Two words: social media. Two more words: love hate.
Whether you love or hate social media, the fact remains that out of a total worldwide population of 7.710+ billion (according to Worldometers, June 2019):
- 4 billion of those are internet users, (Internet World Stats – Internet Users in the World, March 2019) and
- 3.499 billion of those are active social media users. (Hootsuite, We Are Social – The Global State of Digital in 2019 Report)
3.499 billion active social media users.
What’s more, the average time those 3.499 billion active social media users (we can’t stop saying it) are spending on social media every day? Two hours and 22 minutes. 142 minutes. A lot of time. (Digital Information World)
What this tells us is that, regardless of SEO considerations, your brand can’t afford to not be on social media. About those SEO considerations, though, social media can help there too – although it might not be in the way you think.
Let’s dive into how (spoiler alert: or even if) social media affects search rankings; why you should use social media as a part of your SEO strategy (regardless of the answer to the first question); how to optimize your social media sites for SEO; and, finally the top 10 social media sites for SEO.
Does Social Media Affect Search Rankings?
Back in 2014 Matt Cutts, then the head of Google’s web spam team, released a video saying that social signals – things like FB page likes and Twitter followers – didn’t matter a jot in terms of search rankings.
Then, in August 2015, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller released another video in which he stated, categorically, that Google does not use social signals in its search ranking factors.
Let’s spell this out for you then: social media in and of itself is NOT a direct ranking factor.
Google has told us this numerous times.
That doesn’t mean it can’t help with SEO, though. As John Mueller went on to say: “What you do sometimes see, however, is that the social posts do show up in the search results. They can be content like any other piece of content, and they can rank for keywords, they can rank for your product names, so they can show up in the search results as well, which in turn maybe gives you a little more presence, maybe provides some context for users as well in the search results.”
The key here lies within that little word, “content”. As we’ve explored in numerous other blog posts recently, SEO these days revolves around quality content. Authentic content. Content which earmarks you as an authoritative voice on your subject of choice. And this is where your social media can boost your efforts.
Start there on your social media sites. Make them yet another portal for quality content related to your product and brand, and the rest will follow.
Why use Social Media for SEO?
So, we’ve established that you need to think of your social media accounts in terms of content if you want them to help your marketing, and SEO, efforts.
By thinking of your social media accounts, and the content thereon, as an extension of your brand, your voice, and your website, only on a much more personal, approachable level, you can really leverage the power of social media as the tool that garnered a new user every 6.4 seconds between April 2018 and April 2019. (Hootsuite, We Are Social – The Global State of Digital in 2019 Report)
Well-managed social media accounts can boost your SEO efforts in a number of ways:
1. Social media sites can build your audience
Long gone are the days when “Build it and they will come” was considered a good business, and marketing, motto. With 4.4 billion internet users, searching 1.94 billion websites (the number of websites on the internet as of January 2019, according to WebsiteHostingRating.com), a greatly superior better motto might go something like: “Build an audience, and they will come.”
Where do you build that audience? Where do you go to find them and draw them in? Well, do the math: 3.5 billion social media users out of 4.4 billion internet users amounts to close to 80% of your internet users… Yes, you’ll find your audience on social media.
Growing your audience on social media platforms is directly correlated with an increase in traffic to your website. Which brings us rather neatly to point number 2.
2. Social media sites can increase traffic
It is a fairly simple, systematic formula: The more people who find you on social media, the more people will know who you are, the more people will end up visiting your website. Now add in quality content. More people will end up sharing that content and the people they share it with will end up on your website. More traffic equals more recognition from search engines, and this results in improved search engine rankings.
3. Social media sites can encourage backlinks
Search engines love a good link. A link which makes sense, which provides users with useful content, which is a natural, organic extension of the content from which it sprang. It’s well known and well documented that great backlinks can do all kinds of magic to your SERP rankings. And while Matt Cutts’ 2014 video was quite clear that social signals are excluded from Google’s search algorithm, he did say that Google crawls social websites in the same way that it would any other site: “Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index, and so if something occurs on Twitter or occurs on Facebook and we’re able to crawl it then we can return that in our search results.”
