Social media and SEO are two interlinked strategies as both are organic driven and is dependent on fresh content appealing to the viewers. There is no direct mention by Google that increase in social media followers will directly improve the rankings for a specific set of reason. However,Google always insists on quality links and content rather than the quantity of shares and links. This article will be a guiding tool to realise how social media matters the most for SEO in a very specific technical context in contrast to other articles available online to show how all these strategies work in real time to improve the search rankings.
Social media helps in improving quality dwell times
As per Google patent: Document ranking based on document classification, 17 July 2012, we find that Google has invented algorithms to determine dwell times, which is a term used by Google to determine the engagement rate of the visitors to your website. This means that the time spent by visitors on your website must grow from first time to the second time and so on. Otherwise, Google will assume that your content is becoming stale. How do you do this? Of course,social media is going to play a vital role in improving your dwell times by constantly posting external inbound links to the content of your website. But the most important hidden factor, which Google is trying to tell here, is that growing the number of followers in social media alone is not going to work out. To satisfy the criteria of dwell times, there must be quality followers who really want to follow your content. Otherwise, even though you have 10,000 followers your search ranking is not going to improve.
Facebook and Twitter are the best platforms to increase your dwell times due to their popularity and the presence of huge user database.It is a good idea to post quality content onyour website,Facebook and twitter pages. Posting atleast two quality blogs per week and publicising the blog in your social media pages will gain you more organic leads and catch the eyes of Google. Another method to improve the number of quality followers can be to announce special offers in social media space. Contests, games and gifts attract the most and hence brands have resorted to this method as the next criteria for attracting visitors. Hence it is recommended to organise regular interesting contests and announce winners in social media and make a leader board of frequent visitors in your page to gain more visibility.
Gain ranks on link based criteria with the help of Social Media
As per Google patent: Document scoring based on link based criteria, 27 August 2013 we find that earning links is going to be an important strategy for SEO. But the earning must be steady and not altogether. For instance, Google algorithm does not count the aggregate backlinks but counts your backlink earnings over time. If you have a content published today and the number of backlinks is more this week than the upcoming weeks, then it is not considered fresh by Google. Fresh backlinks are something, which has steady demandeven after months after the date of sharing.
Although Facebook and Twitter platforms too help you score back links, the presence of the most recent option in the news feed and the limitation in number of friends who can view your posts will restrict the back links score. Quora and YouTube are the ideal platforms for this.For example, Quora is going to help you gain back links even after months from the date of posting. The reason behind this is people visit Quora for their queries and if you can manage to give quality answers with appropriate backlinks, then there are high chances for your content being visible even after a month or year. The same is in the case for blogs and YouTube videos.
Let us look into how backlinks in Quora works as a SEO strategy.
Quora is the only platform where students, investors, marketers etc. easily connect with each other without any restrictions. Beyond a Q&A search engine, Quora has become a tool to increase web traffic. Let us take a case study of how companies promoting credit card business use Quora as tool to market their product:
A person searching for answers for best credit cards in Quora not only has answers of various options but also tends to come across back links to the websites. When they click the links, the organic traffic to the website increases and becomes a basis for free lead generation.
Social Media has now become a Search Engine on its own
People do not view social media as a sharing platform alone anymore. It acts as a search engine too. For example, if someone wants to know more about a company or a person then they look into Facebook and Twitter activities as well apart from doing just a Google search. This way the organic searches in these platforms present a pool of opportunities for companies to capture and improve their visibility in digital space.
As a result of this, Facebook and Twitter pages/YouTube videos too appear in search engine results!
Google crawls through social media pages too for the content posted. Google claims that every Tweet/Facebook share/comments are content for them rather than features and hence they are able to crawl. Similarly if a Facebook or Twitter page appears in search results then it means that it is solely for the content in that particular page. Hence companies with optimised high quality social media pages are found to earn greater benefits from social media accounts in Google SERPs. For example when you type Coca Cola in the google search, you can find the links to social media pages in the search results. This is a clear indication that social media pages too matter in Google search.
What does research and experts say?
“Social media and SEO are somewhat integrated” – Quick sprout
Very recently an infographic released by quick sprout caught the attention of many digital marketers. The survey report clearly reveals that social media marketing is definitely one of the factors for the new SEO strategy with 50% of the companies saying that social media marketing and SEO are somewhat integrated.
“Social media as a SEO strategy is still a weak factor” – Moz report
However,Moz released a report on Search Engine Ranking factors 2015 which says otherwise. According to the report,social media is still less influential from SEO point of view. However engagement rate and content still being in one of the top factors can be indirectly related to social media. Hence we can expect that high quality content and engagement rate in social media will continue to give signals to Google.
How each platform impacts the search ranking?
