Everything You Need to Know About Social Media SEO

When it comes to growing your business, most companies understand that search engine optimization is a marketing must. Far fewer recognize the elevating potential of social media. And what too often gets overlooked is the awesome superpower that is social media SEO.

During web design client kickoff meetings, I frequently hear “we don’t do social media, we don’t see the point”. That thinking needs to change! Social media absolutely should be part of your digital strategy, and it all comes down to how it works with SEO.

illustration depicting SEO under a magnifying glass with web design and search icons around it

What is Social Media SEO?

Social media SEO, or social SEO, is the practice of combining social media and SEO strategies to improve your search rankings.

Social media and SEO strategies are frequently developed and executed by different team members, departments, or outside agencies, and are treated as independent marketing tactics. But neither strategy should exist in a silo, and neither can do it all when it comes to climbing the search engine results pages (SERPs).

A smart, data-driven digital marketing strategy weaves social media and SEO into a fully integrated marketing ecosystem. The combined efforts and shared data can significantly increase conversions and improve your ROI — and that’s good business.

How Does Social Media Affect SEO?

Here are five major ways social media impacts SEO:

  1. Search rankings — social signals impact crucial quality and engagement data about your website, used by search algorithms. Bing and Yahoo (powered by Bing) put different weight on social signals than Google.
  2. Content amplification — helping your website’s content find new and returning visitors beyond organic reach.
  3. Brand awareness — building your online presence, trust, and credibility through humanized social media content.
  4. Link building — helping drive SEO-friendly inbound links (backlinks) as your content is discovered and added to other websites.
  5. Local SEO — increasing your local presence and ranking through business profile data and customer reviews.

Each of these areas has a powerful and intricate web of social signals that affect your website’s search ranking. This is why social media SEO is important for businesses of all sizes and industries.

Fact: your company social media profiles appear in searches for your business, often right under your website. Fact: search engines index social media posts, which appear in search for your business and can also turn up in results for specific queries.

Google may be the search overlord, but did you know that YouTube — a social media platform — is the second largest search engine in the world? That’s right: more people conduct searches on YouTube than on Yahoo or Bing. And YouTube isn’t the only social platform on which your potential and existing customers are conducting searches, or gathering information before making purchases.

illustration depicting a laptop with simplified search results in green to indicate a positive

Social media and search rankings: What are social signals?

Social signals are the data that your website gathers from exposure on social media platforms, which are read by search engine algorithms and factored into ranking your content.

  • Likes and comments
  • Shares
  • Votes/pins
  • Links
  • Reviews
  • Mentions and followings

A social signal is like a vote for your content. And while social signals don’t carry huge weight among Google’s 200+ ranking factors, the traffic and engagement that they attract definitely impact your search ranking. Plus, mentions and audience size are believed to factor into your domain authority score — a major ranking factor.

From extending reach and building brand awareness to gaining backlinks and overall site authority, social signals both indirectly and directly influence many other ranking factors. That’s why you need social media SEO.

Extend your reach, grow your audience: Social amplification

In a perfect world, every time you published a new piece of content it would land right on page one in Google search results, and everyone would love it.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Consumers are pummeled from all angles by content noise. From search ads to high-authority competitors and content publishing sites, the top results are dominated, and ranking can feel like a mission impossible. Even an on-point keyword strategy can’t drive traffic alone.

Six ways social media SEO boosts your marketing efforts:

  1. Faster indexing by search engines
  2. Acquiring immediate traffic to your content
  3. Building your audience and potential for future traffic
  4. Reaching a targeted audience already interested in your content
  5. Driving traffic to older, still-useful content
  6. Increasing returning visitors

The more traffic your website gets, the more opportunities you have to improve your position through other crucial ranking signals: content quality and user engagement.

If your blog post gets shared by multiple people on three social platforms, then visited by dozens of people from each of those personal networks, and shared further by each new viewer who appreciates the quality of your content — that’s a lot of traffic.

And if your content invites high quality ranking signals from all those visitors (longer session times, viewing more than one page per session, low bounce rate)… that is some SEO magic right there.

Plus, there’s the additional quality traffic that results from all those people becoming aware of your brand, potentially turning into return visitors, sharing future content, and linking to your content from other websites — but more on backlinks later.

As with other types of website traffic, social media traffic can also negatively impact your ranking. Misleading headlines, poor quality content, slow page load times, and a clumsy user experience can all contribute to negative signals. Quality, relevance, and usefulness should always be the basis for your content creation, so that users who find it on social media enjoy and engage with it.

