Post by Adi Englander
Your content strategy alone isn’t enough when it comes to ranking higher in search. Content is still incredibly important, but there’s a not-so-new beast called social media that many business are still neglecting and missing out on entirely.
Search engines are placing higher importance on what’s coming from social media. Need proof? Google’s own Matt Cutts stated,
“We do use Twitter and Facebook links in ranking as we always have in our web search rankings, but in addition we’re also trying to figure out a little bit about the reputation of an author or creator on Twitter or Facebook,”
Social media has only grown and developed substantially since Cutts’ statement, in regards to users, relevancy, and overall frequency of activity. The bottom line is, businesses with active social media strategies are prevailing, both directly and indirectly.
The extent to which Google and other search engines are indexing and ranking social traffic is still relatively unclear, but one thing is quite clear, social media matters. If you’re still not convinced, find strength in numbers. According to Econsultancy’s State of Search Marketing Report 2013, 74% of companies and 82% of agencies surveyed said that social media is integrated into their SEO strategy. Moz conducted a study in the same year and found that pages with activity from Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and general comments tend to rank higher.
There are relatively telling results that can impact your SEO, as well as less obvious impact that are arguably just as important. Let’s walk through a few examples of both direct and indirect factors that you should be aware of and utilize.
Personalized Search Results
Search, as are most things happening on the web, is becoming incredibly personalized. By connecting multiple social accounts to different services, people are able to see how, where, and with whom their immediate and extended networks are living and working.
Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media Studios, illustrates this point using Google+ in his post on the effects of social media on SEO. Crestodina says that “Google+ posts rank almost instantly for phrases included in the post, for anyone who has added you to their circle” and “+1’d content ranks higher in personalized search results”.
The catch? There really isn’t one. People just need to be logged into their Google+ account to see this personalized ranking. As long as you’re connected to the searcher, your content will rank substantially higher than it would otherwise.
What else ranks directly from social? Your profile. I’ll dive more into this point later, but the search results don’t lie. Social media profiles, for brands and people alike, often show up on the first page. Google+ results are also displayed in the upper right corner, in case the top of the page wasn’t enough.
Linking (the backbone of SEO)
Although there are some doubts, Google does crawl social websites in the same way that it would any other site. So, a quick win here would be to create and update your social profiles with the relevant and correct information about your business according to Neil Patel’s blog post about indexation best practices. Then get creative and share your website link through those social profiles. Even though social media links are nofollow, you’ll still get a bit of authority and you’ll be sharing your name with potential new customers across multiple social media platforms.
What might those users do that can help? They can click through, look around, share what you have to offer with friends or on their website. At the least, they could decrease your bounce rates, which many SEOs believe is important for ranking.
As it stands, Google isn’t able (or hasn’t figured out how) to place ranking value on things like followers, likes, upvotes, etc. What Google does understand are links coming from reputable sources. Open yourself up to the opportunities that these massive social networks hold for any business.
There is a saving grace here for those with massive followings and loads of shares that affects ranking, albeit indirect at it’s start. Let me illustrate.
Step 1: You share something awesome from your social media channel
Step 2: It gets picked up and noticed amongst other social media folks, starting with your followers and expanding.
Step 3: Enough people notice it and it goes viral.
Step 4: Brands do their best to stay on top of current events and after seeing your viral post and write about it, linking back to you.
I’ve touched on this a bit earlier, but the reach that social media has when it comes to building a brand and spreading the word about your brand can be infinite. Beautifully branded websites and perfectly articulated copy have their place, but that’s not necessarily where your potential customers are finding you, learning about your brand and what you have to offer.
Seeing as who you are and what you do often has quite a bit to do with who will buy from you, it’s worth paying attention to. Branded social media profiles are one of the best places for your business to articulate who you are and what you have to offer in your own tone, without it coming off as unapproachable (like it probably does on your website and most other websites).
What’s the value in pumping time and effort into building your social brand? The reach. As I mentioned earlier, Google and other search engines haven’t yet figured out how to rank a social profile in regards to authority, but people can. Brands like Patagonia and Chipotle have pioneered a human-like approach to their social media presence that has garnered them countless features in best of the best brands to features in major news posts. These brand’s activities on social media are moving them up in search results because of how much others are talking about it.
Obviously going viral isn’t a social media strategy, but creating a brand and image that’s worth following can gain loyal followers who might never end up purchasing your product or service, but will support it.
Changing Landscape of Search
On the flip side of the search ranking coin, it’ worth noting that search is no longer happening solely on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the like. There are 3 sizable search volumes worth noting:
- As of 2010, Twitter handled 19 billion search queries a month (more than 5x that of Bing)
- In 2012, Facebook stated that it had around 1 billion searches per day
- As of 2010, YouTube got roughly 3.7 billion searches per month
That’s a lot of searching that isn’t happening on Google, but you and countless other businesses aren’t paying attention to it. Many lesser known brands are capitalizing on the opportunities that social media search has to offer, while the bigger players continue to stress over ranking on the major search engines.
There’s little doubt that Google will be incorporating social signals more and more into its algorithm. Having a legitimate strategy for ranking on social media search engines may prove to be one of the best long-term plays that your business can make in 2016.Adi Englander is a freelance writer and social media expert who writes for Gerris digital, a full-service digital strategy firm in the Washington, DC, area.