SEO and Social Media

More people sharing your content from social media websites has a positive impact on your SEO. Firstly, social media shows other people what individuals (specifically real human beings) actually like versus regular basic SEO, which uses complex mathematical algorithms to tell you what robots feel is content you like. Google and Bing personalize search results based upon what your friends would like. For instance, if all my Facebook friends liked a specific article on naturopathic medicine, that article would be higher up in the search engine rankings when I search for “naturopathic medicine.”

More people are willing to read content that others like and is recommended to them. Consequently, search engines are taking into account what individuals like or share more frequently when deciding how to rank websites that appear in searches. Experiments have shown that this can impact your search rankings.

Both Google and Bing have added social media results to searches, meaning things such as Tweets featuring keywords which individuals search for also appear in search engines. Therefore, more popular tweets come up in search rankings as well.

Further reading
How Social Search Will Transform the SEO Industry
Social Media Optimization is Here to Stay
How User-Generated Content Is Changing SEO

Social Media and SEO Planning

Let’s go over a basic plan to see how it works.

Strategic goals/objectives
What are you goals and objectives? Having a strategic purpose will help guide the development of your search engine optimization plan. Some questions you should think about when developing goals and objectives are:

  • Do I want to use social media to increase traffic to my website?
  • Do I want to use social media to increase traffic to a specific page on my website?
  • Am I trying to increase the amount of people on my social media profiles rather than clinic website?

Identify your audience
One of the most integral parts of any plan is to identify your audience. For SEO, this involves assessing the demographics of the individuals you plan on targeting. For instance, if your practice focuses on pediatric naturopathic medicine, you should lean towards an audience of new parents, parents interested in the health of their kids, or even grandparents interested in health of their grandkids.

When you have identified your audience, it is imperative to understand your audiences’ preferences, their topics of interest, their methods of communicating and their modes of sharing information. For instance, is your audience more of a Facebook user or Twitter user? Getting statistics on this information will help you tailor your strategic plan. Fortunately, this information is readily available through simple Google searches because of social media demographics.

In terms of topics that interest your audience, you can watch TV programs, read newspapers or search magazines that are marketed towards the demographics in your audience. For instance, content on the Today’s Parent magazine homepage tells you what industry leaders find important for parents and people interested in pediatrics. The magazine’s social media presence of 180,000 followers on Twitter and only 10,000 fans on Facebook means their audience, likely the same audience for pediatric naturopathic medicine, is probably more adept at using Twitter versus Facebook.

Keyword research and usage
Keywords help people using search engines find your website. Google Adwords offers a tool that allows you to determine how much traffic certain keywords will receive. This will give you an idea of what search words are more popular. Once you have researched the most optimal terms for your clinic make sure you actually use them on your webpage.

A common mistake people make in trying to determine which keywords to use is by selecting words that have the highest traffic volume; however, this is not the best method. Though you do want to take keywords with more traffic it is also important to find keywords based on how difficult they are for your website to rank them. To dispel all myths I asked Stephen Verspan, web analytics and community analytics specialist for a renowned business consultancy firm to weigh in. He said:

“Only selecting words based on volume is not the best option because high volume doesn't necessarily mean high conversion. You might get a lot of people going to your website, but if those people don't perform expected actions (e.g., buy a product, or download a PDF), then your SEO initiatives won't be optimized. In other words, you need to make sure that your selection of keywords will drive the right traffic to your website or page.

“Concerning ranking, several factors come into and keywords are one of them. The fact that you choose high-volume keywords won’t necessarily translate into higher ranking on the results page of a search engine, because of the other factors that are also used to determine your ranking. Here again you need to make sure that you select the right keywords and that those keywords are properly added to your website or page.”

The keywords you choose are integral to how you craft your tweets, Facebook postings and any other online material since you will be using keywords to title them.

Some questions to keep in mind when developing the keywords are:

  • What keywords are my audience searching for?
  • What keywords would I like to be affiliated with?
  • What keywords generate the most amount of traffic? For instance, cancer will generate more traffic than pancreatic cancer
  • What do I want people to do when they get to my website?

Set up tracking
No campaign is complete without a tracking tool which helps you measure the success of the campaign and identifies areas for improvements. To measure changes to your website once you start combining social media, use Google Analytics - this is a simple way to measure changes to your website traffic and can specifically identify for you how social media increased your traffic. In assessing this, the area you should focus on is the “Page Source” aspect which will tell you which website brought the person to your page and “Page Views” which tells you how many people viewed your page. For instance, if you notice an increase in page views and more people are coming from websites such as Facebook and Twitter before landing on your page, it means that social media is increasing your profile.

Make sure content is linkable
Biggest mistake people make is adding fresh new engaging content but not making it shareable. Having people share your content on social media networks will help increase your search rankings. Studies indicate Twitter, for example, can highly influence where organizations appear in search rankings.

Load page time
The speed that your page loads has a small but salient affect on how you are ranked in Google searches. Pages that load too slowly are ranked significantly lower. This is because Google wants to give individuals using their search engine the fastest and most relevant content possible. Knowing your page loading speed is also important when you increase traffic to your site; knowing your site speed will tell you if you are able to even take on extra website traffic without crashing.

Attractive links
Have you ever had someone post a link on your Facebook page but you cannot figure out where the link will take you because there is no picture or description, just a link and an abstract title? Oftentimes people will not click on this link because they assume it is a virus or spam. These descriptions that Facebook adds to links when they are posted are known as the meta description. If you want people to be lured into clicking on a link that takes them back to your clinic make sure the meta description is enticing. Use attractive pictures that complement your story and use written descriptions that are interesting.

In any SEO, marketing, or communications plans/strategies, it is integral that you conclude them with an evaluation of success of the overall plan via the tracking tools you previously implemented. Evaluation is an integral process in determining the plan’s return on investment and will help shape future tactics by highlighting the success or failures of previous communications initiatives. The purpose of this is simply to see if the plan was effective, or if there are issues that could be improved to ensure the plan is more successful in the future. Statistics you can measure are concepts like

  • Page views (are more people coming to your website, if so where)
  • Time spent on websites (are people spending more time reading each page)
  • Has there been a bump up in search rankings, i.e., did you move from #100 to #80?

Further reading
The Social Media Marketer's SEO Checklist
How to Optimize 7 Popular Social Media Profiles for SEO
Social Media and SEO: 5 Essential Steps to Success
Top 5 Social Media SEO Tips for More Traffic