Explaining the relationship between Social Media and SEO
It is Complicated!
When business owners or marketers ask about social media and SEO, they usually want to know: Will my social media profiles and posts influence the search engine ranking of my website?
The short answer: it’s complicated. A longer answer: no with Google, yes with Bing, and yes if you count how social media can indirectly help your website.
Keep reading to learn more about the relationship between social media and SEO.
- Do Google and Bing consider social media when ranking websites?
- How social media can support your website
- How to use SEO strategies to boost your social media performance
1. Do Google and Bing consider social media when ranking websites?
Google does NOT consider social signals when ranking websites, while Bing DOES. Social signals are metrics such as a profile’s number of followers, likes, comments, shares, and retweets.
Bing includes these metrics as factors when ranking your website because, in the increasingly social nature of the Internet, social signals can indicate the authority of your website. Bing’s webmaster guidelines state:
“Social media plays a role in today’s effort to rank well in search results. The most obvious part it plays is via influence. If you are a social influencer, your followers tend to share your information widely, which in turn results in Bing seeing these positive signals. These positive signals can have an impact on how your site ranks organically in the long run.”
If you can build up a solid social media following, your webpage will have a higher chance of ranking well on Bing. And with more than a third of US searches in 2018, Bing should be part of your SEO strategy.
On the flip side, Google still does not directly factor in social media performance when collecting information about web pages. This is for two reasons:
Social signals can easily be flawed data. Think about the hacking scandals and the fake accounts stories that have come up in the news in the past year alone!
Google does not actually have access to all of the data on social media platforms. The privacy restrictions are a limitation for Google crawlers.
Instead, Google examines your website’s page content and backlinks to determine your website’s ranking. The Google algorithm is designed to bring the most relevant and authoritative page to the top of the results for every query.
Relevance comes from how closely your page content addresses the searcher’s query while authority comes from the number and quality of links back to your website.
“But wait!” you say. “I have a ton of links from my Facebook page to my website. Do those links help the authority of my website?”
Unfortunately, no. Most links from social media to an external website automatically have the tag “rel=nofollow,” meaning that search engines crawlers are directed not to follow the link and not to transfer the PageRank of the social media site to the external site.
To sum up, Google does not use social signals and social media-based backlinks when ranking your website. However, as Google’s search algorithms are continually evolving, Google may incorporate social signals in the future.
In the meantime, there are still plenty of ways social media can indirectly support your website. Scroll down to find out more!
2. How social media can support your website
Social media pages are still essential to a successful marketing strategy because they are another digital space for your target audience to find you and engage with you. Plus, your social media profiles can help your business’ website by:
Maintaining their own positions in Google rankings
Increasing brand awareness
Directing more traffic to your website
It’s crucial to keep in mind that although Google doesn’t connect social signals to your website, the company still crawls social websites for data. The last official word from Google on social media and SEO came from Matt Cutts in this 2014 video. He made sure to emphasize:
“Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index so if something occurs on Twitter or occurs on Facebook and we’re able to crawl it, then we can return that in our search results.”
This means that your social media profiles can rank by themselves in search engines, especially if those pages have high traffic. By holding their own Google positions, your social media profiles can appear alongside your website on the Google search results page, taking up even more highly-valuable space.
Then, once visitors arrive to your social media profile, you’ll have another opportunity to communicate your brand and invite them to visit your website.
Increasing brand awareness is especially key for small and medium-size businesses to move up in their industries. Social media platforms offer a way for you to spread the word about your business and build a loyal audience, people who are more likely to buy from you or recommend you to others.
Finally, social media helps your website by driving more traffic. If you share high-quality content and update and optimize your social media outlets according to your brand image, people will naturally follow the links to your website.
You could even get backlinks as people browse your website or read your blog articles, then insert links from their own websites to yours.
Make sure to include and prioritize social media in your marketing strategy to support both your website and your business as a whole.
3. How to use SEO strategies to boost your social media performance
Social media signals may not have an influence on the Google-related SEO of your website, but you can use SEO tactics to propel your social media profiles to even greater success.
How? By applying the same keyword strategy that you use for your website onto your social media profiles. By using your target keywords in your social media profiles and posts, you’ll not only be able to rank in Google and Bing, but also within social media websites themselves.
Social media websites are search engines too! In fact, Youtube is the second largest search engine in the world. People search within social media websites all the time and if your profile is optimized for the terms relevant to your business, your profile will become much more visible.
In addition to incorporating keywords, make it easy for people to find your business by using hashtags on Twitter and categorizing your pins on Pinterest. See this article explaining the best use of hashtags for marketing.
Lastly, mention or tag influencers and look into influencer marketing to see if it could help your business.
SEO is all about optimizing and when you apply the same techniques to your social media profiles, you’ll definitely see the difference in performance.
Check out some more social media optimization ideas in the image below:
While the fact remains that Google's algorithm ignores social indicators, and social media is not directly considered as a ranking factor, social media does have its uses in the long run!
Don’t ignore the social media landscape to just focus on SEO and organic searches. In this competitive business climate, leave no stone unturned to reach your target audience, including social media.
Remember the positive effects detailed above: increased traffic and backlinks, greater brand awareness, and the ability to build relationships with potential customers. These are the strategies that will eventually make you stand out from your rivals and help improve both your search engine ranking and your business over time.