Now more than ever, marketing experts are improving their marketing strategy with fewer resources, and they are shifting marketing budgets from traditional to digital tactics like search engine optimization and social media. Companies, too often, omit their social media marketing strategy from their SEO strategy, which is a grave mistake. A study conducted by Ascend2 indicates that companies with the strongest SEO via social media strategies now produce the best results, and vice-versa. Companies that consider themselves “very successful” at search engine optimization are integrating social media into their strategy, whereas, companies that are “not successful” at search engine optimization are not integrating social media into their strategy.
See the graph below:
In the above graph, companies with successful SEO are in blue while those companies with an inferior SEO strategy are in amber. You can see 38% of those doing very well with search engine optimization were also extensively integrating social media. A full 50% of those doing poorly at search engine optimization were not integrating social media at all in their strategy. This graph signifies that companies that are succeeding in search engine optimization today are including social in their strategy.
SEO is much more than just high ranking in Google. It is a multi-disciplinary, comprehensive approach to website optimization that ensures potential customers, who come to your website, will have an excellent experience, easily find what they are looking for, and have an easy time sharing your optimum-quality content. The combination of SEO and social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest can be overwhelming for big as well as small business marketers. Until recently, search engine optimization and social media marketing were thought of as two very different things, but actually these are two sides of the same coin. Consider the below mentioned social network growth statistics:
- YouTube hosts nearly 14 billion videos. Source: comScore
- Google sites handle about 100 billion searches each month. Source: SEL
- Facebook is now over 1 billion users. Source: Mark Zuckerberg
- Twitter has over 550 million accounts. Source: Statistics Brain
- Google+ has over 500 million users. Source: Google
- LinkedIn is at 225 million users. Source: LinkedIn
- Pinterest grew 4,377% in 2012 and continues to expand with 25 million users. Source: TechCrunch
- Following statistics shows how social media is quite helpful in effective search engine optimization:
- 94% increase in CTR (Click-Thru-Rate) when search and social media are used together. Source: eMarketer
- 50% of consumers use a combination of search and social media to make purchase decisions. Source: Inc
- Consumers who use social media (vs. people who don’t) are 50% more likely to use search. Source: srcibd
- Websites with a Google+ business page yield a 15% rise in search rank. Source: Open Forum
With these statistics, we can say that social media can be a primary engine for promoting new content and can take your website from zero visibility to a strong performing position almost overnight. For enhancing SEO through social media platform two factors plays a vital role, which are social signals and natural link building. I have explained these two factors in an elaborative manner:
What’s Your Social Signal?
Social Signals are signals to various search engines that your content or information is valuable. Every time someone likes, shares, tweets or +1′s content about your brand, especially a link, they are sending a social signal and the more social signals means you have better chances to rank high on search engine result pages. Many researchers have found that social shares are quite valuable when it comes to building your website authority. Here is the latest research from Searchmetrics, highlighting which social signals correlate to rankings on Google:
Note that 7 out of the top 9 factors are social signals. Now, it’s clear that social signals can have a huge impact on your search rankings, especially social signals from Google+. If you do not have time to leverage all of the social networking sites, then make sure that Google+ is one of the few you do use because it will play the biggest part in increasing your rankings on search engines. Top social signals that Google is tracking on your website are mentioned below:
Google+ is a fledgling community when it is compared to social networking giants like Facebook and Twitter, but its social signals have the most impact on search ranking results. Some factors that you should look at are:
Amount of +1s- You need to start distinguishing +1 to your website in general and +1 to each pieces of your content. You should increase +1s to your brand/your authorship profile. This also applies to +1s on Local+ pages.
Authority of +1s- If your profile or brand gets more +1, then you will get to rank higher and easier for the future content you produce.
Growth rate of +1s- You should strategize a plan that will increase your +1 steadily over an extended period of time.
Amount of Adds and Shares- How many people are following and sharing your content tells about how authoritative you are.
Authority of Adds and Shares- Who is following you is also important. A network with people with great profiles helps you to establish a voice.
The king of social networking sites, Facebook has an active community of over 900 million. Millions of active users make it a perfect platform for generating social signals. Various researches have shown that Facebook influences more search rankings as compare to Google+ or Twitter. Some factors that you should look at are:
Amount of Shares and Likes- You should remember that “shares” carry more weight than “likes”.
Amount of Comments- The collective amount of likes, shares and comments correlate the closest with search ranking.
Twitter is second only to Facebook and boasts 500 million users that are constantly “tweeting”, status updates and events in real time. Twitter users, known as “tweeps”, puts more premium on a tweet’s authority rather than sheer amount; though the overall social signals generated by it lags just a little behind Facebook. On twitter you should look at some factors like:
- Authority of followers, mentions and retweets
- Number of followers, mentions and retweets
- Speed and intensity of tweets and RT over time
Other social websites like Pinterest, Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, and FourSquare
The big three, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, play quite important role when it comes to social ranking factors, but you should not ignore the potential of other user-driven social websites like Pinterest, Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, and FourSquare. On these social networking sites you should look at following factors:
- Amount of Pins and re-pins on Pinterest
- Comments on Pinterest
- Growth rate of Pins and Re-pins
- Check-ins on Foursquare
- Spread rate of check-ins at FourSquare
- Upvotes on Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon
- Comments on Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon
Link Development through Social Media
The traditional way of link building like en-masse link directories, spammy comments, forum-posts for the sake of links, and anchor text sculpting are over now. In the modern era, the powerful way to build link is effective content marketing strategy. People love informative and quality content, and they love sharing content. Social media sites are one of the best platforms for content marketing, in this way these are quite important for natural link development.