If you’re publishing quality content on your social media channels, and including links back to your website – more specifically links which make sense – then search engines may well recognize these links as credible, and this could help improve your page ranking on SERPs. Even better? If that audience you’ve now tapped into include links to your website on their social media posts, recognizing your site, and voice, as an authoritative one. Speaking of which…
4. Social media sites can establish your influence – and your personality
When your audience recognizes you as an authoritative or influential voice on a subject, search engines are more likely to as well. Again, the path from well-managed social media site to SEO-win follows a simple formula: Topic authority equals brand authority, equals more clicks. More clicks – to relevant, authoritative, excellent content, equals better rankings.
People are also more likely to turn to you as an authority if they know who you are, if they can get a sense of your personality. Your social media pages and profiles offer your audience a more personal picture of who you are as a brand. By using your social media sites as a channel for users to get to know your brand in a more engaging, intimate way, you’re allowing them to ‘know’ you better. And to know you is to love you, isn’t it? Knowing you, and liking you, translates to more engagement. More engagement means more clicks. More clicks means, you guessed it, more search engine love. (You’re starting to get the picture now, right?)
5. Social media sites can serve as your own personal search engine
Not only are social media pages and profiles frequently among the top results on SERPs for searches done on brand names as well as significant, relevant keywords, they also serve as the search engines themselves.
Google may still be Goliath, with Bing offering up a smaller, quieter, but equally powerful David-sized alternative, but they’re not the only players on the search engine field. More and more, people are turning to social media sites to find what they’re looking for.
Optimize your social media channels to perform well within their own search functions, and the positive effects can only but trickle into ‘traditional’ search results.
How to Optimize Your Social Media Sites for SEO
With search engine algorithms changing constantly, by the minute it seems for some (yes, you, Google), SEO as a whole can feel like rocket science. Optimizing your social media sites for SEO, though, can be boiled down to 10, fairly simple, steps.
- Make your profiles consistent. Use consistent images and brand colours across all your social media channels. This increases brand recognition and shows you care about your brand. If you don’t, why should anyone else?
- Make your bio relevant to your business, but make it interesting. Social media sites are a prime place to play, to have a little fun, to show a little flair.
- Claim your stake. When searching for a brand on Facebook or Twitter you will often see several different pages or profiles pop up, all claiming to be said brand. Which one is the real deal? Claim your business page and get rid of duplicates. Make it obvious for your audience to see that your page is the official one.
- Include a relevant link. To your website. To a landing page. To a newsletter signup. But link you must.
- Post regularly. Be active. Show your social media sites, and their audience, that you care enough to keep them up to date. Social media is marketing version of fast food: updates come and updates go. Take a look at the shelf life for posts on each of the following platforms: Twitter – under 20 minutes; Facebook – maybe 5 hours; Instagram – 20 hours, if you’re lucky; LinkedIn – 24 hours tops. If you’re posting infrequently, you’re not yesterday’s news, you’re no news at all.
- Engage. Answer user questions, respond to comments, thank followers for shares or retweets. Take part in conversations on your particular platform. Search for Twitter chats within your industry and have your say. Engage with others to receive engagement back. Aside from being good manners, your responses also help social media algorithms recognize that your content is active, which improves its potential reach.
- Love your neighbour. Share industry-related or local-related content that you believe in or find interesting. Share links to receive link love back. Find real, relevant influencers and talk to them.
- Create quality content.
- Share it.
- Then create some more.
The Top 5 Social Media Sites for SEO (Plus 2 Secret Weapons)
The Usual Suspects
Telling numbers: YouTube has over 1.9 billion active logged-in users every month, and every day people watch over a billion hours of video and generate billions of views. (YouTube)
Studies show that 54% of consumers want to see more video content from a brand or business they support (HubSpot). So for goodness sake, give them what they want! Whether it’s a purely promotional video, a ‘how-to’ video relevant to your product or service, or a #FridayFun behind-the-scenes team video giving viewers an insight into your company personality, videos can potentially rank organically in the SERPs and they can lead to links. Double win.