Let us now check out how each social signal affects the search engine ranking based on the research reports of search metrics on “Search ranking factors for 2016”
The research by search metrics shows that signals from Facebook are high for the brands in Top 10 ranks of Google search and maintains a positive correlation. From the below graph we can see that there is a distinct difference between top 5 and the rest. We can also see that there is a drastic fall after rank 1, which means that top rank guy is distinct in the way he handles Facebook as a medium to drive traffic as compared to the one in second place and hence he continues to dominate.
The number of tweets and retweets too has a positive correlation with SEO strategy.However in 2016, the percentage has decreased and hence the down arrow. But twitter signals do matter in determining Google search rank positions.
Compared to other social media platforms, Pinterest has increased across all rank positions in the year 2016 and is expected to increase even in the years to come. This tells us that almost all the rank positions are having more or less similar strategies using Pinterest and the one who is going to come up with a different way of using Pinterest will have high chances in sending dominating signal to Google.
So how do we leverage social media signals effectively for search?
From the above observations, we can see that social media does send signals to Google, although it is not a direct SEO strategy just like a Television. In television, good quality interesting program high attention, number of viewers increases with the buzz and finally gets high rating and people mark these channels as most viewed. Similarly quality contents and videos in social media send signals to Google with increasing views and Google ranks in their search engine accordingly. Thus we can call social media as a broadcasting platform.
Here are 5 essentials you must definitely do to leverage various social mediachannels.
1. Create a blog for your website
2. Post regular content
3. Share the articles in different social media platforms
4. Optimise the post with catchy taglines, infographics and videos
5. Update latest events happening in the company to get local attention and increase local searches for brand awareness, which may ultimately be a signal to SEO.
The metrics which matters the most for Social media as SEO strategy:
For businesses, results are the major area of concern. The number of likes and followers can no longer be shown as KPI by social media managers. Hence from SEO point of view, there are lot of metrics and analytics behind to prove that social media is indeed helping in SEO and ultimately increasing the profitability of the business. Let us now see the various metrics used to measure the ROI on a particular campaign:
This tells us the number of replies or comments, which we get from the audience for a particular post.
Amplification rate is the rate at which your content is shared regularly on different social media platforms. For twitter it is calculated by number of retweets, on Facebook or Google+it is the number of shares. On YouTube, the number of share clicks per video gives us the amplification rate.
Appreciation rate or applause rate:
As the word indicates, it gives us the extent of appreciation for our post.It is nothing but the number of likes on Facebook/Twitter/Youtube and +1s in Google+.
Number of leads for the cost spent:
Tools such as Facebook business manager, Google analytics and Twitter analytics have inbuilt analytics to find out the number of leads from a particular campaign.It also gives the total cost spent for the selected time period so that you can calculate the cost per lead from a particular campaign and compensate the price accordingly in the upcoming sales.
If all the above metrics are good, then search engine rank is also found to be higher for a particular page.
Tools that help you track and measure the metrics:
1. Using Google analytics to track business results:
Google analytics is the most powerful tool to determine who has visited your website, which platform works for converting leads for you and for day to day tracking of your marketing campaign. The top 5 things one should definitely analyse using analytics tool include:
- Target audience: Includes location, demography, behaviour, new vs returning visitors, mobile conversion % etc.
- Acquisition: Takes into account the different channels, SEO landing pages from where organic traffic is maximum, campaign data like number of sessions etc.
- Behavior details: Includes the page views, traffic, pagewise speed data etc.
- Conversions:Include location based conversions, product based conversions, platform based conversions etc.
A dashboard which gives the overall summary
2. Use Google Webmaster Tools to determine top destination pages :
Using Google Webmaster tools, one can determine the top pages under a particular search category and can plan out new content campaigns accordingly. You can also get an insight on which content gets more visibility and search engine conversions by viewing the destination pages displayed in the SERPs.
3. Use smart link managers to determine the quality links:
There are various link manager tools like raven link manager, which guide you to build possible referral links in your social media posts for building more traffic. Not only that, they automatically send you a report on the links, which get converted for smarter traffic building and better SEO.
4. Use BuzzSumo to find out the top shared articles and top influencers:
Buzz sumo is one of the most important content marketing tools that has the ability to identify what content is doing well in your field of interest. Also this application gives you details of top bloggers and influencers who you can leverage for making social media campaigns effective.
5. Moz research tools to determine the traffic and page ranks:
Moz is a tool that gives you details such as page rank, number of active visitors and the traffic to your website. Moz rank of 41 or above is considered to be good as per industrial standards.
On the whole, although social media is considered as a weak strategy by experts like Moz and there is no direct mention by Google, it is always an important area from SEO perspective. We recommend marketers who have not yet realised the importance of an active presence in social media platforms to pull up their socks, keeping in mind the above mentioned facts.