Can you project what Social Media will do for SEO?
In recent conversations with social media visionary Brent Csutoras, we discussed a question that I hear at least once every day when potential clients call: Will a social media campaign help me rank better in Google Organic?
As we hear more about Google Plus, the growth of mobile, and other changes in the digital landscape, many marketers are also asking themselves this question. We all know that social signals are important, but the question is just HOW important are they, and will they become as, or more important, than links.
With 8 years of experience integrating Search with Social, Brent believes the answer is a definitive yes, although there isn’t a verifiable way to quantify the organic SEO value of social - yet.
Let’s look at what we know directly from the horse’s mouth:
Matt Cutts (Google): Over time, Google will care more about identity and social reputation. Plus, authorship gives you a picture next to your content and we know people click more when they see images.
Matt Cutts (Google): It’s harder to fake authorship than buy links.
Duane Forrester (Bing): Social and links will hit an equilibrium. Social gives you insight into the psychology of individuals and groups. There are a lot of people working to figure out social signals at Bing. Social reveals intent, we’ll see how it influences search.
Maile Ohye (Google): “To rank well, provide an awesome product or service, then attract buzz: natural links, +1s, likes, follows, shares…”
Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt publicly stated that the true cost of anonymity is obscurity. Building brand authority is a must going forward.
Matt Cutts (Google): In the 2013 Pubcon keynote by Matt Cutts, he says social signals will be absolutely huge in the future.
Some independent studies show that Google is already applying social signals as a measure of value and authority, but we don’t yet know how much or when Google will fully incorporate social as a massive signal. We do know it’s just a matter of time, as evidenced by the fact that in 2010, Matt Cutts confirmed they were using Facebook and Twitter links already.
Expand your Vision
Instead of narrowly looking at the value of social signals for Google Organic, it’s fundamental to focus on Social Signals, Building Community, and Building Links as indicators of how users and search engines measure true authority and popularity.
As an example, here are some of the goals of our current social campaigns:
Building links: Social gives you visibility so you can acquire earned links. You also get social links (links from Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus) which may count within the current link-based algorithm.
Building community: Be where your audience is. If you are promoting a rehab center, wouldn’t you want to put up flyers at AA community meetings?
Social signals: These are important for authentication and as a measure of true popularity. As they continue to gain value, social signals will not only give you authority but will also create legitimacy to your brand. As social grows and people increasingly become social consumers, using endorsements to make purchasing decisions, these signals will be leveraged more and become a fundamental part of the buying funnel.
Measuring ROI Based on Goals
How you measure ROI is based on your goals. If your goal is organic visibility, your KPI’s will be based on increasing your rankings and organic traffic. Examples of those KPI’s may be:
Using Social Media to promote high quality content and encourage social shares & links
Using Social Media to reach influencers to create opportunities for interviews and other types of link acquisition
Promoting an infographic across social channels to increase traffic, links, and social shares
If you’re looking for specific metrics, here are a few examples:
Links acquired from social visibility (both links FROM social media sites themselves as well as links from blogs and news sources)
Growth of community pages, number of people commenting, participating, etc.
Traffic from social visibility
Social Shares including retweets, comments, +mentions, likes, etc.
Audience engagement: time on site, pages visited, bounce rate, etc.
Content is the Foundation of a Successful Social Strategy
Successful social campaigns start with truly amazing content. We take this outstanding content and actively promote it across a variety of social channels to gain exposure, visibility, and traction. This may include 50 shares, 50 tweets, 25 +1’s, etc.
Exactly how the content performs is relative to so many factors – what are we promoting? Where are we linking to? Is this a community that is actively engaged, or are they lurkers? We know industry standards and have baseline measurements that we strive to reach for each campaign. As you may know from previous marketing efforts, each campaign is different and we can’t guarantee an outcome across social promotions.
If you create content that appeals to authoritative sites and influencers, then place that content in front of them via social channels, the chances of gaining links are exponentially increased. Do it consistently and they’ll start to know, trust, and follow your content.
As a secondary benefit, the more you become a resource in a community the more influencers will start following you and naturally sharing, endorsing, and promoting your content.
Social for Earned Media
To summarize, look at the debate around Paid, Owned, and Earned Media. Owned media is composed of your own content and assets that you are using to promote visibility. If you want to build links, the goal would be to use social and paid social to gain an audience that will then link to and share your content. Then, articles or links to your content are earned. They were influenced through social promotions but naturally acquired, which ultimately is giving Google what they’re asking for.
If you want clean organic links to impact the current algorithm and quality social signals to stay future-proof, then social promotions of amazing content are the key to both organic visibility as well as an engaged audience who gives you social proof and authority.
Do you already see an impact of social media on your organic rankings? Please do share your thoughts!