“SEO” stands for Search Engine Optimization. It’s the art of publishing content on your website and around the web in an effort to get your website to rank on the first page of search engine search results.
Despite what some social media consultants may try to lead you to believe, for the most part, the number of likes, shares or comments your website receives on social media does not directly affect your rankings in search engines…yet. The problem isn’t that search engines don’t see “social signals” as valuable indicators of a website or brand’s popularity, it’s that they may not have access to that information. Many people opt to keep their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts private, effectively banning the public—and search engines—from being able to effectively assess the data. There’s also the problem of how much importance search engines should put on a “like”. It’s a nut Google and others haven’t quite figured out quite how to crack yet.
The “yet” is important. Social media is clearly here to stay. And as more and more people use social media as a search engine (using Facebook’s search graph to locate brands and businesses, for example), it stands to reason that social media may one day be the next “Google”, or at least a direct competitor.
how social media can help improve your rankings in search engines:
Turn your social media audience into link builders
Inbound links to a website remains one of the leading factors Google considers when deciding how to position websites in search results. A website that has a lot of people in relevant industries linking to it from their websites tend to outrank websites that do not.
While many of your social media followers won’t have websites, a percentage of them will. Social media can help with this by placing your content squarely in front of the influential people on the web, like journalists or popular bloggers. The key is to create compelling and unique content on niche topics that no one else is writing about (which is no easy feat) and then getting your key influences to see the content. If it’s well written and thoroughly researched, they’ll (hopefully) reward your website with a mention and a link.
The best social media platform for networking for links? Twitter
Your customers may not be on Twitter, but your industry influencers are! While Twitter can become an inefficient time suck if you’re not careful, at the bare minimum you should be tweeting every time you publish a new blog post or page on your website.
Social media posts send a signal to Google:
The best social media platforms to use for sending a signal? Google Plus and Twitter.
Unlike Facebook, where most of its users privacy settings make it impossible for Google to be able to see who is sharing your content, Twitter has traditionally been a more open-source platform. While some have opted to keep their tweets private, many have not, making it possible for search engines to “see” who is tweeting what.
Google+ is even more beneficial on this front, because Google owns G+, which means Google’s bots have full access to data on who is sharing your content and how often. Although recently G+ has been all but abandoned as a social network, it’s still a great place to post links from your website if only for SEO purposes.
Although links from Google Plus and Twitter are not considered “valuable” as far as SEO is concerned (they are attributed as “nofollow” links, which means they do not pass on PageRank), they aren’t completely worthless either. Get enough links from either platform in the form of retweets and plus ones and search engines will start to take note.
The Future of Social Media and SEO
Although a brand’s social media presence might not have a major direct affect on its search engine rankings, this is likely to change in the very near future. You can look no further than statements made by Google’s Matt Cutts, who said the following way back in 2012: “Google has a plan for relying on social factors as part of the algorithm…”.
The fact that Cutts later redacted that statement shouldn’t mean that marketers should abandon all hope and ditch their social media marketing strategy. It simply means that Google hasn’t figured out how to measure social’s influence, or if it has, it isn’t quite ready to go public about it (this article on VDigital Services goes into further detail about this and is worth a read). Marketers need to trust their instincts and know that their efforts on social media are part of a long game strategy.
Reannon Muth is a writer, social media consultant and the founder of Skylark Media Consultants. She launched Skylark Media in 2015 after recognizing a great need for a social media company geared specifically towards small businesses. She specializes in providing social media marketing for the travel, hospitality and nonprofit industries.