How to build natural and quality links through Social Media Platforms
There are two tactics that will help you immensely in earning quality and natural links through Social Medial Platforms are:
Link-building through interaction and community engagement
If you’re link-building but never building relationships or never interacting with people, you’re not really link building: you are spamming. If you interact with people who might care about your brand, you can gain a cutting edge over other competitors. Meaningful interactions with audience in your niche prove your credibility and will lead to more authority links.
You can also get links through interaction from a popular site or a popular brand, when they post to their Facebook page, make a Google+ post, launch a new blog post, or put up a new video on YouTube. In this case, I also recommend you to interact early and often. Early because a lot of times, being in the first five or ten comments, interactions, or engagements really helps you to be seen by the editors who are almost always watching. When you do such interaction, make sure you are adding value, by doing this you make yourself stand out in the comments. You can add value by doing a little bit of detailed research and by making the conversation more interesting. By posting great comments, you will create interest in target customers and they often click your profile that will latently earn you some links. In addition to this, you can also offer help to other people and you can help people without being asked. This is a great way to drive links back to your own site and you can do this, not just on blog posts, but on Google+ posts, Facebook pages, and YouTube comments.
Link building through quality content
In addition to gaining links from popular sites, you can also earn links by posting qualitative and linkable content on social media platforms. If you create content that people find valuable and informative, they are more likely to want to share it. What people find valuable can vary, but optimum quality blog posts and infographics that provide well-researched information, statistics, and new angles on a subject are all good starting points. A good and informative video that attracts viewers’ attention is eminently shareable, which is one reason nearly 87% of agency and brand marketers now creating video for content marketing. When someone reads your quality and informative content on social media sites and finds it of valuable, it is more likely that they will want to link to it.
In order to give your informative content the best chance of reaching a wide audience, you should identify the key influencers or target audience in your field. In this way, you will be able to target your efforts effectively. Facebook and Twitter are the two go-to social media platforms for most people but you should also seek out targets on other platforms such as Pinterest, YouTube, and Tumblr. In addition to this, if you are marketing within specific regions, you might want to channel your efforts to the most popular websites in each market. For example, VK is the preferred social media website in Russia, while Orkut can help extend your reach within Brazil and India.
You can also use various tools and services that can help you find the best targets. For example Followerwonk offers a Twitter analytics service and it can help you to compare and sort followers by looking at data such as social authority scores and the percentage with URLs. Furthermore, you can also gauge reactions to your own tweets by monitoring your activity alongside current follower numbers. Apart from this, Fresh Web Explorer is a handy tool, as it searches for mentions of your brand, company or other keyword and automatically matches this with ‘feed authority’. In this way, you can sort key influencers from those with less perceived authority that will allow you to target your efforts more effectively.
Now, it is clear that social media is an essential part of search engine optimization. Following diagram explains you a blueprint of how social media supports SEO:
Quality Content gets published- One of the best ways to increase quality traffic to your website is to publish sharable, useful and relevant content on social media sites.
Content gets Shares, Links, & Likes- As you start publishing your company’s blog posts or research work on a regular basis and spreading it across the social networking sites, your content will start generating shares, links, and “likes”.
Sites Gain Subscriptions while Social Profiles get Fans & Followers- As a result, your site’s blog will gain more subscribers and your social media channels will gain more followers, fans, and connections.
Thriving Community Supporting the Website & Social Networks Grows- A thriving community of people who are interested in your user-focused content develops and starts to thrive.
Reputation Reinforced through Social Media & SEO as Authoritative Brand for the Niche- Signals are sent to various search engines about your activity on social media platforms and your keyword-rich and informative content. Your website starts being viewed as reputable, relevant, and authoritative.
Sites Gain Authority in Search Engines- As a result, your website and its informative and quality content starts appearing higher and more frequently in the top rankings and listings of search engines for your keyword phrases and targeted keywords.
Sustainable Stream of Users Discover the Site organically- A consistently growing stream of users will begin discovering the website via the social media sites, search engines, and your email marketing efforts.
I have explained how aligning SEO and social media efforts can really enhance your SEO performance. In order to execute this task effectively, you might even like to hire experienced SEO experts. You should make sure that your social media and SEO teams are working together in order to create a unified digital marketing strategy.
Sandeep Sharma is a Project Manager with a prominent digital media marketing company TIS India and has been for the last 10 years. He loves to create aesthetically appealing websites & eye-popping user interfaces for international clients. You can follow him on Twitter and Google Plus.