I'm known to have a lot of feelings and feel all the feels and all that good and gooey stuff. And it's totally true. I 100% own that. However, aside from all the ooey-gooey feels, one thing I do have strong feelings about in this digital age is the relationship between SEO and social media. I whole heartedly feel that anyone who is managing social media should also understand SEO. (I also feel the same way about anyone designing or developing a website, but that's not the focus of this post.)
If you're creating social media content to reach some type of business goal, it's essential to understand how search algorithms work. Not only does that mentality apply to actually ranking in search engines (sometimes, not always) but it's also the backbone to understanding SEO which focuses on understanding user intent based on user search queries. Call me crazy, but understanding user intent goes hand-in-hand with understanding human behavior, which is almost, if not, entirely the foundation of social media.
See what I mean?
OK, before I step down off of my soap box, let me further explain my rationale. One of the biggest differences with digital marketing and the easy access to information found online that differs from that of traditional media outlets is that traditional media outlets don't interact with one another.
Not really. They operate in silos.
Digital media and marketing is just one link away from catapulting users from:
- Discovering your mobile search ad.
- To your mobile website, to learn more about your business.
- To your podcast, to hear your two cents.
- Then to your Facebook page, to see how many followers you have to legitimize your business.
- Then to your ecommerce store, to finally make that desired purchase.
- Then to their email, to confirm their purchase.
- Upon receiving said purchase, they might find themselves at Yelp to leave a review about how much they love it.
- And finally to Instagram, to view your pretty lifestyle photography and remove any chance of buyers remorse because they're now falling in love with your brand.
And a user could access all eight of those media channels within minutes, maybe even seconds if they're super speedy.
Alas, digital marketing is entirely linked together (or rather it should be if done properly) and traditional media operates in silos. So while in the traditional media world you didn't need to know the ins and outs of radio, print and television in order to execute a campaign, that's not the case (or shouldn't be) with digital. In digital, it all links together and if you don't understand user intent and human behavior, you're going to find yourself needing much more than a map to help you figure out where you're going.
So why should you understand SEO if you're creating social media content? Let me count the ways.
1. Increase visibility with hashtag strategies based on post volume.
A lot of keyword research for SEO is based on keyword search volume. It's important to balance volume with niche keywords to increase your chances of being found when searches are submitted for relevant topics. The exact same strategy should be applied to your hashtag game. If you keep using macro hashtags like #TBT and #Instagood your Instagram content isn't going to be #Instagood for too long because no one is going to find you with those giant hashtags that have hundreds of millions of posts tied to them.
Now that we can follow hashtags on Instagram, use them to your advantage. Would you rather buy a lottery ticket if the odds of winning were 1 in a 430,340,567 or would you rather place your a bet if your odds of winning were 1 in 1,458? You don't need to have a degree in statistics to understand that your chances of winning (or being found/seen) are significantly higher with the second scenario. So why not adopt that strategy with your hashtag game? Now, don't get me wrong, it's not all or nothing, it's just a shift in mentality.
But if you find yourself getting picked up on 1,458 people's top 9 for your quirky hashtag and suddenly have 200 likes in five minutes, are you going to be mad about it? Yeah, I wasn't either. Again, understanding SEO and keyword volume strategies can (and should) help inform your social media strategy.
2. Use high performing keywords to inform an optimized multi-pronged content strategy.
We just discussed the importance of keyword research. Using the skills and techniques for finding semantic keywords to inform your content will help to expand your reach across multiple platforms, namely YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Each platform thrives on different types of content, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you can't tweak and repurpose content on these other platforms.
YouTube is the second largest search engine (as it's owned by Google) and video is blowing up even more with the launch of IGTV. You can check out BuzzSumo to see how and where your content has been shared previously, what has worked and what hasn't and optimize your multi-pronged strategy from there as well.
Take what you have and reduce, reuse and recycle. You'll find that you not only help contribute to a more eco-friendly world, you look like a flipping rockstar when it comes to managing your social content strategy.
3. Create optimized content based on social feedback.
One of the great things about social media is the direct interactions you can have with individuals who care about your brand/content. Use this to your advantage. Poll them. Ask questions. See what they're looking for answers to. There's no better way to understand what kind of content should be created than to straight up ask people what they want. (Now, not everyone always knows what they want, but that's a topic for another day.)
Taking direct consumer feedback and coupling that with the data we have available to us through Google and various social platforms can really help to set the stage for a well-optimized content campaign rooted in user intent.
4. Use optimized social media content to increase your search rankings.
There are plenty of articles written arguing about whether or not social media affects SEO. Currently, the majority of studies say that it doesn't directly have an impact on SEO. However, a number of studies also say that social media signals (content sharing, engagement, etc.) tend to amplify the SEO ranking factors that search algorithms do prioritize. As we know, links are an important SEO ranking factor.
Guess what? If you share great content on social media there's a pretty good chance that others will share it and link to it and use it as a reference point. Backlinks, pageviews and time spent on a website are all SEO ranking factors.
So go figure, if you create well-optimized content that is shared with a targeted audience, who it was originally created for, and they like it, share it, read it and promote it, it ends up helping your SEO game. At the end of the day, all we're trying to do here is increase the visibility of our content to increase conversions. Whether that's to sell more product, download a PDF, contact someone via phone or email, it doesn't matter. By understanding SEO, human behavior and user intent, it allows you to create smarter content overall as well as for social media.
By creating smarter, more tailored content for social media, you increase the chances of that content being shared and "going viral" which drives traffic back to your website, supports major SEO ranking factors and ultimately moves your content up the ranks in search engine result pages. Mike Irvine, Senior Data Scientist at WordStream agrees, "It’s important that your social messages are consistent with the messages and keywords for which your search content is optimized."
5. Use social media to predict search trends.
According to WordStream, within 1 hour of a topic trending on Twitter, search volumes for that topic double. Within 6 hours, search volume increases fivefold. People discover new content on social media given it's proactively targeted campaigns and then they search for it later to find out more about it. Irvine echos, "Search is a reactive medium. Something needs to inspire or provoke a consumer to search for a brand or product. Increasingly, that something is social media."
One way to capitalize on this is advertising on both social media and Google is with video. According to WordStream, incorporating Facebook video advertising with Google search ads increased branded search intent by 420% and when Google search ads were coupled with YouTube video ads, branded search intent increased by 536%.
There's no arguing with data. I think it's safe to say that social media amplifies search queries and video is blowing us all out of the water. But nonetheless, if we don't take the principles from SEO and use them to fuel social media which ultimately assists in optimizing our content and campaigns, we're missing out.
It's a cycle and it all feeds off of one another, but at the end of the day, if you're not capitalizing on the knowledge that SEO provides and utilizing that in all of your content creation (especially on social media), you're missing a huge critical piece of the cake. And no one wants a half-eaten cake.
So do yourself and your clients a favor and serve them a big beautiful, whole cake and they'll thank you for it in the end.
If you're lucky they just might share a slice with you for doing such a great job.
Founder & CEO
Kiley Peters is the Founder and CEO of Brainchild Studios, a boutique audience research, content strategy, and website creation agency primarily serving brands targeting Millennial Moms or business owners. She is also the Founder of the Work From Home Playbook, a series of online courses guiding aspiring entrepreneurial moms through the steps of starting a virtual business. She also launched the Brainchild Fund, a nonprofit initiative to support women and girls in business and entrepreneurship Follow her on Instagram.more posts by Kiley →