How do you discover new brands online? With so many stores and businesses to choose from, many of us turn to two channels - search engines, and social media.
77% of consumers say they use social media to learn more about brands and products they’d never heard of before, and 49% say they use search to discover new products. With search, we may already be looking to purchase a product, with terms like “best running shoes” or “hypoallergenic pillows”. Social media discovery is much more subtle, seeing a viral post featuring a brand you’d never heard of, or stumbling across a brand tagged in a post by an influencer.
So if both are great for attracting new customers, and social media plays such a big role in discovery, does this mean that social media has an impact on SEO?
Does social media influence SEO?
Typically when you see advice online about social media and its impact on SEO, the question around influence is very binary - many will simply say “no”. The real answer is a little more complicated, as there are actually a few different questions with equally different answers wrapped around this topic.
Question #1 - Is social media a ranking factor?
Answer - No, it’s not.
Ranking factors are those qualities that search engines use to determine where a page appears in search results. These signal that the content is useful and relevant to the search user. These include the quality of content on a page, as well as page speed, user experience, mobile friendliness, and so on.
The reason why social media is not a ranking factor, is due to how easily manipulated it can be. You can pay for more likes and followers, you can pay to promote content to help it reach more people. This makes it harder for search engines to determine what content has organic reach and if it’s actually useful to the audience it reaches. It’s much harder to manipulate a search engine into thinking your page is faster than it really is, or that your site is mobile friendly when it isn’t.
Question #2 - Does social media influence SEO?
Answer - Sort of.
Social media does not directly influence SEO or search rankings, but there are ways in which social media can influence your SEO. If you write a really great blog, and share it to your social channels, and it reaches a lot of people who engage with it and read it, then that can influence SEO for that blog. Google and other search engines see that there’s a lot of traffic coming to that page, and coming from social media with your target audience. It’s going to build brand awareness and reputation, and that in turn can influence SEO. It won’t, however, have the same influence as backlinks from a high authority source.
The other way it has influence is around social listening. This is where you “listen” to what people are saying on social media platforms. If lots of people online are talking negatively about your brand or site, that can have some influence on your SEO.
Question #3 - Can social media support SEO?
Answer - Yes!
The key word here is “support”. If you decide to add social media to your SEO strategy thinking viral content is going to boost your search ranking, you’re going to be disappointed. If instead you look at how social media can support the content you create as part of your SEO strategy, you’ll make the most of the lift social media can offer your SEO.
How social media can support your SEO strategy
Boost the reach and engagement of your on-site content
Creating a blog, resource, or landing page for your site takes a fair amount of time and effort. Especially if you’re creating content that’s SEO-led, you want to make sure that your content is seen by your target audience. It can take a long time for content to rank on search engine results pages, and in the meantime you want as many eyes on your content as possible. Social media can be an excellent tool to boost the reach of your content, showcasing it to your most interested audience. This increases the amount of engagement for your content, and thus indirectly influences its SEO.
Increase backlink opportunities
The reach and engagement your content receives on social media can also improve the potential for backlink opportunities. We’ve covered how viral social media posts themselves won’t give the same results as a backlink, but if a post is shared widely there’s a chance that it may then be shared elsewhere online. Given the length of time it can take for content to rank, that means it can also take a long time before it receives backlinks as it won’t be discovered as quickly or easily. Social media on the other hand is a great source for discovering content, giving it that extra lift while you build its SEO.
Social media profiles can rank in search, and build trust
When you search for a brand, oftentimes their social media profiles will turn up on the SERP. So while your social media accounts aren’t going to directly influence your store’s ranking, they clearly have some kind of value to search users if they’re worth ranking. Social media plays a big role in the customer journey; in one survey 74% of respondents said they rely on social networks to help them make purchasing decisions. If your brand sees a lot of positive attention and reviews on social media networks, then search engines do pay attention to this. Social media can be a great way to build trust, and allow your brand to take up more space on SERPs with branded keywords.
Build brand awareness for your store
Like SEO, social media is a tool many brands know they should use, and one of the best ways to do so is by using social media as a platform for brand awareness. Social media is a great way for users to discover new products and brands, and find engaging content. It’s also more likely that content from social media will go viral, especially on platforms like TikTok. All of this works to build brand awareness, which may mean more traffic to your store and more searches being conducted for branded keywords.
The best SEO strategies take all your channels into account, and while social media isn’t one which you can control it can still be a great tool to support your store’s SEO. By understanding how social media can and cannot influence SEO, you can better use it to your advantage.