Google is a competitive battlefield for businesses where every company strives for their content to appear higher. Ideally, as soon as it is created, your content would be immediately accessible for your target audience on Google’s top search results. However, we do not live in an ideal world, but rather one that requires you to focus on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) if you want to survive. 

In fact:

“Over 75% of people do not go past the first page of an online search”

“Over 25% of people click the first results on an online search”

You are also not guaranteed to rank on the first page of Google even for searches using your business name. Despite the challenges of ranking up higher on search results there are still many ways to optimise your website so positive signals are sent to Google and other search engines. Although many marketers focus on keyword or content strategies they cannot increase traffic by themselves. One aspect is often overlooked when it comes to SEO: Consider looking at social media, after all social media currently holds over 3.78 billion users which is 48% of the population in the world.

social media graphic

“Social media SEO” relates to how social media activities are able to rank websites higher on search engines in an organic way. 

Businesses online are increasingly competing for customers to notice their brand on social media as well as on search engine results pages. (SERPs) 

Many businesses therefore put a focus on optimising one or the other in hopes to obtain an edge over their competitors. However both channels can compliment each other if done correctly. 

In this article we hope to showcase the connection between SEO and social media and the role that social media can perform to drive more traffic to your website. 

Social Medias Effect on Search Ranking

Digital marketers have disagreements when asked if there is a connection between social media and SEO. A popular stance is held that social media doesn’t directly affect your SEO. This means social signals such as links from Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter may provide brand awareness in those sites but the search engine algorithm does not see it as a ranking signal. 

Despite this, social media can have a significant effect on SEO and your website ranking higher on SERPs. even though social media does not affect rankings in the direct or traditional sense it does have a deeper importance to SEO.

Both SEO and social media can’t be ignored in their roles in helping customers research, discover products and services, or assist in purchase decisions. These marketing channels can both be used in the sales funnel but it is easy to focus on one over the other. 

In 2019, Quicksprout released a post featuring an infographic of how SEO has entered into a new state in response to some key algorithm updates made by Google and the onset of content as king. 

old seo and new seo content graphic

The infographic symbolises how SEO has changed post the Google updates but particularly notes the importance which brands place on social media when applying their SEO strategy.

old seo and new seo keyword graphic

So new SEO has a focus on long tail searches and quality content that aims to attract a specific audience.  Seems like social media is perfect to fulfil these needs. Nonetheless it is worth looking at Google’s response to the SEO question.  In 2014, One of Google’s computer scientists mentioned in a video that social signals, including metrics such as social media likes or followers, indicating the presence and authority of a profile – have no effect on search rankings

Naturally this statement threw marketers into uncertainty. Before 2014 many marketers in the digital world were held under the assumption that Google’s algorithm factored in social signals as a measure of quality and trust. This is with good reason as 3 years prior, in 2010 Cutts mentioned how social signals were a direct factor. This does give reasonable assumption that the impact of social signals can change again, however, after 2014 Google has been keeping quiet on this subject.

Social media content does get indexed: Google does in fact crawl and index the pages and profiles of social media.It also treats them like any other website HTML page:

social media indexing graphic

However social media shares and follower numbers are not taken into account when a site is ranked since it would mean a less relevant, spammy site could end up on top of search results. There is also simply too many of them to crawl and keep track of. 

So does social media impact SEO at all? 

Although socials may not contribute to SEO directly, they do have a significant influence to your SEO rank. In 2018 Hootsuite ran an experiment to prove this. Conducting a test on SEO results for their written articles they found that articles with social promotion and engagement averaged a 22% increase in search engine rankings. 

Let’s dive further in the different perspectives on what social media can do for SEO and how digital marketers are dealing with social media now that social signals dont have a direct affect on SEO. 

How to Approach Social Media When Wanting Higher Search Results

So how should marketers approach social media. With social signals having a questionable impact on site ranking is it worth engaging with social media at all?. Is there a “one size fits all” approach that could work for everyone? Let’s check out how digital markers approach their social channels to get the most out of them and maximise their SEO.

Social Media Profiles Rank on SERP

Although social shares do not influence a web pages position on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) your social profiles can still influence the content of the search result. For brands some of the top search listing results are social media profiles.

If you were to search “Smarter Digital Marketing” on Google the 2nd listing comes up as Linkedin social media while the 3rd is Facebook. 

 

For “McDonalds” their webpage naturally is first in the results but the second search result is for a social media, while the third is a delivery service only then followed by a Wikipedia page. Social media can be an effective way to dominate the first page of results.

 

Generally social pages can humanise a brand. They are more personal and allow you to connect with a brand. Often when a person is researching a brand and the social channels are high on search results they are just as likely to click on them as their main site. Therefore we can conclude that social channels serve an important purpose within search engines and they matter to Google as well as people.

 

There are a few benefits to establishing a social media presence with engagement and up to date content: Social media adds an additional layer of engagement and personality for your brand. Your social media profiles appear in search results and take up SERP space instead of competitors. Since social channels often appear high on search results your target audience can connect with your brand deeper and you are more likely to be found among competitors.

Social Media are The New Search Engines 

 

Gone are the days of searching on Google or Bing alone. Not only are there more search engines than ever but social media channels are becoming more used as search engines too. Patel goes as far as to say social media is becoming the new SEO.

