Social media affecting SEO: fact or fiction?

The times when good SEO could be achieved without developing a comprehensive social media strategy are gone for good. These days you can’t imagine a ranking algorithm that would not involve social media sites. So if you want your website to show up on Google’s first page, better make friends with social media.

How & why social media works for better SEO.

The first thing you should remember is: social media activity will not affect your website’s SEO directly, but it does correlate with search results. It goes like this: the more users engage with the web page using social networks, the higher rank it’ll get in organic web search. Social media also becomes a tool that helps to monitor user attitude.

And it’s not only the number of followers on Twitter, Facebook “likes,” or Google “+1” marks that matter. User interaction signals are also important.

Imagine there are two potentially competitive websites providing business tips for users:one of them has poor content, and visitors leave it without interacting with the page (comments, likes, and shares) or following other pages linked to it. Such behavior is called a ‘bounce’. On the other hand, another website provides visitors with more relevant answers; they stay on the web page for some time, maybe navigate the website by going to other pages or leave comments.

Search engines watch those signals and take them into account as indicators of quality and relevance. The longer the time a user spends on the page, and the lower the bounce rate is, the higher position the website will get in search results.

Google “+1” marks, Facebook “likes,” tweets, and comments testify that users think the page is helpful and deserves to be ranked high on Google, Yahoo or Bing’s search result pages. That’s why website owners who want their creations to remain competitive should pay proper attention to social media.

What are the benefits of social media optimization?

Some website owners may ask a question: “What’s the point in spending effort on social media if the number of “likes” on Facebook or tweets on Twitter does not directly affect the position of my site in search results?” That’s a valid concern. The point is to get the most out of the numerous indirect benefits social media activity can give you.

The main benefits include:

  • Social media is a goldmine as a referral traffic source. Even if the number of likes and shares is relatively small, the number of visitors on your website will grow.
  • It’s the way to increase the credibility of your company or brand. The number of followers on your social media profiles will demonstrate to your potential customers that you are a trustworthy company.
  • You’ll get more feedback from users. Social media optimization encourages them to interact with the content, which increases engagement and time spent on the website
  • Including links to your website in social posts accelerates indexing of the new content, as multiple search bots crawl social networks every day.
  • Social sharing is a perfect way to increase your website’s visibility and spread the word about it. If users find your content truly valuable, they will share it with their friends or colleagues via social media. The more you post, the more publicity you get.
  • Google+ activity is a direct way to get higher rankings for certain users. For example, if Jane marks AMgrade’s page with +1, it will rank higher in Google search for anyone who has Jane in his/her circle.

What should I do?

So how exactly should you use social media to empower your website’s SEO? The tips listed below will help you along the way.

Social media optimization

Make social sharing easy. Remember, if you don’t make the website content easily shareable, it probably won’t get any social exposure. To achieve this, put social sharing buttons on the pages that have the potential to go viral. First and foremost, those should be blog articles, case studies, media galleries, etc… By using widgets, sliders and embedded videos you can aggregate the most “shareable” content from the entire website on your homepage; then add social sharing buttons to make it easier for users to share this content.

Use both “share/like” and “follow” buttons, so you can kill two birds with one stone. The number of social platforms may vary and depends on your understanding of which one your audience may prefer. However, these days, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are a must for practically all websites.

How to use those buttons more effectively? Here’s what we recommend:

  • The buttons should be an integral part of the website’s design. If “native” buttons suit the layout, great, but if it doesn’t work think about customizing them. It’s not difficult to change the color or the picture.

  • As for the position of the buttons on the page, there are several possible options: on the left or on the right, on the top or on the bottom of the page, and even on a sidebar. There’s no consensus about it among the webmasters, so the best way is to find out what works for you experimentally, using any of the widely available analytical tools.

For example, place the “social sharing panel” on the top of the content you want to be noticed and monitor user activity for a few weeks. Then try a different position for the panel and compare the results.

Take into account the web experience of your target audience: if they are supposed to be advanced web users, they’ll find the buttons either way. And if your website is targeted toward less experienced or older users, make the panel more noticeable.

