Carefully curated by marketers, envied by competitors, and hunted by crawlers, strong backlinks always receive a curt nod from the Search Giant. Inbound links are a crucial part of the SEO strategy. They inform the search engines about the authenticity of your brand, the relevance and value of your content for the visitors, and the quality of your traffic. A great and often missed opportunity for gaining strong backlinks is the use of social media platforms. There humungous user bases, extraordinary volume of user-generated content, exceptional page depth, and agile and responsive website designs makes them a great source of backlinks. This post will discuss Facebook and Twitter, existing misperceptions about theses social platforms, and how you can use them to build strong backlinks and hence boost your search rankings.
Boosting SEO Signals Using Facebook?
Yes, you noticed right. It’s a question. Let me rephrase it: can you boost SEO with Facebook activity? Nowadays, we are experiencing what I’d call the “curse of causal curation”. It works like this:
- An authoritative site that remains abreast of the current trends (Moz or SearchMetrics) posts a blog on what Google has done or said about social ranking signals, in 2013
- Someone finds what Google had said back in 2010 about factoring signals from Facebook
- Others use the data presented, add their commentary and link the post. This is still 2013, with data from 2010 and 2013
- Someone writes a blog post on it in 2014, another uses the “latest” findings without tracing or verifying the original source (2010 and 2013),
- Now someone writes a new blog in 2015, linking them to the “latest” post on that topic (written in 2014) which themselves are linking to posts in 2013
- And so on ad infinitum.
As a result, a lot of times we are banking our efforts on data and statements that have little substance. Such is the case with SEO, Backlinks, and Facebook. People think these are aligned, whereas “NO SEARCH RESULTS WERE FOUND.” So where does that leave us? Is Google using social signals from Facebook to rank your site or not? Let’s bet our efforts on the following insights:
- A video by Matt Cutts where he mentioned Google indexes Facebook (and Twitter) pages but does not count or ranks shares, likes, or other “social signals.”
- An old investigation by Stone Temple Consulting’s investigation (December 2013) to find how Facebook activity affects SEO. It found that likes on Facebook posts don’t affect Google results at all.
So do we let go of the social giant? Or start caring any less? No. BECAUSE at the end of the day, the purpose of SEO is to increase your visibility to potential customers. Use it to build links/traffic to your website, re-thinking “Shares” and “Like” as prompts for word-of-mouth invites for your customer’s social circle. Here are some best practices to achieve this end:
- Customize your Facebook URL so that it is reflective of your brand/service
- Ensure that your page name only states the name of the company or your brand. NOTHING ELSE.
- Complete all information for your page. Keep it consistent with what you have shared elsewhere on the web.
- Link your page with all every place you are present on the web
- Use Graph Search to research customers and competitors.
Here are two more for your long-term strategy:
- Using Graph Search for better profiling your target audience
- Ranking for Graph search Itself
Facebook has strengthened Graph Search, a semantic search engine for the social media that allows you to make complex queries to research your target audience, brining in content from Bing if Facebook’s own content is thin. It offers a range of optimized search operators for doing just that. Social Search is bound to threaten the supremacy Google has had over data so let’s take it seriously. Use it for studying and profiling your fans and their interests at a granular level. Given that Graph Search bars you from researching people that are not part of your social circle, your Facebook page offers a powerful tool for finding their overlapping interests. With Graph Search, every like, and every share they make of your page, or any other is automatically adding more data for you to research. Its free big data from content they have been sharing with Facebook for the past 13 years. It’s free. Why would you waste it?
Boosting SEO with Twitter Backlinks
Twitter is arguably the best real-time news agency that the world has right now. It shoots over 9,000 tweets into the digital void of the internet every second using its specialized content delivery channel, aptly termed the Firehose. Google has always showed interest in gaining access to this content, and earlier this year the two company struck a deal. However, some confusion remains as to whether the search giant will really pick social signals from the platform or not. We’ve already heard from Matt Cutts in 2009 where he said “YES”, only to find that the deal was off a few years later as Google moved to create Google+. Here’s the good news: Google is taking signals from twitter! They come in four categories. While Google and Twitter reach an agreement where the Search Giant does not crawl their servers into a fiery meltdown, we can be assured that the following four will be measured:
- Trend Strength – Are you part of a trend? How strong is that trend? Google measures this using the Hashtag and relevant Keyword usage in your content to match the trend
- Tweet Strength – How engaging is your tweet? How Many people have interacted with the tweet? Google measures this using retweets, clicks, plays (in case of videos), and ofcourse impressions and favorites
- Link Strength – The traffic that your shared link is generating to the external site
- User Strength – How influential is the user who is interacting with your tweet? Google measures this by checking the follower/following ration, @mentions, followers, etc.
Everything’s not about Google. Let’s not forget Bing. We know that Bing uses signals from twitter. Here are some primers on ensuring that you stay friendly with Bing and remain prepared for Google to get drunk on the Firehose:
- Encourage Natural Backlinks – Twitter is one of the best platforms for establishing organic connections and building relations. Given that sum all of Google’s efforts is to know that your website and its content is both trusted by, and valuable for the consumers, clicks and retweets (and consequent clicks) are a sure way of testifying that you are getting honest links from real people on a trusted social platform.
- Create Useful Content – Acknowledge the king. Adorn it. Share it. Let the people talk about it, share it, re-tweet it, visit your website, and more. Engagement on your website is a signal that Google measures. Obviously, you have to work on building genuine following and establishing a strong community of followers
Both them requires that not just your content, but your tweet itself is also shareable. Here are some best practices for that:
- Use Twitter cards – use the short codes to improve user experience with photos, product descriptions, and videos. They increase your tweet’s real estate space. Use it to no end.
- Use SEO keywords – Twitter allows search capabilities and chances are that people will be using them to find content. Experiment with them as hashtags and within tweets.
Don’t forget to get ranked for your twitter bio! Optimize your personal/brand bio and identity by completing your profile and adding keywords from your industry.
In Conclusion — Become an Inbound Link Hound
The landscape of the social media platforms and search engines evolves rapidly. Just two years back no one could have imagined Google coming up with Panda and Penguin, Facebook re-launching Graph Search, a sound Twitter-Google deal, or the dramatic shift towards sharing highly valuable, near-selling-complete-courses-for-FREE-content as a norm. But it has, because the giants are banking their success and growth on a more engaging and valuable user experience on the internet. As marketers, we must remain agile to the new possibilities and focus on user engagement. This would automatically make us responsive to the evolving needs. To that end, this is only the first post in a series on increasing SEO ranking using social media, or for that matter backlinks! Stay tune for more, and do share your insights in the comments below.