If you’re running a business, you cannot afford to ignore social media as a promotional channel. It’s one of the most popular ways to reach potential customers and increase brand awareness. Companies that don’t leverage their social media presence miss out on an excellent opportunity to expand their reach and grow their business.
While social media’s nature as a promotional platform comes in handy to businesses, its less known relationship with SEO is something to take advantage of as well. In this article, we’ll look at how social media and SEO are closely linked and how you can leverage that relationship to take your business to greater heights.
Social Signals and SEO
Social signals measure how people interact with a brand’s content on social media. In a nutshell, all actions that define user engagement can be classified as social signals. On Facebook, likes, reactions, comments, and shares are social signals. For other social networks, they may take the form of retweets (Twitter), pins (Pinterest), and comments and hearts (Instagram).
Brands should strive to increase social media engagement because the more their content gets exposure on a platform, the more people it reaches and engages with. In turn, engagements can turn into conversions. In other words, your business has the potential to turn social media engagement into sales.
High levels of social media engagement also help brands gain exposure outside social media platforms. While Google’s Matt Cutts said in 2014 that social signals do not affect rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs) directly, several studies show they actually influence SEO rank indirectly.
A 2018 Hootsuite study found that content with the most social shares posted more rank improvements than rank losses for the study duration. A CognitiveSEO study also found that higher-ranking content pieces have an increased number of Facebook, Linked In, Google+, and Pinterest shares compared to those that don’t rank as highly.
In other words, when brands boost their social signals, they boost their SEO, too.
How Social Signals Influence SEO
To understand how to increase and leverage your social signals, you need to understand how they influence SEO.
Let’s briefly discuss how Google ranks websites. When someone makes a query, Google follows the following steps to generate results:
- Crawl: Google continually looks for new pages to add to the central registry.
- Index: Bots crawl the pages to understand them better. The better Google understands a site, the better it can match the website with people looking for that specific content. All the site information gets stored in a Google index.
- Serve: When someone makes a query, Google searches its index and serves up the most relevant answers, ranking them based on several factors. According to Optinmonster, these criteria include content quality, page purpose, website information, data about the content creator, website and content creator reputation, user interaction, and E.A.T. (expertise, authority, and trustworthiness).
Now that we understand how Google chooses which pages to serve, let’s discuss exactly how social signals help SEO.
First, they drive traffic to your site. When people see your content has many shares and likes, their first reaction is to become curious about it and click on the post, which takes them directly to your website. When they spend time on your site to read your content, that activity tells Google that readers interact with your website. This, in turn, helps improve your Google rankings.
The number of likes and shares of a social media post also indicates the quality of a piece. Content quality is a Google ranking factor. If your content is relevant to a query and provides more value than other relevant pages, your site will rank higher.
Then there’s the links factor. The more engagement a piece of content has, the more likely people will see it. A good piece of content is a more promising target for link building. Here’s where Matt Cutts gets it right: links are an essential ranking factor. When more websites of high quality link to your site, your search ranking also goes up. Neil Patel says that links on social media may also be credible backlinks that influence a page’s rank on SERPs.
In addition, social signals can help in justifying backlinks. That’s because content tends to be shared on social media far more frequently than it’s linked to from a website. If a website receives a high volume of backlinks but few social signals, that’s likely to cause problems.
Finally, boosting your social signals will also help influence consumers into making positive reviews of your brand. According to the Search Engine Journal, the number of excellent reviews of your brand will play a significant role in local search rankings. That means they may be ranking factors for national and international rankings, too.
How To Increase Your Social Signals
Now that you know how social signals influence SEO, let’s look at how you can give your business the boosted social signals it deserves. Combining these with an excellent social media strategy will result in significant improvements to your SEO performance.
1. Create Quality Content
People want to see and read things that are useful to them. If they don’t see any value in what you have to offer, they won’t bother to interact with your content, and you can’t expect to get many shares, likes, and other social signals. Highly informative articles, infographics, and videos can generate social signals. However, this doesn’t mean your content needs to be hugely long and technical. In fact. people appreciate content that distills complicated concepts into simple terms a layperson can understand.
If you’re not providing new insights in your content, you can leverage creativity instead. Many of the posts that go viral nowadays are thought-provoking, unusual, and often deceptively simple. Here’s a great example:
Would you believe this Instagram post of an egg went viral in 2019?
