7 Ways To Leverage Social Signals To Improve Content Performance
When it comes to content and improving search rankings, don't shrug off social, says columnist Jim Yu. Instead, think of social, content and search as a three-pronged approach to achieving marketing success.
The value of social signals has been hotly debated for many years, particularly after Matt Cutts of Google said in January 2014 that the search giant does not take social signals into account in its algorithm.
Citing issues like cost-efficiency and the frequency with which the information could be updated, Cutts said that social pages were indexed like any other website, but that actual likes or retweets aren’t considered.
Content, social and search, however, remain interconnected on multiple fronts. To successfully measure how a website is performing, it’s critical to take a holistic look at the relationships among these three factors. The three must work together to achieve business objectives like sales or conversions.
For content success, you must be able to look beyond likes and shares, as these metrics are not measured by Google — nor are they an effective means of determining the success of a particular piece. Appropriately termed “vanity metrics,” these social signals offer very little for content insight.
That doesn’t mean, however, that social has little impact on the success of content and improving search rankings. On the contrary, it can be a critical factor in driving achievement.
How Content, Social And Search Are Related
At the cornerstone of this trifecta is content. Content has to be engaging and high-quality to capture the attention of the ideal audience and communicate something of value for them that they will remember and be inclined to share.
This is the type of content that Google naturally wants to display to users, so the algorithm seeks to measure factors like the number of high-quality backlinks and the bounce rate to more accurately determine the value of the piece and how readers are responding to it.
Social media, which dominates much of online communication, can help enhance the popularity of pieces and drive interested traffic toward your site. As an increasing number of people post, share, like and otherwise acknowledge your content from their own profiles, their connections will be exposed to your content, as well.
This offers you the opportunity to exponentially increase the traffic rates to your site. When that increase in traffic is paired with engaging content, you have the recipe for low bounce rates, too.
Tweeting or sharing an article on social media can also help you establish backlinks. We know that Google tracks backlinks as a way of measuring the number of people who trust this content enough to link to it and generally vouch for it. When pieces are shared on social media, you will be establishing backlinks from reputable sites that are already highly ranked on Google.
Leveraging Social To Improve Your Content
For your content marketing efforts to have their maximum impact, you need to make sure your content has strong social media exposure. Social media can get your material in front of your audience and increase your exposure to entirely new people.
Here are seven tips to make it happen.
1. Know What Your Audience Cares About
Insight into the current keywords and topics that are trending on social media for your intended audience can help you produce content that best matches their current interests and therefore gain the social signals needed to help boost search ranking.
Ensure that you monitor the major social platforms and identify these trends as they appear so you can leverage the information in time.
Remember that quality content is the cornerstone of any marketing campaign. Using these tools and tips will only be successful when paired with content that dives deeply into the topic to produce high-quality information of value.
Your content should not simply mention the topic or keyword of interest. Instead, it should address reader questions in a way that makes them want to share the content with others.
2. Have Strategies And Goals For Each Platform
Just because a topic is trending on Twitter doesn’t mean that your content should be blasted across LinkedIn, too. The topic not be the best fit for the platform, so there are things to consider when trying to get your audience to engage with you across various platforms.
What reason would people have for following you on multiple platforms if each one always publishes the same information?
Before you dive into social media, you need to have a concrete strategy in mind for each of the platforms. There might be considerable overlap between the types of content you will post on certain platforms, such as Google+ and Facebook, but there are key differences between the platforms, as well.
You want to consider the rate of conversation, the tone and the atmosphere of each platform.
Twitter, where multiple posts a day are to be expected, will differ greatly from Facebook, where the speed of conversation is much slower. You might be posting only once per day on the latter.
Use your strategy to customize the types of information posted on each platform.
3. Use Headlines That Draw People In
An estimated 60 percent of people will only read your headline and not read the rest of your content. If you want your content to succeed in the social ecosystem, you need to write headlines that encourage people to click through.
Often when people see links through social media, such as through Twitter, they will be seeing a headline without much of a description of what the article contains, so a fantastic headline is a must. Headlines that offer lists and how-tos are always big.
4. Use Images
Images are huge when it comes to boosting engagement. In fact, using images in tweets was found to boost engagement by up to five times.
Use images to encourage people to click on links to your content and explore what you have to say.
5. Make Sure Your Content Is Optimized For Social Media
It’s a good idea to make sure that the content you post to social media has been optimized for that platform. For example, using Open Graph Protocol allows you to control how your content appears on Facebook, giving you the tools to make sure you photo is the ideal size and the eye-catching headline is displayed prominently.
You also need to pay attention to recommended length of postings. For example, on Twitter, the following factors have been found to influence engagement and retweets:
- Tweets that ask for retweets have a 23x higher than average retweet rate.
- Tweets that include links are 86 percent more likely to be retweeted.
- Tweets that have hashtags receive 2x the engagement, but you should try to stick to one or two retweets to avoid reducing the benefit.
- Tweets that have fewer than 100 characters have 17 percent more engagement.
Length is also an important factor on other social media postings. Facebook posts that are 40 characters long receive 86 percent higher engagement, and posts that are less than 80 characters also score well, with 66 percent higher engagement.
For Google+, posts with headlines under 60 characters — in other words, keeping all the text on one line — receive higher engagement.
This trend of keeping your posts quick and to the point is something to keep in mind to encourage people to read and engage with the material.
6. Monitor The Best Times And Days For Posting
On social media, many users receive updated feeds in just a matter of minutes. Think about how fast the conversation on Twitter moves. An estimated 6,000 tweets are sent every second.
Most users have certain times of the day when they are more likely to check their profiles. For example, it’s reasonable to assume that the number of young professionals checking Facebook is generally lower during working hours and higher during lunch breaks and after work.
You have to keep track of when your content is receiving the most engagement and attention. Use the information to determine the times and days when you are most likely to reach your target audience, and use that to establish your posting schedule.
7. Be Perpetually Measuring And Adjusting
Like everything else with digital media, your efforts are never done. Make sure you continually monitor your efforts and find new ways to leverage social media and content together for marketing success.
Track your page rankings at the beginning and end of your social campaigns. See how postings affect traffic and engagement.
Look for indications about the types of content and the topics that are performing the best. Use that to perpetually refine your efforts and move forward with confidence.
Although social signals might not be directly measured by Google in its algorithm, there is no doubt that they continue to influence content success.
Social, search and content continue to be the three-pronged key to marketing achievement.
Rather than dismissing social, since the signals are not directly measured, consider how the platforms can contribute to your marketing strategy. The seven steps above can help transform your content performance and improve your marketing results.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.