To understand social media's "possible" role in a company's visibility on the search engines, it's important to think of an online presence in an all-encompassing, comprehensive way - where everything that is done (or not done) on a website (and off) relating to a company makes up its 'Net identity. This identity has the potential to credit (or discredit) an enterprise's authority, experience and relevancy when it comes to how search engines perceive its value to end-users.
Industry experts are trying to figure out how that all works, likely because Google itself is still "working toward" having higher confidence in social signals as ranking factors. Even so, case studies and industry surveys are frequently published that all point toward social media having a role in how a company's website gets ranked in both direct and indirect ways. For example, sites with a high number of social shares tend to also have a great user experience or sites with a large number of social shares tend to also provide a lot of relevant site content.
As a user, social's role in rankings is easy to see because a search of almost any business returns social pages on page one but as marketers, social-SEO becomes more complex. Let's look at some known social-SEO factors and how to leverage them for greater 'Net identity.
1. Encourage Customer-Created Videos (Particularly on YouTube)
In its "State of Search 2016" report, Compete investigated how marketers can leverage social in search context by exploring the visibility of mattress retailer, Casper.
What Compete found was that the branded search "casper mattress" drives 45 percent of overall search traffic to the retailer's site and that the first results page for this branded search term returns several customer-created YouTube mattress "unboxing" videos (where a shopper just unpacks a new product and shows that process to the world). Brands should encourage this type of user-generated content (UGC) to increase the amount of content that is being created on their behalf (especially when shared on Google-owned YouTube).
To encourage customers to create and share unboxing videos, Maria Haggerty, CEO of Dotcom Distribution, recommends making sure the invitation to "unbox" is clear and visible to customers on external/internal packaging, branded giveaways and post-purchase marketing.
"It's also helpful to provide simple directions for opening the package," said Haggerty. "These directions should be visible either right when they open the box or on the external packaging itself. For instance, lingerie brand AdoreMe uses hashtags on their boxes to encourage social sharing of the boxes.
"Brands can also offer incentives for making an unboxing video by giving discounts if they post images and videos of their unboxing experience on social media with a standard hashtag. Our study shows that almost half (39 percent) of consumers have shared an unboxing video, so it's something they enjoy doing, it's up to your brand to encourage that."
2. Ask for Reviews (Focus on Facebook)
Reviews increase the authority of a company's Google+ page, which improves its chances of ranking well in the local search pack, according to SEMrush. This belief has remained popular over the last few years, but now there is increasing demand to ask for reviews on Facebook as well. In fact, RocketSEO speculates that "Google is making Facebook reviews more relevant to their algorithm to overcome their own social media shortcomings." That theory makes a whole lot of sense, so brands should campaign for more reviews on Facebook by asking via posts on the network, emails, etc.
3. Create Tweetable Content (that Helps)
Like all aspects of SEO, there is debate about whether long- or short-form content performs better in terms of higher engagement and rankings. At the end of the day, however, content that truly helps people by being relevant to their interests and painpoints has the potential to be shared regardless of its length.
To encourage sharing of this high-quality content, make sure there are social share buttons on the content's page. Since tweets are shown in relevant Google search results, brands should also (1) tweet their own content, (2) include images within the article so that they are available for Twitter users to easily include as photos can increase retweets and (3) consider the use of Twitter Cards. For the latter, Twitter Cards make tweets more dynamic by attaching rich photos, videos or other media experiences to Tweets to drive traffic to a website (which helps with search rankings) and increase engagement (to improve social signals) - all by just adding a few lines of HTML to Web pages.
'Net Identity and Social-SEO
While this is by no means an exhaustive list of social-SEO strategies and how it works for overall 'Net identity, applying the tips mentioned here can certainly help to improve what a brand puts out onto the Web and how they are rewarded for it in the future. There's still much to prove about how social-SEO works, but with an eye on useful content that is created by both users and brands, companies can have a strong identity on the Web.
Head of analyst relations, public relations, customer advocacy (People Heroes), customer community, content marketing (full funnel/lifecycle), content operations and optimization, reputation management and social media. Leads a team of nine superstars to exceed our goals multi-fold.