3 Ways to Use Social Media to Improve Your Search Rankings

social media how toAre you happy with the traffic coming to your blog or website?

Have you kept up with the changes in search engine optimization (SEO)?

This is essential for most businesses today.

Keep reading to learn how Google changes are making social media more important and what you can do about it.

Recent Google Changes Put Spotlight on Social Media

On April 24, 2012, webmasters around the world were dinged by the Google “Penguin” update—one of the latest in a series of algorithm modifications designed to weed out low-value results from the natural search engine results page (SERPs).

google penguin

Google's Penguin algorithm update was a recent search engine change designed to eliminate spam from the natural search results.

Whether or not your website’s traffic flow was affected by this update, it’s important to understand what this change entails, why it came about and how you can compensate for it using social media marketing—as Google’s heightened focus on web spam is likely to result in similar updates in the future.

The Google Penguin update had three primary objectives to minimize the SEO impact of the following web marketing elements:

  • Low-quality and manufactured website backlinks
  • On-page over-optimization
  • “Black hat” (or illicit) SEO techniques

Of primary interest to webmasters who use social networking platforms to promote their websites is the first item on this list—the presence of artificially created backlinks. In a post-Penguin environment, building natural backlinks should be a primary objective for webmasters.

Adapt your social media marketing with the following techniques to improve the SEO of your website.

#1: Use Social Networks to Generate Strong Content Ideas

Digital marketing today needs to be “natural.” Ideally, instead of building manufactured backlinks (as was a primary focus of past SEO best practices), your site should acquire links in a natural way—as it would if you did absolutely no promotional work whatsoever.

The key to building natural backlinks is to publish high-quality content that people will be inclined to share naturally on social media networks. After all, if you produce mediocre content, there’s no incentive for readers to link back to or share your website, making it even harder to get the backlinks needed to rank well in the new natural search results.

Social networking websites are a great place to find ideas for future content marketing pieces. Charlene Kingston outlines a great process for uncovering content ideas in your retweets in her “8 Ways to Discover Content Ideas From Your Readers” post, but you can also enter a series of prompts into Twitter’s search bar to uncover the topics your community has demonstrated an interest in.

results search

Results for a search "How do I SEO?"

As an example, the above image shows a few of the results displayed for the search query “How do I SEO?” which highlights several possible topics for future website articles.

Further ideas could be generated by entering any of the following prompts into Twitter search:

  • “How to” + industry keyword
  • “Why is” + industry keyword
  • “Question” + industry keyword
  • “?” + industry keyword

Pay special attention to search results that don’t include outbound links, as these are often—but not always—self-promotional in nature. In addition, look for results that have been retweeted by others, as these demonstrate audience appeal.

Once you’ve identified a few potential article topics, produce quality content on the subject and promote your posts using the technique described in Step #2.

#2: Encourage Backlink Building Via Social Media Presence

Social networking websites are a great place to build natural backlinks to your website, as both Google and Bing confirmed that they track publicly shared links on Facebook and Twitter.

To encourage the creation of these valuable links, you’ll want to take the following actions:

  • Build your networks on Facebook and Twitter, as more users results in more opportunities for link shares.
  • Tie your blog to your Facebook and Twitter accounts (or use a tool designed specifically for this purpose) so that a link to each of your new posts is automatically created on your profile.
  • Use an update-scheduling tool like Buffer to create repeat announcements of new blog posts that will allow you to reach users who are active at different times.

In addition, take the time to set up your Google+ page. There’s some indication that the number of “+1″ votes your articles receive is a factor that’s weighted in the natural search ranking algorithms. Boosting your presence here may help to ensure stronger SEO for your website.

google plus pages

Google+ pages can be created for different types of businesses.

#3: Build a Social Media Following to Reduce Reliance on Natural Search Traffic

One final thing to consider when using social media websites to protect yourself from future Penguin-like Google updates is the potential for social networking traffic to minimize your reliance on visitors from Google and the other search engines.