  • Monitor social media activity. There are numerous tools to perform social media analytics (Falconsocial, Simply Measured, Add This, Google Analytics, etc…).
  • Don’t limit yourself to the “share” or “like” buttons. Social media widgets, pop-up’s, comment systems, and “follow” buttons can also benefit your site.

Comment systems

By allowing users to comment on the content of your website you stimulate social interaction and encourage feedback, all of which have positive impact on SEO. Keep in mind that modern comment systems make all the social actions easy: users can login with their social media profiles to comment on a website, share their own interactions or an entire discussion with friends, follow and get notified about other users’ comments.

Social widgets and Follow buttons

Using widgets is not only about diversifying the content (for example, sharing the latest Instagram photos or tweets), it’s also a way to grow the number of followers of your social profiles. The main benefit of social widgets is that your visitors don’t have to leave the website if they want to follow your posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or other social networks. A “follow” button is another way to keep visitors connected to your website.

Follow buttons:

Increase organic social reach

Even though some social networks, for example Facebook, have recently reduced organic reach, you can still find opportunities to get free traffic.

First of all, remember that you shouldn’t make one social platform “the center of the world.” Paying attention to several social networks is a much better strategy.

The second important tip: do not repost one link blindly to all networks. Adapt the content depending on the platform you choose. There are several reasons why this is important:

  • Every social network has its specifics (short messages in Twitter, non-clickable links in Instagram, etc.). Keep this in mind; otherwise your post won’t be effective.
  • Keep in mind the audience’s tastes. For example, users of LinkedIn will be bothered by the entertainment content, while those on Instagram will probably enjoy it.
  • Don’t forget to optimize the content according to the platform you’re going to post it on. It is subject to the text length, the size and number of pictures etc. Check how the same content can be posted on different social platforms.

Thirdly, don’t neglect the tools that can help you automate your outreach: auto posting, cross posting, monitoring and analyzing data from the social networks. The most popular of them include Hoofsuite (free and paid), (free), Buffer (free and paid), SharedCount (free and paid), and many others.

Try paid social reach

If you’re looking for efficiency, consider the social media ads. While getting organic reach is getting increasingly more difficult, paid reach is an alternative. Besides, social ads and sponsored posts help to increase both organic and viral reach.

The way paid reach works is very simple – you pay for your sponsored posts being shown more often in the news feed.

Once you’ve published a sponsored post it becomes available to both followers/page fans/community members and non-followers of your page. When users interact with the post (like, comment or share), the post becomes visible to their friends in the news feed. It’s called the viral reach.

Paid social reach gives more visibility to website’s content: users click on an ad, and if they find information useful, they may share it with friends, who in turn may continue sharing. This is how a well-constructed paid reach transforms into organic and viral, providing your website not only with a stable source of traffic, but also with an engaged audience.

Use the opportunities for local business

Modern social media allows website owners to be more target-focused. And it’s a shame not to translate this possibility into action if you own a local business.

Currently, most search engines increase ranking for websites listed in local business directories or tagged on maps. So it’s crucially important to optimize your presence using maps. There are several steps you can take:

  • Get a “Google my Business” account and place all the necessary information for Google maps. Remember that a thought-out presentation increases the loyalty. Include photo or video content, and contact information, if possible. This will help your business to be discovered by users searching for products or services in a specific area.
  • Use Yelp to claim your presence. This platform allows you to not only update information or download photos but also get reviews. Yelp is very popular in the United States but there are similar sites in Europe, so make sure to use the power of crowd-sourcing review sites to the full extent.
  • Foursquare is a social platform with more than 30 million users and nearly one million companies from all over the world. Join this community and let its members know about your website/business.

Use the opportunity to create locally-optimized posts and make the audience respond to them. Whenever your post is connected to a location, attract users with pictures, videos or discussions. Cooperate with local players – It’ll increase your website’s visibility in local search.

How AMgrade can help

If you’re looking for efficiency but don’t have enough time to devise and execute a proper strategy that will improve SEO and strengthen your web presence, contact the AMgrade team. We will be happy to assist you. Our approach is based on our five years of experience in delivering IT solutions and web development.

We know that every case is unique and needs individual attention. Feel free to contact us to check all the benefits we can offer you.