by Christelle Macri
The link between search engine optimization and social media can be somewhat confusing. For years, many marketers believed that social media signals like Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter ‘follows’ influenced search rankings, but in 2014, Google’s Matt Cutts released a YouTube video, where he confirmed this was not the case.
Nevertheless, most SEO consultants still consider the relationship between SEO and social media to be extremely strong. Indeed, there is a convincing argument that search marketing and social media marketing should be handled by the same team. So what exactly is the link between the two and why do they go hand-in-hand?
1. Search Engines and Social Media
Generally speaking, Matt Cutts is right to say Google discounts social media signals as a ranking factor. Some of the confusion stems from the fact that Google treats social media posts like individual web pages. Yet, its algorithms recognise that social media links are easy to manipulate, so social links do not usually carry ‘authority’.
However, it is important to recognize that this does not mean search engines do not use social media at all, or that the two things cannot work together. For example, social media profiles show in search results and if you search for any major business, you will likely see their Facebook page, Twitter account and/or Instagram account on page one. When a company ‘owns’ the first page of Google search results for their brand related searches thanks to their website, blog, social media profiles being listed, this amounts to a very important part of branding real estate that cannot be ignored. Not only this will reinforce the brand, but it will also drive traffic to all the company’s platforms, which becomes an integral part of a digital marketing and reputation management strategies.
Despite Google’s stance on social links, some social media posts do occasionally seem to influence rankings, and Bing have been clear in stating that their search engine algorithms do pay attention to social media signals, with the ‘social authority’ of a user adding weight to listings.
2. The Indirect Connections
Social media also has some indirect SEO implications, which still very much link the two marketing strategies. For example, while sharing a piece of content on Facebook might not improve your search rankings directly, the users who follow the link and read the piece might impact upon ranking factors like your bounce rate. Furthermore, Facebook can act as a valuable metric, allowing you to see what content appeals most to your target audience.
In addition, social media can increase exposure, improving the chances of other websites linking to your content, which will then have SEO effects. Moreover, Google and Bing do occasionally show Twitter posts in their SERPs. An expert or SEO company could use this to their advantage, increasing a business’ overall online presence.
“While social posts showing up in search results don’t impact your site’s SEO, it can improve brand awareness,” says Nate Dame from Marketo. “Factors such as how many retweets, how many people tweeted the content, and the time frame of when the content was shared are all taken into consideration,” adds Kristina Cisnero from Hootsuite.
3. Social Media as a Search Engine
Finally, one of the most important reasons for SEO and social media to be part of the same team is that social networks are search engines. Although Google is still king, internet users are increasingly using social media to search for content. Twitter handles more than five times the number of monthly search queries that Bing does.
“Nowadays, people don’t just go to Google and Bing to look stuff up; they also use social media channels to find what they’re looking for,” says Chloe Mason Gray, a digital marketing specialist writing for Kissmetrics. “If someone wants to check out your company, they’re likely to open Twitter and Facebook and do a quick search.”
Therefore, SEO principles apply to social media too. This connection means search engine optimizers should also have a role in social media marketing, and social media marketers should have an input into SEO strategies. At the very least, this requires close collaboration between the teams, but it makes even more sense to have one team working together.
Christelle has worked in the Internet advertising and search industry for over 17 years, and she has a real passion for digital marketing. She is the founder of ebizpromotion, a consultancy advising on marketing strategies and implementing integrated campaigns for direct clients and agencies within a variety of sectors, including B2B.pioneering pay for performance advertising networks, she is an expert at turning her clients’ websites into consistent revenue streams, using a variety of digital channels.