To see just how important this can be, take a look at the following list of some of the biggest post-Penguin losers (in terms of natural search visibility), as compiled by web data firm Searchmetrics:

penguin losers

Losers in Google's Penguin update experienced significant drops in search visibility.

In particular, take a look at the impact on great-quotes.com, which experienced a 94% decline in SEO visibility. If natural search traffic from Google was the site’s primary source of visitors, this single algorithm update could have dramatically decreased the company’s revenue.

To diversify your traffic base and increase the number of website visitors you receive from social media platforms, take the following actions:

  • Include prominent social sharing buttons at both the top and bottom of each blog post on your website (or use a scrolling option that moves down the page alongside your readers).
  • Add a direct appeal to your readers at the end of each blog post or email newsletter to encourage them to share your articles on their social networking profiles if they’ve found them useful.
  • Use social media to brand yourself as an authority figure within your industry.
call to action and sharing button

A blog article includes both a call to action and social sharing buttons.

This final recommendation serves two purposes. In the article referenced earlier on how Google and Bing weight social signals in their ranking algorithms, both search engines assert that they attempt to quantify the relative “authority” of a user as a part of their measurement of social signals.

However, being recognized as one of the “go-to” resources in your industry offers potent benefits from a traffic generation standpoint as well. When you’re recognized as a niche thought leader, your site will naturally attract repeat visitors and referrals—both of which can be great sources of traffic that aren’t subject to Google’s changing whims.

What do you think? What social media marketing actions are you taking to minimize the impact of search engine updates? Share them in the comments section below!

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About the Author, AJ Kumar

AJ Kumar is co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency based in San Francisco. Single Grain specializes in helping startups and larger companies with search engine optimization, ppc, and social media strategies. Other posts by »




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  • $44796859

    Thanks for sharing this information, AJ! I was aware of the Penguin update, but you’ve helped spell its effects out in plain English for me, and now I’m a lot more clued up. Some really great points about countering its effects with social media too; ‘spammy’ backlinking always seemed like a bit of a shady practice to me, and while it takes a lot longer to build a following using social media, the results are so much more genuine, with a more loyal and trusting audience. Andrew.

  • Joyce Z.

    I really enjoyed reading this piece on my morning commute. The Penguin algorithm update feels a bit like Revenge of the Nerds and we are the champions because we stayed true to producing quality content all along. Sometimes the good guys prevail after all. Thanks Google and thanks for the great post AJ!

  • http://twitter.com/michaelstetina Michael Stetina

    Hi AJ – Nice summary. It’s about time we started hearing about the increase in the importance of social signals on search results post Penguin. This change gives the average blogger a much better chance of ranking highly if their content is shared socially.

    Out of curiosity, why do you recommend social sharing buttons at the beginning of a post? I always reasoned that no one would share content they hadn’t yet read.

  • http://www.socialmediarevolution.ca/become-a-subscriber/ Josaphat DJ Perez

    Hi AJ,
    This is one of the things I was just talking to one of my prospect clients just last Monday. They have a site “host and Manage” by a Foreign company and they have lost ranking right after the update. Before they were on page one and now they are on page 7. They were not affected as bad as some other companies but this update has really make things different for many people out there.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Tonyvwatson

    Thanks AJ. very helpful tips. Tony

  • Laura Crimmons

    Thanks for this post really useful – one thing to add on the Google+ point is about ensuring you have your authorship set up correctly through your Google+ page and blog so that your authorship and avatar shows up in the SERPs which can increase CTR and rankings!

  • Joseph Tortorici

    AJ – as a new on-line business I have just recently heard about  Penguin from one of my coaches. I now have a new mantra for my daily on-line activity –  “write, post, share widely”.  Thanks for the clear explanation of this new SEO environment.    

  • http://www.thefreeadforum.com/vbull/ Matthew Meyer

    Nice post. I like the idea of building up your social media following so as not to rely on seo as much. Do not forget about good old fashioned email. It still works very well. Build your list! Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/13004munchies Mark Barnes

    Hi AJ, great info and proof again that there are no short cuts to achieving those great SERPs.

