Social Media Marketing: Does SEO Matter?

October 5, 2018 BY JACLYN LEDUC

One of the biggest questions when it comes to social media marketing and strategy is does it affect search rankings for both content and video? It’s long been debated whether or not social media marketing and SEO go hand-in-hand, and we’re here to expose the truth.

The Truth About Social Media Marketing and SEO

The official and most current answer, according to Google, is that social media marketing and SEO are unrelated, and social rankings have no direct impact on search rankings. But, how did we get to this conclusion, and what does that mean for your social media marketing strategy?

Google Ranks Using Facebook and Twitter Links

Year 2010

Back in 2010, Matt Cutts, the former head of Google’s Webspam team, was asked if Google uses Twitter and Facebook links as a ranking symbol. Cutts confirmed that it did. At the time, Google used those links as a ranking signal in “real-time search,” and also considered using it more widely in search. Admittedly, Cutts said that using social link sharing as a signal for ranking factor was being used very lightly.

Google Changes Their Mind on Social and SEO

Fast forward to 2014, and Cutts made a video answering a very similar question, asking if Twitter and Facebook signals were part of the ranking algorithm. The long answer was that, although Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other page in Google’s index, Google doesn’t have any signals in their algorithm that could look at specific social factors like number of followers or likes. There a are a couple of reasons why Google had chosen not to engineer a ranking algorithm for social media.

Year 2014

In the past, Google had had problems crawling social pages for long periods of time because they were blocked, and this unreliability made the idea of engineering a social algorithm a real risk. Something else to remember is that when Google crawls the web, it is taking “samples” of data at finite periods of time from web pages. If a social account ranks highly due to its substantial following, but all of the sudden loses thousands of followers, there’s no way for Google to know until the next time they crawl that social page. In the meantime, this hypothetical account would remain at the top of Google’s SERPs, which could be misleading to users.

After Matt Cutts released this video, it seemed safe to assume that social media had no real effect on search rankings. But, due to the lack of a definitive answer, many continued to wonder.

Google Puts the Official Word Out

In 2016, more answers surfaced out of the 2016 Rebooting Ranking Factors White Paper by Searchmetrics. Here’s what it said:

The correlation between social signals and ranking position is extremely high…The top-ranked websites in Google’s ranking displays vastly more social signals than all other pages.

Year: Today

It goes on to say that there’s a connection between performing strongly in social networks and being at the top of Google SERPs, but to assume that social is a direct causation of high rankings would be wrong. Still, marketers were left to wonder. The world was waiting for a definitive answer.

In that same year, the public got what they wanted. Gary Illyes, a Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, put the official word out. When asked if Google takes social into account for SEO, he said, “the short version is, no, we don’t.” Finally, from the horse’s mouth itself, we had a bona fide answer, and Illyes’ statement still holds true to this day.

Social Media’s Real Impact on SEO

Though social media has no direct impact on SEO, that’s not to say that social media marketing and SEO can’t have a positive relationship. In fact, we’ve determined social media can still indirectly impact search rankings for content and video.

Some of the most influential search ranking factors for Google search engines are the number of inbound links to your site and user experience metrics like website traffic, click-through-rate, and time-on-site. Social media is a great way to positively influence these factors. Here’s how social media marketing and SEO collide:

How social media marketing and SEO connect: inform public about you, be active, develop loyal following, build trust and brand awareness, become and authority and resource for a topic, drive traffic to your site content, lead people to share and link back to content.

There you have it! Social media marketing and SEO are connected because social media is a great way to drive people to your site and increase your backlinks.

How to Build SEO With Social Media

Knowing that there’s a connection between social media marketing and SEO is well and good, but how do you know if your social account is moving towards becoming a trustworthy, shareworthy source? The answer lies in your ability to turn out user-friendly, quality written and video content.

There are some general quality and usability standards to think about when creating and sharing all types of content.

  • Provide direct, actionable information relevant to the query
  • Easy to use, navigate, and understand
  • Professionally designed and accessible to modern browsers (i.e. mobile phones)
  • High quality, legitimate, and credible content

It’s important not to skimp on quality. High quality content will keep people on page longer, and will hopefully incentivize viewers to return in the future. Follow these guidelines when planning your content:

Three pastel colored text bubbles sit side by side, each with there own content quality guidelines. The first is, "Keep it simple", then "Specialize in a topic", then "Be mindful and use the title to display the goal of the video."

Stick to these guidelines when creating content, both written and video, before even thinking about sharing it on social media. If you’re delivering quality, valuable content and sharing them to your social pages, in time your following will grow and hopefully your search ranking will grow with it.

Best Practices for Posting to Social Media

When trying to establish your social media accounts as authorities, which can help to boost your search rankings, there are some best practices to follow.

