As more people see more of your brand on social, and as they share your content and interact with you, it’s only natural that you’ll see some very enticing secondary benefits like search visibility, website traffic, and engagement.
The link between social media and organic search visibility has been a much-debated topic over the years. Google has said in the past that it’s too tricky for social to be a direct signal in its ranking algorithm for a variety of reasons. Despite this, companies put out yearly correlation reports and surveys revealing this year’s “top search ranking factors”. Social media metrics (e.g., the number of Facebook shares and tweets) tend to figure prominently into these search ranking factor reports. Correlation studies are fine to read, but shouldn’t be taken seriously. At all. Why? Well, would you believe that the number of swimming pool drownings correlate with Nicolas Cage films? See for yourself. Do social metrics influence rankings? Unless you work for Google, you’ll never know for sure, there are too many unknowns. Anything is just a guess. Can social metrics influence search visibility in any way? Absolutely. Social media offers incredibly valuable benefits – when done right. Being present on social gives brands another way to be where their audience is and drive those important KPIs. As SAP CMO Jonathan Belcher said it so perfectly: social is an enabler, not a goal in itself. Let’s look at four real ways social popularity can impact visibility, traffic, and revenue.
1. SERP Visibility
Google can index your brand’s social profiles from a variety of networks, and that in turn means more real estate on the search engine results page. The more social profiles you manage, the more real estate you can own on Page 1 for your brand. In addition, Google announced in 2015 it would display relevant tweets in its search results – allowing for real-time updates:
2. Social Traffic
Some reports show that social traffic drove as much as 31 percent of overall traffic to sites in 2014. When it comes to retail sites specifically, social media increased its share of ecommerce referrals by 200 percent from Q1 2014 to Q1 2015. Exposure to Facebook ads reportedly influences people’s search behavior and lifts search referral traffic for websites, at least according to Facebook. It’s not always easy to succeed in social, however, if you don’t know what resonates. Turn to research like this data to find out which type of content tends to be shared and linked to more than others.
3. Website Engagement
Once you drive that social media traffic to your site, how are you engaging them? This is a critical next step in making your social traffic work for your website. Brands like Red Bull, Coke, and Taco Bell are taking an editorial-driven approach, putting social media at the core to engage consumers. Not only does it make good sense to keep users on your site longer engaging with more of your content and perhaps even signing up for your mailing list, but it might also impact a search engine’s perception of the relevance of your site. That’s not to say factors like having a low bounce rate, higher time on site, and more page views directly impact ranking and visibility. But they could be indications to the search engines that your site is a useful, relevant, and engaging resource.
4. Being Where Your Customer Is
Audience optimization is the art of being where your customer is when they need you most. Social media presents a stellar way for you to be more visible across the Web, to interact directly with your audience, and to participate in social commerce (which continue to quickly rise). The consumer’s decision-making process is complex today, and many turn to social media to make important decisions.