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The connection between social media and SEO has been debated for years. Marketers continue to argue over whether or not social media activity influences search rankings and while there’s evidence to support both sides, the truth is that there’s no concrete answer. What we do know is that social media can be used as a part of your SEO strategy.

It’s important for social media managers to understand that SEO and social media marketing don’t have to be handled separately any more. In fact, there’s a very strong chance that you’ve been doing some SEO work without even realizing it. What we’re seeing is overlap in these two worlds. A lot of the strategies and techniques you use for your social media marketing campaigns can have an effect on your SEO. The key is knowing how to tackle your social media campaigns with the SEO mindset.

Jump to the SEO and Social Media Infographic.

Cut From the Same Cloth

One of the reasons social media marketing and SEO work so well together is because they both rely on a lot of the same marketing principles. When you start to see these similarities, it’s easier to understand how social media can impact SEO both directly and indirectly.

  • A focus on content: Everyone knows that content is king when it comes to SEO, but the same is true for social media marketing. If people don’t like the content on your website, they’re not going to link to it. And if people don’t like what you’re Tweeting, Pinning or posting to Instagram, they’re not going to share it.
  • Inbound techniques: Social media and SEO are both inbound techniques. They rely on you pulling your audience in and earning their trust instead of shoving your products and services in their face.
  • Sharing is key: Links from other sites (inbound links) have been the strongest ranking factor for years. The equivalent to inbound links for social media is having people share your social media posts with their followers.
  • Authority: SEO and social media are both about gaining authority. Most of the top sites that rank highly in competitive industries are the ones that are seen as authorities. The top brands on social media are authorities and the top people in their niche.

And it goes even deeper. Take a look at the top Search Engine Ranking Factors by Moz.

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 4.35.11 PM

Nearly every one of these factors has an equivalent counterpart when you look at being an influencer on social media:

  • Domain & Page Level Link Features = People sharing your social media posts with their audience
  • Page level keywords & content based features = Using relevant keywords and hashtags in your social media posts
  • Page-Level Keyword-Agnostic Features = Making your social media profiles/bio relevant to your industry with keywords and phrases
  • Engagement & Traffic Data = How people are engaging with your brand on social media (replies, comments, searching for your brand name etc.)
  • Domain Level Brand Metrics = People mentioning your brand outside of social media in blogs, news and other outlets

Now that we see the similarities, let’s look at how you can use this knowledge to improve your SEO with social media marketing.

1. Earn Inbound Links

There are several ways to get inbound links to your site. Outreach marketing, email marketing, broken link building and the list goes on and on. But one of the best techniques is people stumbling across your content on social media and then sharing it on their own site.

For example, let’s say that you publish a new post and share it on social media throughout the day. One of your followers, who’s also a blogger, sees the Tweet and loves the content so they decide to link to it in their next post. If you never would’ve been active and promoted the post on social media, you would’ve completely lost out on that opportunity.

Social media encourages natural and organic inbound links, which is the way it should be done.

You can start getting inbound links from social media by:

  • @mentioning people in your social media posts
  • Sharing your own content at the optimal times
  • Creating shareable content—lists, round-up posts and ultimate guides

2. Social Profiles in SERP

This is important for any brand, and particularly local businesses like dentists, lawyers or salons. SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page. This is the list of results that come up when you search a topic in Google, Bing, Yahoo or other search engines.

When people are searching for your company to find out more about you, ideally the entire first page of results should be web properties that you manage. One of the easiest ways to take up more space on the SERP is by having optimized social media profiles. You’ll notice that for nearly any brand that you search on Google, their Twitter and Facebook Pages occupy at least two of the spaces.

Quest Nutrition SERP Example

In the example above, you see that Quest, which is extremely active on social media, has its social media channels as 4/10 of the results that come up when you search “Quest Nutrition.”

Here’s where this becomes extremely important. Let’s say you’re a fairly new local dentist with some less than favorable reviews on Yelp and Healthgrades. If people search for your business name and see three star reviews, they  could be put off right away. With strong social profiles, you could potentially push some of those results off of the first page so that more of the web properties that you manage show up.

To fill up the first page of the SERPs with your social media profiles, you should:

  • Make a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube page. They tend to rank the highest.
  • Create a strong profile/bio and be active.
  • Link to your social profiles from your website.