Telling numbers: As of the first quarter of 2019, Facebook has 2.375 billion users. (Statista)
As beleaguered as Facebook is, it continues to be a powerful player not only on the social media scene, but on the internet as a whole. With 51% of those 2.375 billion Facebook users more likely to buy from brands they follow, your FB Business page has the potential to be a great lead generator. Pay attention to that page, post compelling content, use targeted keywords, and always, always, stay on brand.
Telling numbers: They say a picture paints a thousand words… Get your pictures painting that many words to over one billion monthly Instagram users – 500 million of which are using the platform DAILY! (Hootsuite) – and some of them just have to stick!
Instagram is a great place to showcase products, tell a story, show your true colours… in their best light of course. Naturally, with over 95 million photos uploaded every day, to stand out from the crowd you’re going to have to bring your A-game. Again, it’s all about staying on brand, being authentic, and showing some personality. Oh, and do your research on hashtags, then use them!
Telling numbers: With 330 million active, logged in, users, Twitter may not boast the most impressive numbers, but they sure do boast an astounding level of engagement.
You better believe Tweeps are passionate about the things they Tweet about. (Twitter trolls too, unfortunately.) And with 77% of Twitter users feeling more positive about a brand when their Tweet has been replied to (Twitter), and companies using Twitter for customer service seeing a 19% increase in customer satisfaction (WebFX), this could be a game changer in getting your name out there in a positive – or negative – way.
Telling numbers: 93% of B2B marketers consider LinkedIn to be the most effective site for lead generation. (LinkedIn)
Once considered primarily a social media station for job seekers, this professional site is now widely considered one of the best social media sites for SEO, precisely because it is ‘professional’. It’s more than 610 million users are almost all, to a user, professional, polished, qualified and distinctively un-troll-like. Not only does this make it a wonderful networking site, it makes it a great source to see, and be seen as, authoritative voices within your particular industry. With the B2B market booming, it’s also excellent for generating leads as per the statistic above, and for converting sales. Use it wisely, though. If your activity is too salesy and pushy, you’ll very quickly lose followers.
The Secret Weapons
Telling numbers: As of September 2018, Quora had 300 million monthly users. More importantly, those users are asking questions that you could be answering.
The power of Quora lies less in its volume of users, and more in its user model. Quora is in the business of asking, and answering, questions. If you’ve learnt anything from our recent blogs, you’ll know that answering question-based search terms are, well, key in modern SEO. Quora not only provides a living, breathing, holy grail home base for finding the questions being asked online – about everything, including your industry, product or service – but an opportunity for you to answer those questions, and establish yourself as the go-to on your area of expertise. Establishing yourself, or your brand, as an authority on this platform can pay off with clicks to your website or, at the very least, increased direct searches for your brand name. But remember: nobody likes a showoff. Asking questions is just as important as responding to them. Asking interesting questions can drive as much traffic to your site as answering questions well can. Finally, as with all content, anywhere on the web, quality is key: whether you’re asking or answering the questions, make sure you’re adding value by making them useful and insightful.
With 265 million users (Statista), Pinterest is another social media site which doesn’t boast the numbers, but certainly boasts the purchasing power! The statistics above tell their own story, especially when you compare the 98% statistic to the 71% average across social media platforms. Pinterest also seems to have escaped much of the social media scandal scene as well as the need by people to regularly purge themselves of their online presence and bent for oversharing. If you have a product or service that lends itself to visual representation, Pinterest can be an immensely valuable tool for increasing your audience, stimulating your sales, and, ultimately, upping your search engine rankings.
Get Social (Media)
As with everything Google, things may change. Their algorithms are a mythical beast known only to themselves (and even then we wonder…), so it’s entirely possible that come tomorrow they may well begin to include more social media signals in their ranking algorithm. Or maybe they won’t.
Regardless of the cards Google may, or may not, play in the future, there are a few key points to remember about using social media sites – whether you have SEO in your sights or not:
- Google may not currently include social signals, but Bing, for example, with its 24% share of search queries, does use social likes and shares as a direct ranking factor. Google is not the only player in the game.
- More importantly, quality content on well-managed social media sites can only but garner you friends and fans, allowing your brand, business and website to be found online. And isn’t that, ultimately, what SEO is all about?