Inbound links are as significant today as ever in relation to improving SEO performance, generating traffic and boosting brand exposure, and acquiring them is a multidimensional, never-ending process.
Using social media for link building isn't a new idea, but it's often not utilized to its full potential. And considering it's a much cheaper alternative compared than many other options, it makes sense to be aware of how social media can benefit your SEO process.
In this post, we'll look at ways in which you can gain those precious links through social media.
1. Find niche bloggers
Guest blogging is a popular way of building links.
The process often goes like this: you Google people that you think might be interested in the topic, you contact them, get a permission to write a guest post on their sites, and then, finally, write one.
Guest posting has a number of important benefits - Jeff Goins sums them up in his article on how to grow online audience through guest posting:
- Guest posting builds relationships
- Guest posting is great for search engines
- Guest posting introduces you to new people
In fact, Jeff makes a point that for SEO guest posting might be five times more valuable then creating new content on your own site - so long as you get the backlink.
However, guest posting isn't a quick and simple process. Outreach often takes months, with only about 5% ending up accepting your blog post.
Social media can simplify your connection strategy, and improve your chances of a positive outcome.
For this purpose, you need to use a social media monitoring tool - platforms like Awario, Brand24 and Mention all serve this purpose. Enter your industry and/or niche keywords into your tool of choice and you can find authors that have mentioned these keywords. You can then sort them hierarchically, based on the number of times they've mentioned the keywords or by the size of their audience (or both).
This gives you a list of key influential voices you want to reach out to in your sector.
Once you've found them, it's all about interaction. Luckily, social media is exactly the place to do that.
Connect with the bloggers you chose and then spend some time engaging with their content. Then, when you'll finally approach them with a request to get mentioned, you'll have a much better chance to receive a positive reply.
2. Increase rankings through increased engagement
Google has repeatedly stated that social shares do not influence their search rankings - but that doesn't mean social plays no part at all in the process.
Social has become a key distribution channel for content, and once your content is out there and starts generating engagement via social shares, it gets traffic. And traffic is a metric that Google definitely cares about.
As Lori Highby, founder of the Milwaukee-based digital agency Keystone Click, writes:
"Social shares lead to increased page views, more activity on your website, comments on your blog, and more frequent mentions of your brand - and all of these indirectly increase rankings."
If you're frustrated by social media because it doesn't seem to bring you links or traffic despite all the followers, that's probably because you have the wrong followers - go back to the influencers you identified in the previous step and work to get a similar following.
For example, you can use Crowdfire to copy their followers and follow them yourself. You can also try running a competition - but the trick is to include a prize that that represents your brand perfectly and that would be interesting only to those that could potentially buy your product. Otherwise, you'll end up with the random following again.
3. Increase brand exposure
As noted, social media is a distribution channel, and it creates more buzz than any other distribution channel out there, simply due to its massive popularity.
However, just being on social media isn't enough for brand exposure - you have to work for better brand exposure on social media.
This includes, firstly, creating content, and it can work particularly well if you create controversial content. It has to be able to start a debate, so it should be arguable from a several points of view. The key isn't to present some ridiculous argument or counter narrative that goes against your brand voice - that's just controversy for controversy's sake - but posts that inspire engagement can generate significant buzz and get your business more attention, and again, traffic.
You should also consider "how-to" content - you're an expert in whatever you're selling, and the least you can do is present this knowledge on social media. People look for advice on "how to" everything every day - cater to that demand by producing accessible, instructional and informational posts. This will present your brand as the expert in the field - and ultimately earn you exposure and links.
A good tactic for brand exposure is to find out what your competitors are doing - one tool that can help with this is SEO SpyGlass.
4. Build relationships
Social media is about building relationships, and it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to connect with people there.
In the long term, relationships help build links and improve rankings. Your audience, the amount of 'likes' and 'shares' build social proof, which, in turn, gives credibility to your content and can make it appear more trustworthy.
Building social media relationships isn't as straightforward as it sounds - it has to be natural, personal and honest to earn you good links, as they will only come from contacts that trust you. Automating interactions might save you time, but it's not likely to bring your any results in the end.
You should aim to take part in conversations about your product, answer people's questions, share their content, and comment on what they share. Sometimes it's not necessary to portray your expertise - a simple comment such as 'Hey, great post" can be as useful. This helps build your presence, people will start recognizing you and/or your brand in the social media circles, and will feel more compelled to share your content and check out your products.
Social media offers numerous opportunities for link building, but these opportunities are indirect. Because of this, they're normally not the top priority for SEOs.
While you should certainly prioritize things like customer support and lead generation when you get to social media marketing, don't forget that it can also help you with link building - the connection may not be as obvious, but there is definite SEO value there.