Social media has become an increasingly important tool for business owners looking to popularize their websites and build a loyal audience. A social media presence has become a baseline consumer expectation for businesses, and keeping up with the latest in social media tactics can help you attract even more loyal followers to your account, ultimately improving your brand recognition and reputation.

It can even align with your other marketing strategies, giving you a platform to broadcast your latest promotions and offering an opportunity to integrate tactics like email marketing. But can social media improve your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts? Or is social media's influence on SEO just a myth?

Direct Impact

Let's start by going over the direct impact that social media can have on SEO, because this is where most people fall prey to myths and misconceptions. There have been reports that suggest that social signals, such as the number of Facebook likes or Twitter followers an organization has, have a positive correlation with search rankings. However, Google's own Matt Cutts has gone on record denying that social signals like these have any effect on search rankings. In other words, it doesn't matter who follows you, shares your content, or engages with you on social media--it's not going to affect how your pages rank in Google.

If there's no direct influence, there may still be a positive correlation. As it turns out, some social media habits can indirectly improve your SEO strategy.

Blog Post Distribution

As you probably already know, your domain and page-level authority is largely determined by the quality and quantity of inbound links pointing to your site. One of the best ways to earn these links is to create a piece of high-quality content with original research or original statements in it; some of your readers will want to cite your information, and will naturally link to you when they write their own material.

Why is this important in a discussion on social media? Because social media is the perfect tool to extend the reach of those blog posts. If you have an audience of 10,000 social media followers, any content you write could instantly have an audience of 10,000 readers. If just 1 percent of those readers end up linking to your work, you'd stand to gain 100 extra links thanks to your social network.

When you consider this, it's not surprising that accounts with large followings tend to see better SEO results; it's an indirect benefit of having access to that level of visibility.

Traffic Generation

Having lots of loyal social media followers has another important effect: ongoing inbound traffic. Assuming you keep your followers happy, and they truly enjoy engaging with your brand, you'll see a steady stream of social traffic from your social media accounts to your website. These users will know your brand better than their organic-visiting counterparts, and may spend more time reading your content and perusing your site.

Why does this matter? Because usability and user experience do have a significant impact on your search rankings. The technical aspects get a bit complicated, but the bottom line here is that it looks good for your site when people spend more time on your pages, clicking your links, and engaging with your material.

How to Maximize These Effects

So what can you do to maximize these benefits?

  • Aim for quality, not quantity. It's tempting to build your social audience as much as possible, but remember--your main goals here are getting more people to share your work and visit your website. Accordingly, it's much better to have a handful of followers loyal to your brand than tons of followers who don't care about it. Focus on engaging with the followers you do have, and try to attract more people who will actually care about your content.
  • Encourage secondary distribution. You'll want your content to reach as far as possible, so enlist the help of complementary personal brands to share your content further than your main account would allow. Encourage people to share your content with their followers to keep pushing that reach outward.
  • Get more recurring visitors to your site. Take the time to invite followers to your site on a regular basis. Don't be too self-promotional, but do your best to maintain a steady stream of inbound social traffic.

Don't be fooled into thinking that your social media work is having a direct impact on your SEO rankings--but the reality can't be reduced to "social media doesn't affect SEO." Your social media efforts can heighten the reach and impact of your best content, and simultaneously breed an audience of visitors that make your site look better. Keep investing in social media as a supportive strategy, and push to make your impact even bigger.

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.


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Search Engine Guide > Jayson DeMers > How Much Influence Does Social Media Have on Your SEO Campaign?