In the current state of modern digital marketing, very few practices find universal, unquestioned appeal with no objections. However, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social media marketing do. Both offer demonstrable return on investment (ROI).
But how do they connect? How can you sync your social media plan with your SEO and keep social media visitors engaged? Let’s explore.
Social media and SEO: prevailing myths
First and foremost, there’s understandable confusion around this topic. From Google’s less-than-transparent algorithms and ranking criterias to marketers’ anecdotal findings and speculation, there’s a lot of ambiguity. As such, let’s start by clarifying some key half-truths and dispelling some persisting myths. To do so, we’ll quote Google’s own Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, across various sources.
1. Social media signals don’t affect SEO.
This is arguably the most crucial point of the three highlighted here. On episode 366 of the EDGE on the Web podcast, John Mueller said on no uncertain terms:
“Social media shares of a page and other social “applause” metrics simply don’t play into ranking. […] Being active on the social media platforms is a great way to test and refine your website content to see if it’s connecting with users, but it’s not a ranking factor.”
Thus, we should begin by demystifying this factor. You may still sync your social media plan with your SEO efforts, by all means. However, don’t do so on the basis of social media signals.
2. Social media links are not problematic either.
Another prevalent myth is that social media links are actually problematic. Rise at Seven notes that Mueller explicitly said, “[s]ocial media links ([in this context,] Pinterest) aren[‘]t problematic”.
This myth’s roots are somewhat hard to identify, but it seems to stem from findings on reciprocal links. This is a different subject altogether as he also asserted “[r]eciprocal links aren’t necessarily bad.” However, he noted “link schemes & similar games […] are sometimes played in that space”, which Google penalizes. It’s thus not that social media links or reciprocal links are harmful but that “schemes” and “games” may be.
3. “Link juice,” or Page Rank, shouldn’t be on your list.
Finally, a very persisting myth lies in close proximity to the first one. This myth holds that “link juice,” or Page Rank, from social media may affect a website’s SEO. To dispel this myth, we may relay the part of the quote on social media signals we omitted above:
“First, Google doesn’t have the social signals people think they have, and all those social media platforms have “no follow/no link” built into them. So it’s just not happening.”
His statement on built-in NoFollow tags should suffice for this point, but Mueller also argues against “link juice” itself:
Syncing your social media plan with your SEO
With all that said, how can you combine your social media marketing efforts with your SEO efforts? There are still many ways to do so:
1. Create shareable content with SEO-friendly URLs
The first scope under which you can combine the two hinges on the customer journey:
- A social media user sees your content on your chosen platform,
- they follow your links back to your website, where
- they find quality and engaging content which may convert them.
Thus, the two may simply converge as regards online visibility and lead generation. The very first step to begin this process, which many may overlook, is SEO-friendly URLs. URLs are very important toward making your content shareable. Why? There are several ways:
- Conveying the page’s content. Indecipherable URLs and unreadable characters don’t help with clarity and thus don’t encourage shares. Consider matching your pages’ URLs with their titles whenever possible.
- Presenting value. SEO holds header titles should match SEO titles to immediately show the pages that match the users’ search intent. The same principle applies to URLs, especially in the case of social media posts.
- Building confidence. Finally, URLs shared on social media will typically include the page’s security protocol. While HTTP is serviceable, consider switching to HTTPS to build confidence with visitors.
2. Create valuable content – consistently
Both strategies hold that “content is king.” Thus, to sync your social media plan with your SEO, you don’t just need to ensure shareability. Rather, create and promote valuable, engaging content.
There are ample ways to ensure success in this regard. Begin by considering the fundamentals:
- What do your audiences want to read? Ensure your keywords match your audiences’ search intent and preferences to engage them effectively. This factor is crucial, as it will inform your selection of subjects.
- Is your content scannable and easy to read? Ensure proper formatting, from bullet lists to headings and subheadings. Visitors engage more with digestible content that’s easier on the eyes.
- Is your content long enough and deep enough? Informative posts are typically long; the best-ranking posts average between 1,000 and 2,500+ words. Ensure your content has the length and depth to deliver clear value.
There is, of course, a plethora of other factors to consider. The most crucial among them is output consistency. Social media engagement and SEO both depend on it, and understandably so. To quote Mueller on the latter, “SEO lives & dies with consistency.”
3. Optimize your images for search engines
Image optimization is another factor SEO stresses strongly. Typical factors of interest include:
- Image size. Images should ideally be under 100kB, with no notable compromise in quality. This helps ensure faster page loading speeds.
- Image format. JPEG is typically better for photos and illustrations, while PNG is best reserved for logos. This is to account for the aforementioned quality compromises.
- Alt tags. Alt tags display when images fail to load, improving the visitors’ experience. For visually impaired visitors, alt tags let screen readers relay the images.
To sync your social media plan with your SEO, however, account for the demands of both:
- Use appropriate file names. Adding keywords to file names will help on both accounts, as it better conveys the images’ purpose.
- Add alluring, relevant captions. Captions that include your keywords help with both SEO, matching search intent, and social media effectiveness.
- Choose platform-appropriate images. Finally, remember that images captivate audiences better than most elements. As such, use your insights to choose ones that best suit your platform and intended audience.
Finally, to further illustrate the need for keywords, remember your images may end up in image search results. This is an excellent way to generate additional traffic with minimal extra effort on your part.
4. Optimize your social media profiles
Having established SEO and social media can complement each other in terms of your website, we should also note the two have also fused in an interesting way. That is, “Instagram SEO,” “Pinterest SEO,” etc., and so forth already exist. As long as search engine algorithms increasingly inspire social media platforms, this overlap may only expand over time.
Of course, exact ways to optimize your social media platforms will vary across different platforms. However, you may consider two basic principles that apply to all of them:
- Keep your NAP information consistent. Your Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP) information should be the same across all your profiles. Both Google and customers value a consistent online presence.
- Utilize keywords wherever possible. Both Google and customers derive value from your keywords of choice. Use them across your profile, from bios to names and other sections.
Additional optimization options exist but will vary based on your platform(s) of choice.
5. Use your social media activity to acquire insights
Finally, regardless of your platform(s), sync your social media plan with your SEO on the fundamental level of insight acquisition. Both depend on delivering value, visual appeal, and an overall pleasurable experience, as highlighted above. SEO reporting tools can only provide so much insight. Use your social media activity as a means of acquiring insights on your audience. These can inform your content creation and, by extension, your SEO efforts. In this regard, consider the following:
- Social media users love taking surveys, and will typically provide honest, actionable feedback on your content and their experience.
- Online reviews, where applicable, are another excellent way to enhance your SEO. At the same time, they can provide insights into the quality of your marketing outreach.
- Comments, shares, and likes. While search engines don’t value these social signals, as outlined above, they offer useful insights. Use them to gauge what best resonates with your audience and adjust your SEO efforts accordingly.
You may also consider feedback on Q&As, AMAs, and other forms of direct communication. However, creating such content will depend on your business, style, tone, and other factors unique to you.
John Mueller confidently asserts social media activity cannot enhance SEO directly. However, the two can synergize in regard to traffic generation. And both can help acquire audience insights. Notably, they already overlap regarding the value of rich, deep content, and image optimization, among other factors. Finally, social media profiles themselves now welcome SEO of their own, solidifying this overlap.
As such, you may now sync your social media plan with your SEO in more ways than ever before. Hopefully these suggestions help you do so effectively and debunk SEO myths and inaccuracies.