Social media is proving to be a very profitable online marketing channel.  With more than a billion active users on Facebook, with hundreds of millions of users active on Twitter and with social media platforms like Google+, LinkedIn and others seeing more users signing up every day, you simply cannot ignore the widespread reach of social media. If you’re not leveraging the immense potential of social media for marketing benefit you have got your marketing strategy all wrong. If you are to pick the most important benefit of using social media to market your brand, it’s got to be brand awareness. On social media, your brand has the potential of going viral. But the benefits of social media are not limited to this one benefit alone; there are plenty of high value benefits of social media that astute online marketers have benefited from and one of them is the mission critical role it plays in a business’s SEO strategy. In fact, we wouldn’t be off the mark if we say that if you score on social media, you will also make a killing in SEO. In fact, with Google regularly making changes to its search engine algorithm, to improve search quality, one thing is increasingly certain – you need to build online relationships in order to build an online presence that Google considers something that delivers value.  And in order to build these relationships, a strong and highly active social media presence is a necessity. It is getting clearer by the day that social media needs to be leveraged to the maximum, if you want your SEO strategy to work in a post Panda and Penguin world. Let’s take a closer look at how social media helps trigger better SEO:

The Importance of Relevance and Authority

Google’s webmaster guidelines implicitly state that it’s the relevance of your content and brand authority that will help your online presence rank better on search engines. It is here that social media plays a very important role. There are plenty of social media signals that Google takes into account to find whether your content is relevant and your name has a certain kind of niche authority associated with it. Here are a few social media SEO signals that play an important role in determining whether your online presence makes it or hikes it:

  • Engagement on Social Media:  The number of Likes, Shares, Re-tweets and +1’s your content receives tell search engines that your intended audience has actually liked your content and considers it interesting and of very good quality. There are three important factors that allow Google to determine the engagement levels of your content – the number of shares, the frequency of these shares, and the reputation (authority) of the people sharing your content.
  • Mentions on Social Media: The number of times your content is mentioned on social media tells search engines that your online presence is a popular and a respected name in its niche.

While some people look at social media through the narrow prism of just social votes or how they use their G+ profiles to appear on the first page of search results, there are others who are doing something more - they are building relationships with social media. They are two important target demographics who they are building relationships with:

  • Their Target Consumers: These are the people who are going to consume their products and services. The people who actually matter. A social media presence allows a business to engage with its customers on a one-on-one level; this interaction shouldn’t necessarily be sales driven. If you want the social media presence to deliver the results you are looking for, this interaction needs be centered on exchange of valuable information about the niche and your products and services.While doing so, you are invariably creating an environment that helps trigger the required social signals that improve your website’s rankings on SERPs and also make it more visible.
  • Niche Influencers and Brand Advocates:  These are the big guys of your niche. These are the people, who your target consumers trust. If these people share your content with their fans and followers, it will prop up your authority, which is something appreciated by search engines like Google. You will need to identify these people and interact with them. You mustn’t restrict yourself to just sharing links to your content with them, but also make insightful comments on the links they have shared to showcase your own domain expertise. This will allow them to trust you and see you as a credible figure in the niche. Recognition from influencers and brand advocates will give further weight to your efforts in integrating social media with your SEO strategy.

Foundation of Social Media SEO rests on Quality Content

You can’t make use of social media to give your SEO efforts an added fillip without quality content. This content must be useful and engaging. It must make people want to go through it, and also share it with their friends and followers. The virality of your brand on social media depends on the quality of its content. The first thing you must do, while creating such content is to make sure its share worthy and not an advertisement for your products and services. It must be something that helps readers get useful information about the domain your business belongs to, and which allows them to make informed decisions about the products and services they want to use; these necessarily don’t have to be your products and services.

Will Social Media Optimisation replace SEO?

This is the question that’s putting SEO experts in a tizzy. Will a time come when SEO in its purest form will disappear from the horizon and when link building will give way to social media centric efforts to improve visibility on search engines? Nobody has a clear answer yet, but what there is absolutely no doubt about is the fact that people are increasingly giving importance to social proof. They are taking to social media to find out which products and services have been used by their friends and family; this is where social media’s growing importance stems from. With people-to-people interactions making their way to social media from the real world, it’s necessary to tap into this channel. It’s not something you can ignore for very long.