Did you know that 54% of customers research products on social media. According to Hubspot

Many customers are active on social media and even strive to discover companies over Instagram or Twitter rather than a search engine. This is another reason companies can benefit from having their content on social media. 

Therefore, companies should not ignore social media but rather recognise the benefits of social media as a search engine. In addition, working on social media SEO and creating quality content on social media may help your product get discovered and not just on social media. This is because brands like Instagram or Facebook often have similar profiles to your brand. You must optimise your profile if you wish to stand out and help your customers identify your brand in a simple way.

 

Impact of NAPs

 

Keep in mind that Google verifies the legitimacy of a business through NAPs. Also known as your name, address, and phone number. Google checks this by crawling through social media accounts and finding the relevant information which can support your business. 

 

Google likes consistent information so having your account name be the same among all social profiles is great for SEO. Optimised information such as emails and addresses which are also shared among social accounts makes your business appear trustworthy and therefore you’ll have an easier time ranking higher. 

 

Bing and Social Signals

 

Unlike Google, Bing has a consistent stance on the impact social media has on SEO. It is confirmed that Bing uses social signals as a ranking factor. The Bing webmaster guidelines states “Social media plays a role in today’s effort to rank well in search results… these positive signals can have an impact on how you rank organically in the long run.” 

 

If you want your SEO to be social media centred you can reap additional benefits from Bing where social signals may have a direct impact on your websites SEO. 

 

Bing is worth keeping in mind when thinking about an SEO strategy. They have over 1 billion visits each month and a growing market share of 2.47% according to Backlinko.

 

How Social Media Helps SEO

 

There is a pattern among the top ranking websites on Google. They all tend to have strong social signals, aiming to grow their brand through engagement using content and communication.

 

An SEO marketing strategy largely relies on using data to understand consumer needs, looking at the most relevant keywords and queries in the industry and producing content focused on them. In 2022, social media works in a very similar way. In fact, YouTube is placed as the second most popular search engine with Facebook being ranked fourth by Search Engine Journal.

 

Social media has evolved to connect as many people as possible with major social channels using keywords, and hashtags so people can find brands in the easiest way. Through the social media algorithm content is curated for each individual and accounts can easily be found by the user. If your brand is not engaging on social media it will never get recommended to your target audience.

LyfeMarketing created this graph showcasing the cycle of how social media can assist SEO:

Social Media Effect on SEO

 

An effective social media strategy for SEO can be created with minimal resources. Merely being on Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter as a channel of communication for your customers can pay off in the long run and benefit reputation, provide a new channel of traffic, and draw closer to your customers, all while helping the growth of your brand. 

 

Around 71% of customers who were provided positive experiences with brands on social media would recommend the same brand to family or friends. According to Oberlo. This showcases the role social media can play to generate traffic and the importance of customer service online which goes beyond your website.

 

Check out this summary of ways that social media influences your SEO:

 

Brand Awareness – You can market your brand by creating quality content and engaging. If your business acquires continued exposure on social media it generates familiarity to your target audience when they search your brand name. Through the use of hashtags, comments, and tags you can grow awareness and new followers.

 

Local SEO – Because Google crawls social media posts just as any other website you can take advantage by copying your NAPs (Name, Address, Phone number) from your website to your socials in order to be discovered locally. Customer reviews and relevant keywords also affect local rank. Did you know that Facebook reviews are displayed on Google’s results? These can convince a local customer to check out your brand over competitors.

 

Link Building – Link building is one of the key ways to grow your ranking on SERP. Your brand can be discovered on social platforms by billions of users. This increases the chances of backlinks being created as well as other sources referring to your brand both serve to increase your SEO.

 

Additional Source of Traffic – Content shared through social channels can receive traffic even if it is hidden from Google rankings. Social media can also act as its own search engine.

Google noticing an increase in traffic from social media or people linking content outside social media will make your website appear relevant and likely increase your Google rankings and index your website’s content faster.

 

Content Amplification – With the increasing presence of competitors online it can be challenging for your content to be discovered. Social pages can help your content be found in various ways. This proves effective if your site fails to appear on the first page of a search engine.

 

Trust and Credibility – The more expensive your service the more research is likely done by the customer. When someone is researching your company, social media can be used to support your reputation online and provides a channel of direct communication. When a customer sees positive reviews, comments, and awards on social media it builds a great image of your brand. Social media also provides a unique platform to display your stance on social, environmental, and political issues.

Conclusion

In the past Google has held the position that social media does not have a direct impact on search rankings but there is no certainty that this stance wont change. 

Despite Google’s stance, being active on social media has proved to have a positive impact on search results although not directly. In fact, a Hootsuite study on social media and SEO showed that social popularity helps rank up on Google.

 

Google also mentions how Twitter and Facebook are within the web index, and are crawled like any other web page which is then returned to the search results. Indeed, engaging social media can rank highly on SERPs which can help your brand be noticed among spam or duplicate accounts and help your brand be identified among competitors. 

 

After all Social media is about engaging and growing your audience so it is natural for social media to have a harmonious relationship with search engines who aim to share information and connect people. Marketers should broaden their scope and consider the benefits that social media can bring to their SEO strategy. Marketers should also keep in mind that customers can find content in numerous ways sometimes preferring social media over search engines. Social media profiles on first page results can also provide additional traffic.