Chris Godfrey, an advertising executive, was the genius behind the egg campaign. He made the account @world_record_egg, uploaded the picture, and urged people to like the egg to beat the number of likes on Kylie Jenner’s most popular Instagram post, which was her baby announcement. It worked. Only a week and a half after the egg campaign started, the post surpassed Jenner’s 18 million likes!
It’s all about getting those creative juices flowing and pushing the envelope. But you need to be careful not to go too far that your audience no longer understands your message or gets offended by it! Even if all you want is to boost your social signals, you don’t want it to happen at the expense of your brand’s reputation.
Miele, the appliance manufacturer, learned that lesson the hard way:
This ad might not have been out of place in the 1950s, but many customers viewed it as a stereotypical statement about household chores as “women’s work”. Worse, Miele released the ad on International Women’s Day, which makes its message all the more tone-deaf. While its social signals certainly got a boost, its brand reputation took a hit. The ad only lasted a few hours before the company realized its error and took it down.
2. Leverage Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing can help boost your social signals, too. Because influencers typically have a huge and highly engaged following, their posts can reach thousands, even millions of people. Influencers also have authority and knowledge in a specific niche. So when an influencer likes or shares your social media post, or teams up with you for a marketing campaign, their followers are likely to be interested in what you have to say.
Here are some steps you should follow for a successful influencer marketing strategy:
- Choose the right influencer: The person you pick should be able to influence your target audience and represent your brand properly.
- Set a budget and management strategy: This should not just factor in your influencer’s payment. It should also include any analytics tools you will use to monitor the campaign, plus any promotional costs such as paid ads.
- Decide on your goal and your message: The purpose, in this case, is to get as many social signals as you can. Craft the message you want to convey, then let the influencer be creative with it.
- Monitor your campaign: Be hands-on and track whether the influencer conveys your message correctly and what response they get. You might have to make some refinements to your campaign along the way.
If done right, influencer marketing can help you get the social media boost. Just look at those engagement figures on the above campaign between Cluse and influencer Jessica Mercedes Kirschner (@jemerced)!
3. Use Social Media For Customer Service
It’s always a great idea to use social media as a platform to provide customer service. According to Statista, over 3.6 billion people worldwide are social media users, so your customers are also likely to be active social media users.
Social media customer service can help increase your brand’s social signals to improve your SEO. If you use Twitter to respond to customer complaints and concerns, you show the world how dedicated you are to addressing customer needs. Your responses may get retweets and likes, which can influence consumers. When customer satisfaction because of excellent customer service leads to more shares and great reviews, your ranking in search results improves.
Here are six best practices to follow when using social media for customer service, according to Freshsparks:
- Reply as quickly as possible: According to Convinceandconvert, 42% of consumers complaining on social media expect a response within 60 minutes.
- Know which social media posts to resolve in private: Create a process for your team members who handle your social media accounts.
- Include a greeting: Be friendly and professional at the same time.
- Respond to all social media feedback: Don’t pick and choose the queries to answer.
- Combat negative comments with positivity: Make sure you empathize with your customers, too.
- Monitor your customer service: Make sure all your team members are on the same page and give customers the utmost priority.
Customer service is all about empathizing with your customer. If you give great customer service on social media, you’ll give your social signals a boost, and with that, your SEO will improve.
Businesses can use social media in many different ways. It gives them the platform to promote their products and services to potential customers, and can also help improve SEO performance through social signals.
Social signals improve SEO by driving traffic to the company website. They also help persuade Google that a piece of content is of good quality and should rank higher in search engine results. Also, a piece of good quality content will encourage other content creators to link back to you.
Besides, the more engagement a piece of content has, the more likely people will see it. Thanks to social signals, your site will have an increased chance of ranking. And quality links, according to Google, are an essential ranking factor. Aside from links appearing in web content, links to your page on social media may also be credible backlinks that therefore influence a page’s rank.
Increased social signals also help encourage consumers to review your business positively. The number of positive reviews is a significant factor in local search rankings. That means that may be a ranking factor for wider rankings, too.
In other words, your business should pay attention to social signals and strive to increase them. To boost these signals, you should create quality social media content, use influencer marketing, and find new ways of utilizing social media to provide excellent customer service.
We’ve given you a starting point in this article. Now it’s up to you to convert those tips into real-life action. Investing time and putting in the necessary work will give your social signals a big boost while also improving your search ranking.
Matt Diggity is a search engine optimization expert and the founder and CEO of Diggity Marketing, The Search Initiative, Authority Builders, and LeadSpring LLC. He is also the host of the Chiang Mai SEO Conference.