Social media and SEO are essential elements of any marketing strategy – both are inbound strategies that focus on attracting visitors to your website.
But what role should social play in your SEO strategy? The answer is far from definitive – and you can blame Google for that.
The search giant’s algorithm is a closely guarded secret, and therefore we’re forced to rely on occasional snippets from company employees.
Back in 2014, former head of web spam Matt Cutts revealed that Google treats Facebook and Twitter just like any other web page in terms of search results, but neither are used as a ranking factor.
Fastforward to 2016 and Gary Illyes, a Google Webmaster trends analyst, responded to a Tweet asking him if Google takes social into account for SEO by retweeting Cutts’ video and saying: “The short version is, no, we don’t.”
But while your social channels may not have a direct impact on where you rank in the SERPs, there’s no doubt that social can have a beneficial impact on your rankings. And here’s how…
Social media and SEO
Potential for links
While Google may not use social media as a direct ranking factor, social sharing can provide you with a significant leg up the SEO ladder. Google will prioritise content that it thinks has been validated by others – and a social share falls into that bracket in the same way as an external link. The SEO juice may not be quite as fruity, but it should still be an important part of your SEO strategy.
Comments, likes, retweets, shares all contribute to the overall impact so focus on ensuring your content is as engaging as possible (this also has the added benefit of Facebook giving it an algorithm boost).
Building a reputation
The stronger your reputation on social media, the more people are likely to start Googling your brand along with whatever product or service you provide (ie. ‘Nike basketball shoes’). If this starts happening regularly, Google will eventually display your brand in the results when someone searches for that product or service (that’s why Nike appears in the SERPs when you just search for ‘basketball shoes’).
So if you focus on nurturing your brand’s social following while building engagement and perhaps dabbling in a spot of influencer marketing, the SEO rewards will follow.
Companies with large followings are looked upon favourably by Google. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you going out and setting up hundreds of fake accounts to move your follower numbers along a little bit quicker, but Google can measure the quality of your followers and will quickly spot these bogus accounts.
Growing your follower numbers organically can admittedly be a slow process, but don’t be tempted to go down the black hat route. Provide your followers with useful, sharable content, engage with them as often as possible, schedule your output so there are no gaps and before you know it those followers will start creeping up.
Google might be by far the most popular search engine on the planet, but take those Google blinkers off for a moment and consider social search as an important part of your SEO strategy. YouTube, for instance, attracts around three billion searches per month.
Right now people are searching for videos relevant to whatever product or service your brand provides; if you aren’t appearing in the results then you’re missing a trick. Quality videos will not only lead to branded Google searches (as discussed above), but the videos themselves can also appear in the SERPs.
It’s fair to say that social media isn’t an SEO silver bullet; you can’t use it as a rankings shortcut. But there’s no doubt that social plays a significant role in your overall SEO performance. The more organic, useful, engaging and sharable your content, the more SEO rewards you’ll reap.
Don’t forget: Sharing’s caring…