Social Media and SEO: Is There a Direct Link?

11 October 2021
by Archie Williamson
5 mins
Social Media and SEO: Is There a Direct Link?

While there isn’t always a direct connection between social media and SEO, the two practices regularly work in tandem to indirectly increase your brand visibility and authority in online spaces, which can transform your performance in search results.

Experts have offered contrasting opinions on how big an impact social media can have on SEO. While critics have downplayed its importance in the past, there is now a growing consensus that a well-executed social media strategy can have a positive effect on SEO as well as content marketing.

Earlier this year, Google’s John Mueller highlighted one of the problems with linking socials to search performance. He noted that social signals are a “broad thing” and that it is difficult to determine what these signals actually are. Because social media is so vast and all-encompassing in today’s online world, pinpointing factors that can be explicitly attributed to SEO is hard.

Is social media a ranking factor?

This is an easier question to answer. Social media is not a definitive ranking factor, such as page speed, mobile usability or content quality. It is not something that is easily quantifiable or trackable. You can’t just ‘improve’ social media by increasing a specific metric and then expect to get a direct SEO boost.

It can, however, influence search rankings in a number of ways. One example of this is branded searches. Google takes note of the ways in which people search for brands. So, if you increase awareness through social media channels and more followers enter queries about your company as a result, you can benefit from positive brand-based signals, which can then lead to greater visibility in search.

Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, offers arguably the de facto statement on social media and its connection to SEO. He notes: “The context in which you engage online, and how people talk about you online, actually can impact what you rank for.”

Bing also acknowledges that social media contributes vastly to “today’s effort to rank well in search”. Hitting the right notes with the posts you publish while carefully optimising profiles and bios can have “an impact on how you rank organically”, according to Microsoft.

You should think of social media as an extension of SEO and content marketing, though it can obviously benefit a business in other areas such as sales and customer service.

How does social media impact SEO?

Brand signals are a big part of social media and SEO, but there is more to it than just that. You can use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other popular platforms to distribute blogs, articles and videos. A pillar of social media marketing is to cross-post content previously published on a blog to increase its exposure. While the follows and shares you receive doing this don’t impact search rankings directly, they do make your brand and content more visible, which can increase traffic to your site.

Research by Cognitive SEO has found a higher number of social shares invariably leads to better SEO performance. All forms of engagement on social platforms are a sign that your content is interesting and valuable. Google will be on the lookout for these sorts of ‘soft’ signals to find and deliver content to users in search.

Social media also has an impact on local SEO, which is crucial if you are a startup or small business. It is not uncommon for social media profiles to feature near the top of search results. This means the contact details and information included in your profiles can be vital for engaging local audiences. The content you post, which can be tailored based on regions and demographics, also plays a role.

Finally, social media also serves as a traffic and link funnel. Google Analytics keeps track of key metrics for each social network based on ‘acquisition’ and ‘behaviour’. This allows you to see your total audience, as well as interesting stats such as bounce rate and average session duration. The fact that social media is included here is again a hint at how closely socials are linked to SEO.

How should I optimise social media for SEO?

Publish great content

Fortunately, the golden rule for general SEO also doubles as a foolproof tactic for social media. Success starts with excellent content and you should aim to publish and cross-post articles, blogs, videos and infographics that will resonate with a target audience. Perhaps not surprisingly, considering the social aspect here is important. You want to put things out there that can be shared, commented on and linked back to.

Integrate target keywords

Keywords are not just for content posted on websites. You can also incorporate them naturally into your social media posts and profiles. Instagram recently launched a revamped keyword search function to help users find content easily. You can use these tools to your advantage by including keywords you have identified during research to optimise content on social platforms. This will increase its visibility.

Optimise profiles

Social media profiles and bios are a window to your brand. The front page will be the first thing new visitors will see and take note of. That’s why it is important to get the right message across about your business and to keep it updated with relevant info and links. It’s vital that the tone and content is replicated across each profile. Google likes it when users can find important content about your business quickly. It could even help you to get your profile in SERPs.

Build relationships

With so much focus on content and optimisation, it can be forgotten that social media is centred around building connections and relationships. Responding to comments, creating polls and competitions, directly asking your audience questions and for insights, and finding new ways to interact with the people that matter to your business all contribute to forging an engaged community. This will reinforce your brand reputation. Google loves this and will index your site higher as a result. More people will then find your site organically via search.

There is no doubt that social media supports effective SEO. If you want to publish content on social platforms or need someone to manage marketing campaigns, Atlas SEO can help. We offer a range of services, including content creation. Contact us today to see how we can make social media and SEO work for your business.

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