In the world of online marketing, there are two major ways to generate traffic to your site: SEO and social media. But although these areas two tools are so significant in the digital world, there’s relatively little discussion about how they work together toward a unified strategy.
So I want to spend some time discussing five ways social media can support SEO. To be specific I’m going to spend a lot of time talking about one big way social supports SEO and give a shout out to four smaller ways that it can support SEO.
How Is Social Media Marketing Part of SEO?
Support 1: Social amplifies reach, which strengthens SEO (this is the biggie)
Before we unpack what this does mean, let’s clarify what this does not mean. It doesn’t mean that companies who have a lot of positive social signals (Facebook engagement, Twitter followers, etc.) will automatically reach the top of the organic search rankings. Google is always changing its algorithm, but as of this writing, all indications (from Google statements to analysis of search results and social engagement) seem to indicate that getting a bunch of people to like or even comment on your Facebook page does not cause your site’s organic search rankings to improve.
But just because it doesn’t seem like having a really big and engaged social audience directly makes your pages jump to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) doesn’t mean that there’s no SEO value in large, engaged social audiences.
The real value of social media for SEO is the amplification effect. Let me give you an example:
The Amplification Effect: A Social Media and SEO Fictional Case Study
A fictional company called Lovely Shoes wants to sell shoes online. They quickly gain a large and engaged audience on social media because they truly do have lovely shoes, and their posts prove that. But while they’re building up likes and comments and shares on social, they are also writing blogs all about their shoes. Think of articles like “Pumps vs. Wedges for Your Big Meeting” or “5 Sandals You Need for Summer Weddings.” (I mean, I would read those articles!) The director of digital marketing at Lovely Shoes really wants these blogs to climb to the top of SERPs so that more and more people can purchase these truly amazing shoes.
These blogs don’t benefit from their large and engaged social media audience directly. (In other words, when they first launch the blog, their pages don’t jump to the top of SERPs even though they have an amazing audience on social.) However, when the director of digital marketing starts posting links to these blogs on social, the audience goes crazy. They like and share the posts, but most of all they click through to the company website. And people who do get to the pages hang on every single word (because finding the right pair of sandals for your sister’s beach wedding requires careful and thorough research).
So the blogs get increased traffic from the social audience clicking through links TO THE COMPANY’S WEBSITE. Lots of those people who click through subscribe to the Lovely Shoes weekly style alert email. Some people start sharing links on their own digital platforms (those are inbound links for Lovely Shoes!). A style writer at a major online publication even refers (and links back to) to a post as a valuable resource for all your shoe resource needs. And all of these factors are things that search engines definitely pay attention to.
The moral of the story here is this: Social media amplifies the reach of your content. And an amplified reach can help you build behavior that supports your SEO, including:
- Increased traffic
- Inbound links
- Engagement with page content
- Inbound links from sources with credibility and authority
This is the real foundation for social media and SEO integration. So now we’re ready to move on to the icing on the cake.
Support 2: An amplified reach from social media allows you to do relational SEO work
Relational SEO work includes guest blogging (with links back to your site’s posts) and developing partnerships that point back to your site’s pages. If you have a big social media audience, people are more likely to see your company as a credible source with an interesting perspective that would contribute to their own blog or digital content channel. So strong social signals will make other companies and individuals more likely to refer, and/or link to your pages in their own content.
Support 3: Profile information on social media channels helps local SEO
One of the biggest benefits of local SEO is getting your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP) out there (so that people can actually spend money at your online or brick and mortar business). Most social media profiles have a place for you to fill out this information. Be sure you are consistent with NAP for the search engines and third-party listings. At the end of the day, your information is more likely to populate the results of SERPs if you put that information on social platforms.
Support 4: Social profile information shows up as the result of a search
For example, search “pizza hut” and you will see top prime results are Pizza Hut’s tweets. So social media can be one more way to not only get your message out there through search engines, but brand dominate the prime search results.
Support 5: You never know how a search engine algorithm will change in the future
It’s not clear how social signals play a direct factor in SERP rankings right now, but it is clear how social engagement can help your SEO efforts. In addition, having an active social following can not only bring traffic to your website, but can provide a rich brand presence that dominates the SERPs. Not to mention, social channels have their own robust search engines (you can search trends, news, content, videos and jobs). If you want to take a long-term view of SEO, you should incorporate social media both for the SEO benefits it provides now AND the SEO benefits it could provide in the future.