Consistency Is Key

It’s important to practice posting regularly so that your followers know they can rely on you to share great content. You can do this by creating a content calendar or social media calendar, which will help keep you on track.

Have a Solid Brand Voice

Sharing content relevant to your organization and using a tone that’s appropriate for your audience can go a long way. Maintain your brand voice by following utilizing these social media practices:

Colorful graphic display best practices to maintain solid brand voice. The best practices are, reply to audience, respond ASAP, write a clear bio message, use call-to-actions, use graphics and video, consistently use relevant hashtags.

Be Human

Last but not least, show your followers that the organization on the other side of your social accounts are human beings. People don’t want to feel like they are engaging with a robot. If a person tags you in a tweet, or direct messages you, respond! Otherwise you might risk that person going to your competitor’s account.

Making people feel seen and heard is a great way to build rapport with your audience. They’ll begin to see you as a trustworthy source, and in turn feel like they can trust the content you’re sharing. With sincere effort, your followers will begin to interact with your social accounts more and more.

Social Video

When it comes to social media engagement, video reigns supreme. People love video, which is why we spend an average of six hours per day watching it. Nearly every SEO standard that is relevant to traditional written content can be applied to video content, too, and quality video content can drive more traffic to your site and increase link shares. Something to remember is that the same usability and quality standards that apply to traditional content also applies to video content. Your videos should be direct, simple, and easy to understand, but what can you do to ensure your videos get views?

Why You Should Add Captions to Social Video

Have you noticed that Facebook videos and video ads autoplay on silent with captions forced-on? That feature was implemented due to the results of an internal study on user behavior. The study uncovered several key insights:

  • 80% of Facebook users react negatively to video ads auto-playing with sound on
  • 41% of videos are incomprehensible without sound or captions
  • Captions increase view time for Facebook videos by 12%

Text bubble with text reads, "Videos without captions are incomprehensible by humans and can't be indexed by search engines."
Yep – you read that right! Captions increase view time for Facebook videos by 12%. Videos without captions are not only incomprehensible for human viewers, but they can’t be indexed by search engines. Including captions is an effective way to grab your followers attention.

The main reasons for the increase of views is that closed captions boost video SEO, make your video accessible to a wider audience, and let viewers watch your video in more places. Usability and quality go hand-in-hand, which is why adding captions to social video content is one of the best ways to get people to watch and share your content. Without captions, you run the risk of people scrolling right past your video content, and that could mean missed opportunities to grow your social media and SEO.

How to Add Captions to Social Media Videos

Different social networks have different requirements and limitations for video captioning, with platforms like Facebook giving more captioning flexibility than Instagram.

Adding Captions in Facebook

The following instructions are for adding captions to videos posted on or saved in a Facebook page, not a personal Facebook profile.

How to add captions to Facebook videos. The same instructions can be found in text under H4 heading, "Adding Captions to Facebook."

Step One: Transcribe Your Video

Facebook requires an SRT caption file, which you can make on your own or hire a transcription company to do it for you. Remember to make sure you use Facebook’s specific naming convention if you decide to DIY the SRT file. Here’s the format to follow:

filename.[two-letter language code]_[two-letter country code].srt

Step Two: Upload Captions to Facebook

Now that you’ve created an SRT transcript file, it’s time to upload the captions. Go to the video in your video library, find the “…” button in the bottom-right-hand corner, and select Edit Video.

In the right hand column of the pop-up edit window, select Subtitles and Captions (CC). Under Add New Captions, click on Upload and upload the SRT file. Be sure to hit Save at the bottom of the window before you exit.

Adding Captions to Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn

Each of these social media platforms has some restrictions for captioning videos.

Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn logo icons

At this point, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn have no closed captioning feature for their videos. There simply is no option to upload closed captions, and there is no closed caption button to turn captions on and off. For this reason, closed captions must be burned-in to the video itself; this is also called encoding or open captions.

To create videos with open captions, you must have a video editing program. The time it takes to edit each video can be substantial, and hiring a captioning company can save you a great deal of effort. 3Play Media offers video transcription and caption encoding services to make captioning for these social platforms a breeze. We provide how-to guides on adding open captions to Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other platforms.

Social Media Marketing: A New Outlook

Though we’ve unearthed the official word that social media doesn’t directly impact search rankings, we’ve also established why social media still matters for SEO. If your social strategy goals are in the right place, chances it will increase your site traffic and link shares. Keep turning out quality content that’s easy for viewers to interact with, such as captioned videos, and the increased engagement and boost in SEO will come.

Are you still thinking about using a professional transcription and captioning service to help improve your video SEO? 3Play Media offers premium transcription and captioning services with a 99% guaranteed accuracy rate. Get started today!

Get started with SEO! or learn more at 3playmedia.com

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