To bring your website and content to the front and make it visible online, SEO is an indispensable tool. A well-coordinated SEO strategy causes your content to be displayed on Google and other search engines at the top of the search results. The added value of this is obvious, because now not only users who already know your brand will become aware of your website. However, one connection that is often less clear even to true SEO experts is the interplay between SEO and social media marketing. In fact, opinions about how big the influence of content shared on social media on its SEO ranking is often far apart among experts. In the following, we will therefore take a look at the pros and cons of the respective argumentation. Here we end up with a point that tells us social media has no influence on SEO and 4 reasons why this is only half the truth and social media marketing is more connected with a successful SEO strategy than this may seem at first.
1. The argument against social media marketing in the SEO context
One of the most important factors of a successful SEO strategy is the accumulation of backlinks. In order for your content to appear as high as possible in Google and other search engines' search results, it helps if as many external links as possible point to your content from the most influential sources possible. But are links from social media posts also counted in this calculation? Experts who argue against the influence of social media marketing in the SEO context like to refer to the only official statement from Google on this topic so far: A YouTube video from Google from 2014. And indeed, Google says here that "social signals", for example the sharing of content on social media, has no direct influence on the Google ranking algorithm. But is that the whole story?
2. The ways of the algorithm are unfathomable
Of course, it's not quite that simple after all. Because ultimately, only Google really knows exactly which factors play what role in their algorithm. The company is usually extremely cautious with deeper insights into Google's technology and so there have been no further statements from Google on this particular topic since 2014. It is therefore by no means certain that Google's algorithm of today also corresponds to that of yesterday and that that of tomorrow will correspond to that of today. In fact, there are now several studies that can prove an influence of social media activities on the SEO ranking of content. A Hootsuite study from 2018 was able to prove that website content shared via social media received a 12% SEO boost compared to content that was not shared, while content that was also promoted on social media performed even 22% better in the final SEO analysis. A similar study by optinmonster confirmed these results in 2019.
3. Social media posts also show up in the search.
So, while at the moment we don't have absolute certainty on how exactly social media activities influence SEO rankings, that they do, at least in an indirect way, seems assured. Another way social media posts can boost your company's search engine visibility is through the direct visibility of social media posts in Google results. This is because even though a website content you share on social media may not necessarily lead directly to better Google rankings for your website, the shared social media post itself will also rank and show up on Google. So a simple Google search for a company like sentibar will not only show website and news about the company but also directly a selection of the brand's social media activities, thus automatically creating more visibility and reach.
4. Not all roads lead via Google
So far, we've only looked at the pros and cons of social media marketing from Google's perspective. This makes sense to a certain extent, as the search engine giant has become almost synonymous with Internet searches these days. However, it would be a mistake to base your SEO strategy 100% on Google alone. After all; 12% of search engine queries in September 2020 in the German space took place via Bing, and another 15% via other search engines besides Google. Unlike Google, Bing has explicitly confirmed that social signals directly influence content ranking on Bing. And another important search path leads past Google: the social networks themselves. Because when people search for a brand or content on the web these days, it's increasingly not through a search engine at all, but instead directly through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. A large proportion of potential search queries and reach can therefore be lost for a company that does not regularly share content via social media.
5. Social media as your content barometer
Finally, social media marketing serves another purpose, which makes it indispensable for a successful SEO strategy. Unlike in a classic SEO analysis, content and target groups on social media can be analyzed even more precisely and quantified for your purposes. Thus, you can apply your social media marketing as a valuable tool to calibrate your overall SEO strategy. Clicking, liking, and sharing content gives you a direct read on the effectiveness of content and keywords, and the level of engagement you're achieving with that content among your target audiences. And you can learn a lot about your target audience here, too. The best SEO keywords won't help you if you don't understand why and in what context your target groups search for these words online. The so-called "social listening", i.e. the passive sounding out of your target groups in the social networks, can provide you with these answers and thus give you valuable impulses on how you can optimally design your next content.
So, to sum up, we can see that even if the direct influence of social media marketing on your SEO rankings is not undisputed, there are numerous reasons why the combination of these two success factors is so important and significant after all. But beware: this doesn't mean that the sheer quantity of your social media activity is critical to increasing your business' visibility online. Yes, regular posts are important, but your posts will still be ineffective if those posts don't deliver real value to your target audiences.
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