  • http://www.Kathleen-Harrison.com/ Kathleen Harrison

    Thank you for explaining the Penguin update.  You put it in words that make it very easy to understand.  Much appreciated, AJ.

  • http://www.kwik-web.com/ Jason C

    It’s important to not only use social media as a means to promote or create prospects. The best thing that a business can use social media for is to engage with their followers and create a community with them. This makes the followers feel welcomed, heard, and understood by the company. Just my two cents. What do you think?

  • http://brandyousocial.com/video-marketing-portfolio Megan

    Thanks for explaining the Penguin update.  You really put it into clear and easy to understand words!

  • http://allmarketingsolutions.co.uk/social-media-marketing-services Ayaz

    Hi AJ and thanks for the excellent tips and I love using the social media channels to increase the interactions with my site readers and you have pointed out some great points.

  • http://www.thingstodoinbali.com Bali-Chris

    Hi Michael,

    I would do it for the three reasons:
    1. Readers see before starting to read that this content can be easily shared
    2. Readers see that it was already liked and shared by others
    3. Depending on the configuration of the share buttons they can even see that their friends shared the article

    Therefore I believe that readers are more likely to click a like or share button at the end when they agree with the content. From my experience the more likes and share you already have the more likely others click the like and share buttons. 

    Most advertisings need to be seen 2-3 times (optimally in different media) until people start to recognize them. I believe it’s similar with the social buttons. The more often you stumble upon them the more often you have the chance to click them

  • http://www.storyonsales.com/ Stanley Rao

     Interesting and a great read…

  • http://www.salesscene.co.uk/ Caroline Thomas

    I love this update AJ! It’s a really concise way of explaining why social is SO important to SEO these days :)

  • http://humanwebsite.com.my/ Kent

    My strategy using social media to build link is. I connected top authors in the world – Neal Schaffer, Mari Smith, Guy Kawasaki, etc. Work with them together and interview them. It works perfectly good even I stay in Malaysia.

  • http://www.jerrydross.com/ Jerry D Ross

    AJ,
    Great information on the recent changes in Google and how to compensate with the use of Social Media. Social Media is certainly becoming a key to staying on top of the game.
    Thanks!
    Jerry

  • Sally

    Thanks for the update and very useful info. Invaluable!

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  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    Glad to hear that you found these tips helpful!  Penguin and the other Google algorithm changes can be challenging, but by staying updated on SEO best practices, it’s possible to minimize the risk of incurring negative effects in the search results.

  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    Haha – I like your Revenge of the Nerds reference.  Well put, and glad to hear you enjoyed the article!

  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    Partially because not all readers make it to the ends of articles – even if they’re good content pieces deserving of being shared.  However, it’s a good idea to test different places (including scrolling options that move down the article along with the reader) to see where social sharing buttons have the most impact on your unique site.

  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    Sorry to hear about your client’s situation – no matter what techniques they’ve used in the past, it’s always frustrating to lose rank!  Glad to hear you’re trying to talk some sense into them :)

  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    Great point – setting up authorship in Google is definitely important as well.

  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    Exactly.  If there were shortcuts that worked, there wouldn’t be any losers in SEO!

  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    Glad you found the article helpful!

  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    While I think building a community is hugely important and a valuable business goal, you need to have parameters in place to be sure your time investment is paying off in terms of ROI.  Just because you have a community doesn’t mean that you have buyers, and if you aren’t actively measuring how well your social media traffic converts in actual dollars, you don’t have a business – you have a social media hobby.  Just my perspective, though :)

  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    Great point – connecting with existing authority users on popular social networking websites is a great way to quickly build both brand awareness and links.  Glad to hear it’s working out for you.

  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    For sure.  I’m guessing that this is only the beginning.  I’d put money on social media metrics playing an even larger role in SEO in the future, given the trends showcased by the last few Google updates.  Now’s the time to invest in social media if you haven’t already!

