Social media and SEO are often used simultaneously in context, with many suggesting that social media mentions impact the search engine results. While there can be areas of common ground regarding both concepts, there are however many fundamental differences between the two and the purpose of using each are very different.
How can social media impact SEO?
There are a number of ways that social media may be impacting SEO. It is an unconfirmed belief by some, for instance, that Google, and perhaps other search engines, use social media mentions as one of their ranking factors. The theory here is that the more Facebook likes, Tweets and Google Plus 1s a site has, the more popular a site is. This, in turn, may suggest that a site is of good quality, thus justifying higher search rankings.
There is also a second hypothesis about the number of online mentions a brand has, known as co-citation, whereby more online mentions of a company or a website leads to being given more authority in the search engines. There is no question therefore that mentions in social media can thus make the search engines more aware of a brand and the industry they are in.
Similarly, links from other websites are key in SEO and links from social media can help in this way too. Links are important in rerouting search interests from one page or site to another page or site, either within the same platform or outside of it. This is why most search engines embed links to queries that they believe people would readily be interested in relative to their searches.
Another main SEO benefit of social media is the very purpose of social media - branding. The more successful social media is being used, the more well-known a brand becomes. It is the reason why a social media marketing strategy is increasingly becoming a norm for smart money businesses across the globe. This can lead to more people writing about a brand and linking to their website, thus assisting SEO.
While there can be a strong overlap between these two forms of online marketing, the purpose of each and how each is used are very different.
The purpose of social media is primarily to build a brand and increase a brand's visibility within its own industry as it seeks to find its way to the foreground of the competing market. With social media becoming more popular, the more a brand is covered across social media and the more times people see it, the more likely they are to be aware of it. There are many other things, though, that companies can achieve through the use of social media.
A key benefit is that it can be used to build relationships with potential customers. Social media can be a great way of interacting with people and businesses before they become customers. It allows a company to put a face to their brand, show they are interesting, and, where appropriate, show their creative or humorous side.
Another use of social media is to make customers and potential customers more aware of what a brand is up to. This can be in the form of promoting specific campaigns, updating people on changes, and showing off success. Brands can show they are on top of events and up to date with the latest happenings in their industry. They can comment on industry developments and engage with people, including customers, potential customers, industry commentators, and even competitors. This helps in not just generating new business, but in customer retention too. Queries and criticism can be easily and quickly responded to so social media can be used as a form of fire fighting.
As earlier stated, the purpose of SEO is very different from that of social media. It is much easier to define and the main purpose has three stages to it; to improve search engine rankings, which increases traffic to a website, resulting in an increase in business.
The purpose of SEO is often seen as being simply to improve rankings for a set of keywords but, while this forms the basic aim of an SEO campaign, there is more to it than this. The ultimate goal is to increase business, meaning that the right combination of keyword terms needs to be targeted. Areas that people search for need to be targeted for a campaign to be successful; there is little point in investing a lot in being ranked well for things people don't search for. Good quality traffic is also key, meaning conversions of visitors to sites into actual customers need to be considered as well as the pure number of visitors being captured.
Inevitably, businesses have specific areas they wish to target. These can be areas where they are currently struggling, areas where they feel there is the potential for growth, or areas where there is a current promotion. SEO can be used to generate business related to specific products and services.
The real purpose of SEO is to make a website more attractive to the search engines while improving them for visitors at the same time. Having the right content, good internal linking, and perhaps having a blog are all key and things that help in a search ranking. They want to rank the websites that meet the needs of visitors the best. This has always been the case but they are getting better at establishing this.
Ultimately, the specific purposes of social media and SEO are very different. Social media is essentially about branding and communicating with customers and potential customers while SEO is about increasing rankings in the search engines that lead to good quality traffic. The overall aim of both, though, is to increase business. Social media does this by interacting with people and making them more aware of a brand, while SEO does it by improving the rankings for things that potential customers will search for when seeking products or services.