we know users of various social media platforms utilize them essentially as search engines, you’ll want a copywriter to create social media content that’s searchable within the platforms. Apply keyword research to social media content.
Community management can also influence clicks and SEO when users engage more with your brand. When there’s a lack of social media management and engagement drops off, that could result in fewer shares of your content.
For example, if your social media manager never responds to page messages, that could turn followers off and cause them to unfollow your page. The content you share there will get seen by fewer people, which results in fewer page views and engagement with your website than you may have received with strong community management.
Negative sentiment on social media that leads to a lack of engagement with your brand overall could affect your website performance and SEO. Conversely, community management that engages users can lead to more commenting, which may prolong the life of posts and help posts get found by more people.
When a social media manager actively engages in conversations with followers, that could positively influence the algorithm of social media channels, which may result in your content getting seen more prominently by followers.
Optimize social SEO with Conductor
An effective social SEO strategy can help you gain more high-quality search results and build your social media followings to drive more leads and engage with customers. You can use data and best practices from both SEO and social to support each other and grow your business.
Again, we go back to quality to close the loop on how social media can increase organic traffic.
- You create and publish valuable content.
- You share that content on social media.
- Social media followers share that content with their own communities.
- Awareness for your brand grows throughout social media and on other websites when users backlink your site.
- More people check out content on your website.
- You build trust and authority.
- Search engines recognize your website and reward it with organic traffic.
Conductor can support your social and SEO strategy, as the platform enables unlimited keyword tracking and research to enhance website and social copy. The Conductor Chrome extension enables you to preview social posts and optimize them for search as well.
Want to see Conductor in action? Request a demo to learn how the Conductor platform can support your social and SEO strategy.