The debate over social media’s influence on how websites rank in Google keeps popping back up. We discuss the reasons social media does affect page rankings and how your business can leverage this for SEO purposes.
- The last group enjoyed a remarkable 22% increase in search visibility through both Twitter sharing and paid promotion.
- Companies can write top quality content brimming with relevant keywords, but it is by no means guarantees that these pieces will get the attention they deserve.
- There’s no point sharing your articles on these platforms if no one will actually see them, or have no reason to share them.
The debate around whether social media has an affect on how websites rank in Google is one that keeps coming back around. Since 2014 Google has publicly denied that this is the case, saying that they do not officially count social media as a ranking factor (the criteria used to assess web pages when compiling the rankings of search results).
However, sufficient evidence has since emerged to show that social media can and does affect the rankings of pages on Google, despite what the megacorporation says to our faces. In this piece, we’ll look at why this is the case, and how your business can optimise its social media for SEO purposes.
Research backs up theory that social media impacts SEO
There is clear evidence that social media can impact SEO. Take Hootsuite’s recent research for example, the social media management platform looked at three types of article they produced—in batches of 30—to see how their visibility on Google fared with and without social media sharing. They measured the Google search visibility of:
- articles ‘that received no organic publishing or paid promotion on social media’,
- ‘articles published organically to Twitter’ and
- ‘articles published organically to Twitter
They then boosted each for ‘two days with a budget of $100 each’. They promoted two posts a day from the second and third groups over a period of two weeks, and measured the results the week after.
The results backed up the assertion that social media and SEO do have a relationship. They showed that the first group of articles had no improvement in search visibility. However the second group received a 12% boost in visibility by virtue of being shared on Twitter, and the last group enjoyed a remarkable 22% increase in search visibility through both Twitter sharing and paid promotion.
More and more companies are cottoning on to just how important social media is for SEO success, with a survey of over 3000 businesses by Ignite Visibility and Clutch demonstrating just this. Almost all of the businesses surveyed said that they invest in social media as well as SEO (94%), and 20% cited social media as their main SEO priority for the next year. SEO and social media strategies really do now go hand in hand.
Social media indirectly affects ranking factors in a number of ways
If you think about it, it’s quite logical that social media and SEO do in fact work together. Although Social Media metrics may not themselves be counted by Google (yet), there are three important ways that the channels we use can affect other ranking factors.
Firstly, social media is an easy and effective way to promote content. Companies can write top quality content brimming with relevant keywords, but it is by no means guarantees that these pieces will get the attention they deserve. Social media changes this. It is an effective—and ultimately pretty simple—way to promote content, and this can encourage user engagement, which is a ranking factor. So, if more people, say, click on a link to an article, or comment on it and share it, the page should rank higher on Google.
Social media sharing can also lead to link building, where other websites link to content. By sharing content on social media, high profile influencers are more likely to see a company’s content and potentially share it or link to it themselves. This again can catch the attention of Google, as the more this happens, the more it shows them that a site is a resource worthy of citation by others.
Finally, social media sharing can lead to increased brand awareness, another important aspect when it comes to Google rankings. By giving companies an increased online presence through improved engagement, their online reputation should improve and they should receive more branded searches on Google as a result. This in turn means they are more likely to rank for non-branded keywords.
How to optimise your social media for SEO purposes
With the link between social media and SEO success firmly established, your business should be thinking about how to optimise your own social media pages to help guarantee success.
Firstly, you need to ensure you are engaging with others on social media. There’s no point sharing your articles on these platforms if no one will actually see them, or have no reason to share them. Whatever platform you are using, make sure you are connected with the right people. It is well worth investing in tools like Klear and Buzzsumo, as they can help you find influencers talking about particular topics. However, don’t simply connect with influencers and hope they’ll just share your content just like that. Actually engage with them; comment on their posts, share their articles, link to these influencers in your own content and using messaging features to directly interact with them. This will encourage them to interact back, and ultimately will ensure they share your content.
Secondly, make sure you are posting content at the right frequency; if you post too infrequently your audience may forget about you, but too much and you could fatigue them. How often you should post depends on the platforms you are using; there’s no magic formula for this, although, for instance, people typically post a lot more frequently on Twitter than they do on LinkedIn. Check out what others are doing, and read some of the many online guides to social media marketing for businesses, such as this one by Sendible. This guide looks at post frequency, as well as other aspects you need to take into account for different platforms. For instance, it talks about the popularity of GIFs and images on Twitter, but how text-only posts are the way to go on LinkedIn.
Other things to consider include having a strong image on all your social media profiles, like an interesting bio and a good profile picture, using hashtags to gain greater visibility, and what platforms to actually use. LinkedIn is certainly a great place to start; the company recently told Digiday that comments, likes and shares on the platform are up over 60% year-on-year.