How Social Media Affects SEO
Social media is an important component of any successful online marketing strategy, but the relationship between social signals and SEO rankings has always been somewhat ambiguous. Many businesses are active on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and while the benefits of a social presence may be obvious, the impact of one’s social networking on their SEO has previously been a bit of a mystery. In the past few years, more and more evidence has emerged of a positive correlation between social media engagement and higher search rankings.
The question of how social media affects SERPs is a conundrum many SEO experts have been examining over the past few years. Google has admitted that it crawls social media pages, but definitive proof that social signals (likes, shares, votes, pins, or views) cause businesses to rank higher on the search engine has been limited. That said, a 2018 study by HootSuite aiming to explore whether social media can indeed improve SERP rankings suggests a strong correlation between social activity/engagements and a positive change in rank.
Correlation vs. Causation
While experts generally agree that social signals do not directly boost rankings, it’s hard not to notice that the content dominating Google’s SERPs usually has a substantial number of likes, shares, retweets, etc. Although social signals have not been revealed as a ranking factor yet, the profiles are clearly being indexed and often found near the top of Google. This creates a need to not only have a social media account, but also to make sure the profile and content shared on the account are quality. It’s also important to note that while social media may correlate with higher rankings, it’s not necessarily the direct cause of a positive ranking change. Instead, data by Search Engine Watch indicates that high ranking social media likely has better search visibility — which refers to how visible a page or website is on a SERP — because widely shared content is simply seen more often. Content seen by more eyes has a higher likelihood of being linked to by other websites, which creates backlinks that may boost rankings. Better rankings then lead to more social activity, and the cycle continues.
Now, this doesn’t mean your focus should solely be towards building links on your social media profiles. Links on personal social media accounts are typically “no-follow,” which means they’re essentially ignored by search engines. Likewise, this information also shouldn’t prompt you to spam your social media followers with low-quality content just for the sake of increasing social activity. As we’ve previously determined, Google’s algorithm strongly reinforces the worth of fresh, quality content on its page rankings. Therefore, the goal should always be to put out engaging content that can be useful, interesting, and informative to readers.
Leveraging Social Media to Boost SEO
SEO professionals feel confident these social metrics have an influence on rankings, as they indicate your brand’s reputation and help build your credibility online. Depending on what Internet users are searching for, specific social media platforms may show up more than others. Regardless, the same general details tend to have the most value, despite the social network:
- Page name
When optimizing your social media profiles, it’s essential to maintain consistency in each of the elements listed above, as we know for a fact that doing so is a positive ranking factor. This means choosing either your name or your practice’s name for business citations and sticking with this selection across all SEO and marketing opportunities. For example, if you decide to market yourself by your practice’s name (let’s go with Rosemont Media to keep things simple), the page title for your Facebook account should be “Rosemont Media,” the username for your account should be “Rosemont Media,” and the URL for your account should be “facebook.com/rosemontmedia.” Though it may be tempting, you do not want to stuff keywords into these locations (e.g. facebook.com/sandiegoplasticsurgeon or facebook.com/sandiegocosmeticdentist) unless, of course, this is the name of your practice.
Want to see how your practice currently appears online? Scan your business citations with this helpful tool:
So, just to recap: Quality supersedes quantity when it comes to optimizing social media for SEO benefits, and you need to be consistent with branding on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites. Furthermore, however you choose to market your practice must be a long-term decision – it does not make sense to mix and match your business citations across multiple platforms. Since social media will likely only gain momentum in the future, it’s clear that businesses should frequently utilize the various networks available as part of a long-term strategy. In fact, social media sites (particularly Facebook) already tend to rank very well under doctor or practice name searches, which presents an excellent reputation management opportunity. By following these relatively simple tips, you can stay ahead of the game as search engines put more weight on the details of your social media presence.
If you’re ready to optimize your business through the power of networks like Facebook, Instagram, and more, contact us to learn how our social media professionals can help.
Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on May 10, 2016.