3. Personalized Search

The days of everyone seeing the same exact search results are over. Five people could search for the same exact topic and get five different results pages. When it comes to personalized search and social media, it’s most evident with Google+. If you’re following someone on Google+, their public posts could show in your search results when the content is relevant to what you’re searching.

For instance, let’s say one of the people you follow on Google+ is Pauline Cabrera. Pauline recently published a post on her Google+ page with “Game Of Thrones” in the title. When we do a Google search for Game of Thrones, this is what our results look like:

Google Plus SERP Integration

Pauline’s post shows up in the results because it includes the keywords we searched. In order for this to appear, you have to be signed into your Google account.

Personalized search results are becoming much more common and really changing the SEO industry. Since the goal of search engines is to show you the most relevant results, it makes sense that they’d pull from your social media activity to find out what content to show you.

Personalized search is in the early stages, especially with social media integration. But here’s what you can do to start capitalizing on it right now:

  • Focus on building your following on Google+.
  • Share your blog posts and other content on Google+.
  • Include relevant keywords in all of your social media posts.

4. Search Engines Index Social Media Posts

Another very interesting change in the mashup between SEO and social media is social media posts being indexed in search engines. Earlier this year Twitter and Google came to an agreement to integrate Tweets into their search results on a deeper level. One of the coolest features that this is enabling for marketers is highlighting Tweets in mobile search. Here’s a search for “Sprite” from our phone. Notice how Sprite’s latest Tweets stand out.

Twitter Google Mobile Integration

It’s not just limited to twitter. Pinterest is one of the best social media platforms for SEO. You may not realize it, but those laser targeted niche boards you create on Pinterest are a great way to show up in Google for long tail keywords. Long tail keywords are phrases that are three-plus words long and are usually very specific. For instance, “2 year anniversary gifts for her.”

Pinterest Long Tail SEO

Look at the websites that show up for this search. Etsy, Hallmark and Gift.com. Your own website might not have the authority to compete with these sites in terms of SEO. But by using social media marketing and the authority of Pinterest you can have your boards or Pins show up.

Here are some tips for getting your social media posts indexed in search engines:

  • Make sure you select the option to index your posts in search engines. There are specific settings in most social networking sites to do this.
  • Post about trending topics to potentially have your Tweets show up in the news section.
  • Specify your social profiles to Google.

5. Get Trending on Social Media

You may not be able to become a viral sensation on social media, but using Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to build a buzz around your company name can help your SEO. Here’s how.

One of the factors that search engines look at when determining relevancy and rankings is search query volume. Search query volume is how much a particular word or phrase gets searched. That’s why tools like Google Trends exist. The more people are searching for your brand name, the more popular and authoritative search engines will view your company.

For example, let’s say you’re a dentist in Seattle named Dr. Lee. There are 15 other Dr. Lees within 15 miles of you. Google wants to know which Dr. Lee is the most relevant for people in Seattle searching for your name. To help market your brand, you create an infographic on oral hygiene that gets Retweeted, liked and shared thousands of times on social media. So naturally people start to look for the infographic to see why so many people are mentioning Dr. Lee. So they start Googling “Dr. Lee + infographic” and your website shows up. As a result, more and more people are clicking your site after Googling phrases with your name in it.

That process helps search engines determine relevancy for searches. The idea is to get people talking about your company and brand on social media to generate buzz. Once curiosity kicks in they’ll turn to search engines to find out more. As Google sees that more people are clicking on your website instead of the other Dr. Lees, they’ll start to determine that your site is the most relevant for searches for Dr. Lee.

Here’s a great case study from Neil Patel on how he used a similar concept to build a following on Instagram.

Generating a large buzz on social media can be difficult, but here’s some steps you can take to get started:

  • Focus on creating and sharing amazing content.
  • Brand any images and graphics with your website URL/company name.
  • Encourage people to Retweet, like and comment your posts. Don’t be afraid to ask for the share.

The interweaving of SEO and social media is a great thing for social media managers. Not only does it make your role more valuable, but it allows you to use a lot of the same skills and techniques you’ve been using to build your social media presence and apply them to SEO. Focus on building your audience, connecting with people and creating valuable content. If you can do those three things, you’ll be able to get the best of both worlds from SEO and social media marketing.

Sprout Social SEO Tips Infographic

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