Clients often ask me,
“Why do I need social media when I already pay for Search Engine Optimization?”
The necessity for SEO and Social Media are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are tightly interwoven strategies working very closely together – if you want to rank high on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP), you’ll also need to have high social media influence. SEO is arguably the more important avenue for obtaining first-page search results, however your ranking can only be as effective as your online presence is strong.
SEO capitalizes on user intent
Unlike conventional social media marketing, SEO capitalizes on user intent. When an individual is looking for a particular product or service, they’re typically going to use a search engine in a specific way, ie. “auto glass repair Hamilton”. You may have a paid advertisement on social media for your auto glass repair business in Hamilton, but chances are that most people will only see it at times when they don’t need it. How many times have you seen a Facebook ad and thought something along the lines of, “okay, good to know, I’ll remember this local roofing company when I need to redo mine next spring”. Then ‘next spring’ rolls around and you need your roof done – are you going to scroll through Facebook to try to find the ad or are you going to go to Google and search for “roof repair Hamilton”?
Social media capitalizes on user impulse
The most effective social media advertisements capitalize on impulse. In researching this topic for my article, I was directed to a site called Shut Up and Take My Money.
After immediately pulling out my wallet, I realized how successfully this company uses social media. There is not a single item I could find for sale that anybody would actually need, and therefore would never directly search for (seriously, “T-Rex Skull Shower Head” is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg). In this case, social media is going to be their BEST form of marketing. A user sees a post about an interesting product, has a laugh, and shares it with their Facebook friends or Twitter followers. Those friends agree that it is interesting and share it with their friends (and so on). Odds are that at least one of these shares is going to result in someone deciding that regardless of need, they want this item NOW.
Now the majority of businesses aren’t offering impulse-buy products or services, so how does social media help SEO at all?
Social media searching
Well for starters, search engine optimization includes the search that happens on social media. Did you know that most, if not all, social media platforms have their own search functions? Social media search engines are astoundingly popular, and therefore have their own significant impact in your overall SEO strategy. Here are some stats that might blow your mind:
As of 2011, Twitter handled 48 billion search queries a month
(that’s more than 5x the queries handled by Bing and double that of Yahoo!)
In 2012, Facebook reported around one billion search queries per day
Search engine business profiles
In search engines, your social profiles influence the content of your search results, as social media profiles are often amongst the top results in search listings for brand names. Give it a try – search Google for “Home Depot”, and look at the top three results. What are they?
Number one position goes to Home Depot’s official website, of course, but what are numbers two and three? Why it’s Facebook and Twitter! Did you also notice what shows up on the right-hand side at the very top of the results? A massive built-in advertisement that is Google+.
In my experience, I’m just as likely to click on a company’s social media link as I am to click on their official website. Reading a company’s social media pages can give customers a good idea of their corporate personality. Do their views align with yours? Will you feel good about shopping there?
An effective SEO strategy will focus most heavily on Google. Google is the number one search engine in the world, with a 2015 average of 3.5 billion searches per day. Understanding how Google ranks its search results is complex, but the importance of social media is crystal clear and cannot be understated. For more information, read this Beginner’s Guide to SEO, How Search Engines Operate and check out the fantastic infographic at the bottom of this article.
It’s no surprise that Google favours Google+ in factoring your online presence for SERP rankings. Google+ is Google’s own social media platform, and like the others is absolutely free. Having Facebook/Twitter/Blog content means more content to link to on Google+, thereby increasing your Google+ presence and providing an additional avenue for users to share your content. This content preferably all backlinks to your website and thus completes the SEO cycle.
I could go on about the merits of Google+, but the points you should take away are the increased search engine ranking factors and this one-stop top-of-the-results-page free listing for your business.
Content is king
In determining where your business deserves to be listed in their general search rankings, Google lives by the motto that “content is king”. Google wants the best and most relevant content, recently shifting their algorithms from looking at numbers of keywords to looking at kinds of content. Morally questionable “black hat” SEO providers manipulate rankings through aggressive and disobedient tactics, such as keyword stuffing, invisible text, doorway pages, adding unrelated keywords to the page content or page swapping (changing the webpage entirely after it has been ranked by search engines), so Google now looks at quality backlinks. Using social signals like Tweets, Facebook posts, +1s, etc. as a non-manipulated way of getting links, Google will consider websites with many backlinks more relevant in search results pages.
Part of a search engine’s algorithm includes indexing content, with a “webcrawler” gathering web page data (how could a librarian help you find a book if they’re all packed in unopened boxes in storage?). Given the enormous quantity of data being added to the web per second, it goes without saying that this process can be time-consuming, and this is where Twitter can help. Google takes into account several factors regarding Twitter, including number of retweets, number of people tweeting about your content, and the time frame in which your content is shared. Content that generates a lot of traction on Twitter can cut down the time it takes Google to find your content. This is important because the faster your content is indexed, the faster you’ll start receiving organic site traffic.
Having only a website decreases the value of your SEO marketing dollar
When you only have a website and you pay for SEO services, you’re kind of tying the hands of your SEO provider. It’s like hiring someone to cut your lawn for $25/hr and only providing them with a manual push mower to do so. Your lawn will get cut, but it takes a lot longer and a lot more work, and therefore more money.
Your ultimate goal is to be a user’s first choice in the search results when they’re looking for the type of product or service you offer in your local area. Your SEO provider can help you get there…to a point. Your SEO provider undoubtedly has many useful tools at their disposal, but unfortunately they can only use one or two of them if their client only has a website. This is especially true for a mainly informational website, where content is not added or updated on a regular basis.
When you have social media accounts for your business, your SEO provider gets to use their whole toolbox in optimizing your content for search engines. You can in turn give them additional resources by maximizing your social media potential:
Post useful articles, helpful tips, open enqueries, and general discussion, and follow up with users in conversation and direct customer engagement. This is the key to building a sizeable interactive following. As you grow your following, Google takes notice, and can detect follower quality. HootSuite has written an article about follower quality, or “social media influencers”, and how having these influencers share your content increases your social media reputation, and in turn, increases your online brand presence.
Increase your online presence in your area with locally optimized posts. If you attend a community event, take pictures and share them on your social media. Take the opportunity to engage with other local businesses through social media, and develop relationships to encourage cross-sharing and follower referrals.
Encourage external inbound links. This blog is hosted by WordPress, but when I share the content on my social media channels, I link back to an RSS feed of the blog on my website. So essentially a user clicks a link I’ve provided on, let’s say Twitter, and that link takes them to the blog page of my website. The website blog page only hosts the RSS feed, so the user then clicks on the blog post they’d like to read, and it redirects them to the actual WordPress blog. Now I’ve received hits on my Twitter, my website, AND my WordPress blog – all from one user.
I hope you now have more information to determine where your business needs to be online, and how to effectively manage your SEO.
Check out this fantastic infographic for more information about how Google determines search results, and look for the studies on social media impact and search correlations.