Reading or watching Google’s tutorials for marketers is a bit like watching the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain. There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors behind the smidgen of helpful information on SEO practices. But to safeguard their proprietary algorithms, there’s not a lot of explanation about exactly how they do what they do. Google is the Wizard behind the curtain.
In this vein, Google repeatedly states that they don’t use “social signals” to rank content. This includes using metrics relative to an account’s engagement levels or number of followers. In fact, Matt Cutts indicated that this ability might lie a full decade in the future.
Does that mean that social media marketing doesn’t help your SEO efforts at all? Absolutely not! Like the lion got his courage and Dorothy got to go home, the Wizard’s smoke and mirrors do help in a roundabout way. Here are all the ways that smart social media marketing strategies support your SEO efforts.
1. Social Posts are Ranked Just Like Any Other Content
Google has difficulty assuring the identity of various brands and people. For example, anyone can pose as Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift on social media and accumulate hundreds of thousands of likes and follows. But these accounts may have nothing to do with the actual celebrity, so the social boost doesn’t necessarily help their websites rank better in related organic searches. If Google can’t always attribute social likes and shares to such notable celebrities, they certainly can’t for relative unknowns like Joe’s Plumbing in Bowling Green or Marsha’s Hair Salon in Bakersfield.
However, Google treats content posted to social media exactly like content posted anywhere else on the Web. Google isn’t looking at your content and deciding that it’s a blog post or an “about” page or a Facebook post. Content is content, and it often ranks better when placed on social media than it does when placed on your own website. That’s because social media pages get crawled by Google more often than individual websites do. So, you can usually get a great Google ranking with relevant content posted to Twitter or Facebook faster and easier than you can posting the same content to your blog or website.
2. Social Media Marketing Builds Your Reputation
Just because Google isn’t positive that your Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest pages belong to you doesn’t mean your customers aren’t convinced. Customers often research a company in several different ways before buying. Also, you’ll almost certainly reach customers via social that you wouldn’t ever find through other forms of online advertising, even SEO. Social media sites are basically little search engines in their own right. Not only can customers search for “Paleo diets” or “cheap fashion” right in the social search engine, social sites offer paid ads that show up in the news feeds of people who tend to like those sorts of things.
These posts look exactly like any organically placed post, and often lead customers straight to your door without even conducting a search for your targeted keywords. Plus, these are highly qualified leads, because they’ve already shown an interest in your search topics.
3. Social Media Marketing Builds Your Brand Identity
Building a recognizable brand identity is incredibly difficult these days, simply because you’re competing with so many other brands and messages. Having multiple arenas to place and promote your brand image goes a long way toward instilling recognition and trust in your target audiences. Just be sure that your messages reinforce each other.
For example, your social media pages on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter should look and read just like your own website and your other online ads and promotions. Make sure that the messages are consistent so that they reinforce your brand image and help build your identity within the customers’ consciousness.
4. Social Posts Drive Traffic to Your Site
The entire point of SEO is driving traffic to your website. Social does this both with and without an organic search. In the end, does it really matter whether your customers come in via Google and Bing versus Facebook and Twitter? Nah. Getting them there is the point. The only reason it matters how they arrived is for your marketing metrics, so you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
5. Bing Actually Does Include Social Authority in Search Rankings
Google commands almost 80 percent of the overall search engine market, but don’t discount Bing’s nearly 10 percent. While Google says that they don’t use social signals in search rankings, Bing does. As early as 2010, Bing told Search Engine Land, “We do look at the social authority of a user. We look at how many people you follow, how many follow you, and this can add a little weight to a listing in regular search results.” Never discount the power of 10 percent more traffic to your website or 10 percent more conversions and revenue.
While social signals aren’t directly factored into any given search result, it’s clear that social media marketing plays a huge supporting role in overall SEO effectiveness, and most critically, increases your traffic and conversions. Every great SEO strategy needs a supporting cast of smart, well-executed social media marketing plans, just like Dorothy needed the lion, the tin man, and the scarecrow.