Optimizing your social presence for search is important, right? That is certainly what we've all been told for some time, but determining why it's important and deciding where to focus can be challenging. Exponential growth of a medium is great and all, but your problems figuring out how to tame the wild beast tend to grow exponentially as well.
Let's discuss a couple of simple ideas regarding conversational media (i.e., social networking sites and blogs) and its relation to search:
- How to help your social pages rank better
- How to help your website rank better with social influences
A Little Perspective About the Market as a Whole
The growth in activity at conversational media sites is undeniable. The number of unique has increased more than 80 percent since 2007 to 213 million in May 2011, while total visits to the category grew 136 percent to 6.2 billion.
Since a search click to a website represents one type of site visit, this is where we can begin to connect the dots on influence between navigation events. The number of search clicks to the category reached 845 million in May, accounting for 13.5 percent of the total visits to the category. That number has grown 145 percent since 2007, outpacing gains in both unique visitors and total category visits.
Branded social media searches (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) and people searches (e.g., friends, celebrities) appear to be the two primary growth drivers of search clicks.
Although these types of terms still make up the vast majority of the terms driving traffic to conversational media sites, the fastest growing search traffic segment is actually big name brands. Well-known consumer brands have finally begun to embrace their conversational media assets and are driving a considerable amount of traffic directly to Facebook and Twitter in addition to their own websites.
When combining the top 20 brand names in retail, finance, and travel, their branded searches delivered over 1.6 million clicks directly to Facebook, a 1,300 percent increase since mid-2009.
How to Help Your Social Pages Rank Better
Links on SERPs are like shelves in a store: Owning more shelf space, and the more varieties you have to offer, invariably will drive more sales (clicks). Because you will already own the premium position for your website for your branded searches, further promotion of your social media assets can only improve your end game.
Link From Your Homepage
It can’t be as simple as linking from your homepage, can it? Actually, it can because search engine algorithms absolutely value these links when scoring sites (more on this later).
Despite this reality, 6 of the top 20 most searched for Retail brands did not have any sort of social media integration on their homepages. Talk about a missed opportunity! Linking from your home page and using your brand name in the link will have immediate impact.
Use Brand Names in Posts
URLs that match search terms have a built in advantage for high SEO rankings on that search. This same principle will apply to the words you use in your social media posts, so be sure to use the brand names of your company and your products when posting for maximum effect.
Search engine algorithms value crowd science quite heavily in their rankings (link building relationships). This same type of value is given to likes, follows, +1's, etc. This is an inherent trust metric and will impact rankings as well.
Getting likes can be easier said than done. It may require some creative marketing tactics that engage your customers and make them smile.
Helping Your Website Rank Better With Social Influences
The first part of this column discussed how to drive better rankings for your social media pages. Clearly this has become more of a priority than it was a couple of years ago – particularly for branded terms – but will never be of the same volume and SEO coverage as your own websites. The more important goal is figuring out how to use social media influence to impact your owned media assets.
Social signals drive SEO performance, but how important is it? According to data from BrightEdge, between 75 and 90 percent of the top 10 search results on any given SERP have at least one Facebook like or Twitter tweet. These numbers and the related influence will spike sharply, especially for industries such as retail and finance.
Start With the Basics
Visitors to your website are usually interested in your company and your products, so don't miss the opportunity to invite them into your treasured social media circle. Invite them to connect, like, follow, and/or share your company and your product pages.
Target Head Terms With Social Media Friendly Pages
For most companies, head terms make up a large percentage of their referral traffic. Although these terms drive high volume in both searches and clicks, they are often very competitive for page/position rank.
Ensuring that your head term landing pages are social media friendly with further impact your overall SEO ranking for these coveted terms. The more likes and follows your landing pages have, the higher they will rank. Therefore, encouraging visitors to take social media action with a “bookmark & share” drop down menu will further your landing page SEO efforts.
Create Tools That Are Easy to Share
An easy to share tool is something that is visually appealing and simple to use. Too many times you arrive at a website that has expert only tools available for analysis, searching, sorting, and the like. Or you find a tool that is easy to use for all of these things, you would love to tell someone about it, and there is no sharing drop down.
Either of these scenarios is negatively impacting your use of social media SEO influence. Think about the types of assets you have on your site that begat social involvement and make it simple to do.
Drive Social Engagement to Your Website
Facebook offers a variety of social plugins you can utilize on your site. Different plugins encourage different types of engagement, so choose wisely on which ones work best for each part of your site.
Social media and search share a two way street of influence. Social media assets have reached enough critical mass to rank on the first page of search results, as well as directly contribute to the SEO ranking of your website pages.
Although many companies are taking advantage of this established medium, many others have not and are missing a sizeable opportunity. By implementing some of the best practices mentioned here, you can ensure that your social media and search teams are working together and that your organization isn’t being left behind.
Editor's note: This column originally was published on June 27, 2011, and comes in at No. 10 on our countdown of the 10 most popular Search Engine Watch columns of 2011. Over the final two weeks of 2011, we're celebrating the Best of 2011 by revisiting our most popular columns, as determined by our readers. Enjoy and keep checking back!