It wasn’t long ago that my focus was aimed entirely on search engine optimization, but in the last few years that view has shifted to include social media and how it works in combination with your SEO efforts. SEO and social media continue to work together more and more.
Can social media improve SEO, and vice versa?
The short answer is “yes.”
But, combining the traction of social media with the power of search marketing is a bit more complicated than it looks, and will require a bit of work on your part.
Let’s dive in.
Search Engines Have Endorsed Social
In December 2010 both Google and Bing announced that they would now factor in social media influence into their search algorithms. This is important to you and me because search engines now know when our websites are a hot topic on Facebook and other social media sites.
In addition, they can now monitor traffic from those websites, including links to your site found within their content, in order to gather more information about your website.
Considering the speed with which content and news is constantly updating on social media sites, it was just a matter of time before Google made these changes.
Google introduced one of the largest algorithm makeovers in their history when they gave us the “Caffeine” update (this was pre “Panda”). This update was created to help Google keep up with today’s ever changing content at a much faster clip. I believe social media played the lead role here.
With that said, search is still the bedrock of internet marketing, spawning a multi-billion dollar industry from which Google has made its fortune. Even with the press and pundits insisting that search’s days are numbered and that it will soon be replaced by a new economic model anchored on social media, search really isn’t going anywhere soon. In fact it remains the core tool in the toolbox of most internet marketers.
But search is not engaging; social media is engaging
It takes off where search’s immense usefulness ends. It draws in audiences to participate in sustained conversations and compelling content.
In effect, if you want to get great results for your online business, it makes a lot of sense to combine the strengths of these two platforms.
Search will get you found, and social media will keep your audiences riveted. Search and social media make a natural, synergistic pair that complement each other’s strengths. Using just one will give you pretty good results, if done properly.
But, combining them can take your marketing to the next level.
How does it all work together?
Not all links and content within social media sites are indexed by search engines, but, the major social media networks are indexed by Google to some extent.
Take note that this, too, may change, as operational strategies and business relationships evolve. What is indexed now may not be indexed in the future, and what Google doesn’t index now may end up being indexed later on.
For instance, Google’s relationship with Twitter is a monetary one, meaning it could end abruptly and the indexing of Tweets could greatly reduce. And just recently Google+ entered the equation and is being indexed in Google search results at an increasing rate.
Here is a summary of top-tier social networks and how much is indexed by Google.
- Job postings
- Company page
- Comments (recently added)
- Google+ status updates are already being indexed by Google and they will clearly index or factor in everything they can within their own social network. Businesses can connect Google+ pages to search results manually.
- Slidedeck titles and descriptions
- Transcribed slide text and notes
How to use this knowledge
Knowing what Google tracks is extremely helpful because it allows us to focus on optimizing these sections of our social media accounts. The next step will be to seed these sections with strategic keywords and get other sites to share the link to your page. These are the two most important things you will need to work on.
Search is unilaterally keyword-driven. When the Google spiders crawl onto your Facebook profile, for example, it records all the keywords it finds on that page and stores the results in its massive databases. That is why blogs and other such pages that contain a lot of keyword-rich content fare much better at search.
But, it seems that even blogs may one day take a backseat to social media content.
When people search for information on any of these keywords found on your Facebook profile, your page could be among the list of search results Google presents to a searcher.
However, your rank on this list depends on a number of factors, including:
- How people engage with your social media content. For instance, if your post gets more “Likes” – it will move up higher in Facebook’s own search results and your friends feeds.
- How your account stands out against others. Companies with a larger following tend to show up more in social media site feeds/results and they get more traffic than those with smaller lists of friends/follows/connections etc.
- The number of external websites that link back to your Facebook profile page. Links from other sites are like votes of confidence or affirmations of your credibility. I personally try to link back to my social media accounts on every page of my site.
Search engines also seem to have a higher level of trust in many social media sites. Pages from social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, HubPages and Squidoo, among others, receive high PageRank scores from Google. Google also seems to index these sites at a higher frequency than other sites.
When you update your LinkedIn profile, for example, the changes tend to reflect on Google’s search results in only a few hours. It may take days, or even longer for changes to your corporate site to be updated on Google. It makes much strategic sense for you to take advantage of this preferential treatment to drive traffic into your social media sites.
This is just another example of how important social media content is to Google – and why they’re always scanning this content.
One way to leverage social media to boost your SEO is by building multiple social media accounts that you can (realistically) manage. Optimize the key sections of each account while you concurrently build your communities around them. This two-pronged approach is the catalyst that can take your online business to the next level.
Building up your social network by engaging others on a social site generates keyword rich content – from status posts, re-posts, comments and sharing – as well as the high level of inter-linking and link-backs that Google is keen on discovering.
Many social media sites insert a “nofollow” tag on their links, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t get SEO value from your social media accounts.
As the name implies, tagging a link with nofollow tells a search engine to NOT follow that link (meaning no “link juice” for you). However, many social media sites allow a user to have an RSS feed of their social media content which is NOT tagged with the “nofollow” rule.
One way or another – search engines WILL find links back to your site so write well and write often.
Whether they nofollow your link or not, links from social media sites help increase your website traffic. People will click on the link which generates great traffic to your site, but there is also a good chance that people in your social network will link to your page too (if the content is good).
- Your social media network creates content and keywords;
- Search engines pick up the keywords, links and activities and drive your pages up the SERPs based on relevant keyword searches;
- You get more traffic to your social media sites with a greater chance of getting people to join your network;
- Rinse and repeat the process for as long as it continues to give you results.
When you get this level of virality, you can fold your arms, sit back, relax and let the system run itself.