  • http://www.jasoncsmall.com/ Jason Small

    Just confirming the tactic here – I often tweet or share great articles in the first 30 seconds (top of article) after I’ve read enough to find value. Simply because I don’t always have time to complete the article but I know my associates would find it valuable…

    Great article AJ, thanks!

    Jay

  • http://www.moneymakingmodes.com/ Money Making Modes

    Social media backlinks is very powerful and useful for recent SEO rankings. Thanks for the awesome points.

  • Carlos

    Hi Kumar! Thanks a lot for sharing. The tips you handed over on this article are very useful. Actually, responding about the tools I’ll use, I’d say I’d go with writing and posting a more appealing article and sharing the link with my Facebook and Twitter network. All the best.

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  • Tamara

    Great Article. I was aware of The Penguin Update  i learned a lot. Thanks

  • Tamara

    h

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  • http://www.easypaydayrevolution.com/ Gary Darling

    These are really great ways to make sure you stay ahead of the game. It is important to do these things as quick as you can, because you can believe that your competition is. I love the idea of searching twitter for post ideas. I am going to be using that quite often now. Thanks for the tips. 

  • http://www.astrageeks.com/ Astrageeks

    Thanks for explaining the penguin update.Great info and proof again that there are no short cuts to achieving those great SERPs.

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  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    Thanks!  Glad you found this info useful.

  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    Glad to hear you’re seeing success with your social media marketing efforts.  Thanks for stopping by!

  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    Thanks Caroline – glad to hear it helped!

  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    Carlos – that sounds like a good plan.  You really can’t go wrong with writing great content and sharing it with your networks of followers :)

  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    Great point, Matthew.  Email marketing should definitely still be a part of any webmaster’s promotional tool kit.

  • http://twitter.com/ajkumar AJ Kumar

    That’s a great mantra, and I’m sure it’ll serve you well when it comes to safely and effectively promoting your site.

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  • Gices Abraham

    Not only social media but you should also find other sources of traffic like through newsletter, building brand awareness to get direct traffic and establishing relationships with other publishers to get referrals. If you don’t diversify your traffic sources, then whether or not your site complies with Google Webmaster Guidelines does not guarantee, you won’t lose rankings during an update because at the end of the day, the algorithm is not 100% correct.

  • http://www.youbihar.com/ Shalu Sharma

    It makes perfect sense to use social media buttons on blog posts. Search engines are now using votes to rank sites. Hence taking part in social sites is going to be important. 

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  • Kelly Mirabella

    Awesome information. I have been saying for some time that social media is a great tool for not only personal branding but SEO. Now we can see why! Thanks for sharing even more helpful tips I can use and share with my clients, friends and followers!

  • Xeoma

    Thanks for the article! Penguin is like a myth – everyone’s aware of it but no one can really tell what it is based on. Still I don’t get it – what weight do links in social media have? same as backlinks from regular sites/blogs?  

  • http://moderngirlfuturecatlady.blogspot.com/ M. Michelle

    Really great article! I recently started my blog and am struggling with building a social media presence. You’ve given me some good ideas to try! Thank you!

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  • Glsteyn

    As always the tips are fantastic and really help! Thanks

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  • http://www.smartedesigners.com/ Smart eDesigners

    Nicely summarized. Thanks for the information 

  • http://www.tommyarnold.com/ Megan

    first time coming across this site and im glad i did!  thanks for the helpful info!

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  • Ruchi Gupta

    These are nice tips, allot can be done by following these steps. it’s so social media is currently the foremost necessary technique to optimize your web site on major search engines, especially, Google.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=601746515 Michał Gontowski

    I think that measurement of seo activities is very important things – it shows you the proper way. There are some tools for it, like ColibriTool, Google Analytics and many more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=601746515 Michał Gontowski

    I think that measurement of seo activities is very important things – it shows you the proper way. There are some tools for it, like ColibriTool, Google Analytics and many more.

  • maria

    I like your post!! it is really helpful and informative for me!! thanks!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/naveen.kathait.1 Naveen Kathait
  • http://www.inmediaconcepts.co.nz/ William John

    Nice article on social media and content marketing ideas thanks









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