What is the real value of social media engagement? Social media pioneers continue to develop effective new strategies for social media platforms that improve the way organizations communicate and manage relationships. There are a couple of well-established benefits to social media engagement including brand building, direct promotion and customer service roles. A well-managed social media presence can deliver great value in these areas. But… can social media activity improve search engine results?
We’ve believed for some time that success in attracting additional visitors and reader attention is achieved by integrating SEO with a strategy that includes social media outreach. Proving that social activity improves SEO has been difficult, but now some new studies show why this appears to be true.
Social Media and SEO
Ascend2 released a study this past week showing that organizations that were the most successful in SEO or in attracting visitors from search engine referrals to buy links and use their services also made a significant commitment to engagement on social media. The study did not confirm exactly why the company websites ranked higher, just that there appeared to be a correlation between organizations where social media investments were made and where good SEO results were achieved.
Among Ascend2s’ key findings:
38% of companies with a Superior (SEO) Strategy extensively integrate social media with SEO while only 2% of those with an Inferior Strategy do so. Fully half (50%) of those companies with an Inferior Strategy do not integrate social media and SEO at all.
Promoting a brand or piece of content using social media is nothing new. When readers find interesting content on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ they are more likely to seek additional information from the sponsor’s Website. This of course increases Website traffic, but does this also improve search engine placement?
The Connection with User Satisfaction
Organizations that commit significant time and resources to social media engagement also tend to pay close attention to the user experience that their Website provides. In addition to their social media commitment, many of these organizations also appear to provide a positive user experience on the organization’s Website.
Cyrus Shepard, writing in the MOZ blog last week outlined that search engines monitor Website visitor behavior to understand whether or not users found particular sites or pages valuable. If readers stayed engaged on a particular page, consumed the content and visited other pages within the site, the search engines were likely to judge that the content was valuable and that the user was satisfied with the experience. The search engines then rewarded those Websites that provided a good user experience with better search engine rankings.
Connecting the Dots Between Social Media and Search Rankings
Readers attracted through energetic social media outreach, usually enter the sponsor’s Website on well-developed pages that deliver good content and value. These readers then exhibit the behaviors of satisfied content consumers – all of which the search engines monitor.
As the foremost “Big Data” collectors, the search engines compile this information and apply it to their search algorithms. As the search engine’s main objective is to provide the most meaningful results for each search request, they continually seek to provide better responses to user search requests. As the search engines read that users are spending significant time on a site that has been referred through social media channels, they are more likely to upgrade that site’s search engine results placement.
The Coordinated Approach
Social media engagement can attract readers and website visitors, sometimes in very significant numbers. Other outreach methodologies can have a similar impact. Press release and blog postings are but a couple additional tools an organization has to attract new readers. In the end, though, the SEO value of social media and these other outreach methods are dependent on the ability of the Website and content to deliver a great user experience. Backlinks for agencies are good too, as long as the whole experience is seamless and engaging. If social media outreach delivers visitors and the Website provides the information and value they are seeking, the entire effort can improve search engine rankings.