Brand awareness is SEO love

In order to grow, your business needs to be known. Whether you’re a local brick-and-mortar shop or an international brand, you can’t bring in new customers if they never hear your name.

SEO helps your website get found online through paid and organic keyword strategies and other onsite optimization. Social media takes it to the next level.

  • Social proof is a thing! Consumer behaviour statistics show that people trust recommendations from friends, family, influencers, and online reviews
  • Organic social media efforts and influencer marketing are key ways to help your business become known
  • The more familiar consumers are with your business through social proof, the more likely you are to be front-of-mind when they need your product or service

The reason authentic brand storytelling through social media is such a huge deal right now is because today’s savvy consumer is doing their research. One Instagram post showing someone they know or respect loving your product is more likely to convert than other forms of marketing — 11 times more likely, according to Social Media Today.

Need a little help with your storytelling? Learn How to Create a Brand Strategy for Business. Includes links to examples and templates!

How does this tie into social media SEO? Once again, it comes down to traffic. More awareness of your business through social media = more visits to your site, and an increased opportunity for conversions. The way that people engage with your content once they get to your site is what drives your search ranking.

illustration depicting a magnifying glass over a laptop screen looking at search results and SEO

How to turn brand awareness into conversions:

Whether someone finds you via an Instagram tag on an influencer’s post or via one of your blog posts shared on their friend’s profile, make sure that you give them an optimal user experience.

  • Ensure your social media traffic is sending all the right ranking signals by having fully branded profiles on the appropriate social networks for your target audience to discover
  • Keep your messaging on point — style and tone in all of your content should be captivating for your ideal customer, wherever they find you
  • Stay on top of your website design! Slow, clunky websites cause social visitors to bounce, and that’s a negative signal you don’t want
  • Make sure all of your landing pages are working to encourage the buyer’s journey: callouts to related content, clear navigation, intuitive next steps

Does your website need some TLC to convert social media traffic? Check out Website Design vs. Refresh: Which Do You Need?

Social media for bigger, better link building

Backlinks are a confirmed and powerful search ranking factor. That’s why most SEO tools will monitor your website’s current backlinks, report on bad ones to correct, and suggest potential new links to pursue.

Also known as inbound links, backlinks are awesome things. The more healthy backlinks a website has, the more popular and relevant it is deemed by search engines.

While social media itself doesn’t drive backlinks — links shared on social networks result in social media referral traffic — the combination of brand awareness and increased reach can result in more backlinks.

As new people discover your brand and its content, the opportunity for inbound links grows. Several of the links shared in this blog were great content I found on social media, and bookmarked for later use. By sharing them in this article, I’m creating a backlink to that content.

Once again, social media SEO magic at work!

As with other ranking factors, it’s important to be aware of negative backlinks. While links from high-authority websites are great SEO juice, poor quality or spammy websites linking to yours can drag you down. It’s a good idea to use an SEO tool or work with an SEO partner to stay on top of your website’s backlinks.

How social media affects local SEO

Local SEO is essential in some industries — like hospitality, dining, and entertainment — and for small businesses. Whether it’s a regular search or a voice search, you want your business to appear on page one when someone in your area is seeking your service.

In order for your website to appear in local search results, the most important SEO box to check is that your business name, address, and phone number (NAP) are correctly listed on your website, in relevant business directories, and on all of your social profiles.

Four tips to use social media for local SEO

  1. Populate your NAP, website, hours, and an optimized business description on social media company pages — search engines use a specified query location or the user’s geographic location to choose results
  2. Ensure your Google My Business listing is correctly populated — this displays to the right of search results, and is delivered to people doing voice searches (ex. “what coffee shop near me is open right now?”)
  3. Encourage reviews — Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, and most importantly Google reviews are social signals, and experts believe they account for up to 13% of ranking factors in local search results
  4. Nurture your following — although a less powerful ranking factor, the size of your following and your audience engagement are still social signals!

Bonus tips! 4 quick ways to optimize your social media

  1. Use keywords in your business description and bios
  2. Use keywords or questions/phrases in your post copy
  3. Have a video optimization strategy for naming and tagging videos
  4. Use hashtags to extend your reach to the right audience


Social media is so much more than baby photos and memes. For businesses, it’s an opportunity to build a community, humanize your brand, and elevate both your message and your work — while supplementing your organic and paid search strategies.

We hope you’re now 100% convinced about the awesomeness of social media SEO. Happy optimizing!