When social media first burst into the spotlight at the start of the century, many Internet marketers wrote it off as a frivolous pastime ill-suited for business. In many ways, they were correct, and yet every important website now dedicates time and money to establishing a social presence. Why do they bother? Many social websites are not indexed by Google, meaning they provide few viable back links. They do not permit the large, keyword-friendly articles of a private domain. The truth is that, from an SEO standpoint, a status update is much less useful than a standard blog post.
The real value of social media is that it is largely independent from search engines, while still being able to boost SEO. Knowing which sites to focus on and how to best manipulate them is the first step toward successfully adapting to the new era in marketing. These are the top four ways social media can benefit an online business’ SEO.
Websites such as Digg and Reddit are massive popularity contests that rank the freshest and most insightful content in a variety of niches. Being listed in a competitive category is excellent for driving traffic, but the lists also highlight what matters most in an industry at any point in time. Use the top pages to generate new blog post, keyword or product ideas. Trending topics on Twitter also function in a similar manner. The best potential subjects are not put forth by other marketers but are instead questions posed by actual consumers.
Social media may not be a major SEO tool, but it can still create back links and search engine recognition. Publicly-shared links on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sites act like any other back link. Google’s own social network, Google+, is more directly tied to SEO, as the company takes every +1 into account. Google has stated that it does not take Facebook likes into consideration, despite persistent rumors to the contrary.
Don’t over-optimize an account at the expense of the organic interaction of social media. There are many places to post links, but social networks are unique in their ability to organize readers and customers and maintain a steady dialogue.
The Google Panda and Penguin updates taught thousands of marketers that relying on any one source to bring in readers is a risky proposition. When relying only on organic search traffic, a new blog post must be perfectly optimized to reach interested readers and wait hours or days to be indexed. A business with a dedicated social media following can post a link with a descriptive blurb to attract hundreds of visitors immediately. Social media protects a business from the ups and downs of SEO, acting as a stabilizing influence in a sometimes unpredictable field.
Writing on a regular website tends toward the formal and impersonal. It is difficult to engage readers, even with interactive measures such as a comment section. Social media is an opportunity to help subscribers and participate in meaningful conversations. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ allow businesses to ask questions and address customer concerns in an open and friendly environment. Active status updates and discussions establish authority and increases transparency.
Like many aspects of business, taking the indirect route is often more profitable in social media. Share new promotions and blog posts, but also take time to comment on newsworthy events and other players in the industry. Ask for opinions and respond to suggestions with sincere consideration. Social media brings businesses to a personal level, and that is why it has become an indispensable part of any online strategy.