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SEO and Social Media: How To Increase Social Traffic With Search

Lesley Mailman
February 9, 2023
Last Updated On
seo and social media header

SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of optimizing your content to be found, and as long as hashtags have been around, social media and SEO have worked hand in hand. It’s a well-known fact that the way people use social platforms is evolving — that’s where the importance of social SEO comes in. 

TikTok and Instagram are becoming the preferred search engine for Gen Z and Millennials, so instead of increasing organic traffic from traditional search engines like Google to increase sales and awareness, savvy brands are focusing on increasing their organic traffic to social channels. Fortunately, you don’t need to be an SEO expert to optimize your channels for search. 

In this article we’ll cover:

  • How SEO and social media work together
  • Tips to optimize for different social platforms
  • How to interpret your data to optimize efforts

What Is Social SEO?

In social SEO, traditional SEO factors are applied to social media channels  — essentially, optimizing your social channels, so they appear first in search results. 

The concept is based on the same principles of optimizing content for search engines, and the fundamentals are relatively the same. You have a piece of content, and you want your audience to be able to find it organically when they search. Ideally, you want to be showing up first, above competitors, and at those pinnacle moments when a person searches for a keyword that you want to be found for. 

Whether it be the research or information gathering phase or the purchase decision phase, you want to show up where your potential customers are. In a 2022 study conducted by Insider Intelligence, it was found that 50% of Gen Z are willing to buy directly from social media channels — highlighting that there has never been a more important time to combine SEO and social media into a cohesive strategy.

How Do SEO and Social Media Work Together?

SEO and Social media work together in many ways. From the highly debated ‘social signals’ that social media profiles send to Google – and if they have any impact on your website's SEO or not – to ranking socials for branded search in Google to increase site traffic and dominate those top positions. But for the purposes of this blog, we will focus on how to optimize social media platforms for organic search.

Benefits of Optimizing Socials for Search

Getting in front of customers at the right moment.

Optimizing your socials can help you organically get in front of customers the moment they search for something related to your brand or product. With the change in how people use social media platforms (searching instead of scrolling), and although discoverability is still important, fighting with the algorithm might not be your number one objective anymore. 

Reaching audiences who might not use traditional ways of searching. 

As mentioned before, more Gen Z and Millennials are taking to social platforms to perform traditional searches. And it’s not only search bars — Instagram launched its searchable map feature in July 2022. The update will allow users to view and search tagged locations around them, filtering for the category of their choice. The same way Google Maps works by searching for cafes, restaurants, nail salons, etc, near you.

Growing your following faster and increasing brand visibility.

Optimizing your social media content for non-branded search terms related to your brand or product can help you get in front of customers when they are in the discoverability phase — possibly before they even know you exist. The goal is to reach those potential customers who don’t know you yet when they’re searching for high-intent terms. Think ‘best of’, ‘tips’, and ‘how-to's’ that can be tied to your brand.

How to Optimize Social Profiles for Search

Now that we’ve covered the why and the benefits of social SEO let's jump into how it’s done. How do you optimize your social media profiles for search? Here are some basic best practices that can be applied to all your socials.

  1. Fill out all social profiles with as much detail and information as allowed. This is a classic SEO best practice and can vary based on the platform. If you have a character limit, fill it out. If you have 2-5 category options, use them all. A dedicated spot for a link? Add it. Use your website URL or Likeshop link to help with e-commerce flow from social to shopping.
  2. Follow platform-specific best practices. This is a no-brainer, and you are likely following image size guides and video length guidelines already, but making sure your content is optimized for your audience is crucial. Users are more apt to interact with visually appealing profiles.  High user engagement can help send positive signals that your content has user quality. Platforms such as Pinterest and TikTok take these factors into consideration in their discoverability and search algorithms.  
  3. Use keywords in any text-based opportunities. The caveat to this step is that you first research and identify which keywords are important to your brand. Having a list of keywords you want to be associated with will help you with consistent messaging and content creation across various social platforms. Use these keywords in your profile, description, bio, video, and post descriptions. Basically anywhere you can add text, ask yourself if you can naturally fit in one of your keywords. Platforms like Facebook or Pinterest provide lots of space for content optimization, unlike Instagram or TikTok, where you are limited.

Pro tip: Do not keyword stuff your content. Use keywords where they naturally fit, but don’t overdo it.

Tips To Increase Social Media Searchability

Keeping in mind the general best practices for social media SEO, let’s dive a little deeper into the specific platforms and their unique potential for optimization. 

Instagram SEO tips: 

Instagram SEO has been around for a while. From signals to ranking tips, Instagram has been very open about its search capabilities. Here are some tips to get your content ahead of the pack.

  • Add ALT text to your Instagram posts. You can find this option in the advanced settings of your post. Alt text is used for accessibility purposes but can have a dual purpose for SEO if you can naturally fit keywords into the description. 

Note: Instagram auto-generates Alt text, but you can edit them after your post is published.

  • Use the right hashtags. Choose hashtags that are relevant to your brand, are niche and specific but are also commonly searched for. Nothing too broad, and if possible, keyword related. Limit your hashtags to 3-5 per post. A social listening tool to dig into the hashtags that target your audience is a great way to find what’s working.
  • Optimize your bio. The first step is to keyword-optimize your bio. If possible, optimize your username and handle. When using a brand name, consider adding a location identifier.  In order to target an audience in a specific region, make sure to add your location to your contact options. You can be as specific as you want here. Exact address or just city, this location signal to Instagram will help push your content to locals when they search.  

Facebook SEO tips:

Due to the platform’s vast content-sharing real estate, Facebook SEO has a lot of additional opportunities that other platforms don’t. Here are some of the top tips for optimizing your Facebook page for organic search. 

  • Personalize your page URL. Facebook automatically generates URLs, but you can personalize yours to include your brand name or short tail keyword that describes your brand or business. Descriptive URLs help search algorithms better understand what your page is about.
  • Optimize your About section. Add information in this section that speaks to the value you provide to users — bonus if you can naturally fit in valuable keywords here. Front-load your optimized content, as this about section is what displays when users perform a search on Facebook.
  • Optimize as many text-based areas as possible. There are lots of opportunities for content-based optimization. A running theme with social SEO is to not keyword stuff. Keep this in mind when adding natural-sounding keywords to your about section, headline, description, captions of your photos, and any updates you make on your page.   
  • Share content regularly and keep your information up to date. This sounds like a simple suggestion, but showing you’re engaging with your audience and an active user on the platform itself is a positive signal to Facebook and can have a beneficial impact on your ability to rank in its search algorithm.

YouTube SEO tips:

Millions of searches happen on YouTube every day, and depending on which side of the debate you stand on, it’s the second-largest search engine out there — and optimizing YouTube content gives you a better chance to appear on ‘Video’ search results via Google too . This is why you can’t ignore optimizing your YouTube for organic search. 

Below are a few places to start your YouTube SEO journey, but make sure to do your research. There are many features on your YouTube channel that you can optimize, but we suggest you start here:

  • Rename video files with focus terms. YouTube can’t ‘watch’ your video, but it can look at your file name. Using a keyword in the title of the video is a good way to let YouTube know what the video is about while also optimizing for your keywords.
  • Descriptions and titles. Exact-match keywords in titles only have a slight advantage over those that don’t exactly match. If you can, add your exact keyword or long tail keywords, but only if it sounds natural, makes sense, and adds to the eye-catching factor of the title. It’s recommended to keep YouTube video titles to 60 characters to avoid truncation. For your YouTube description, make sure to mention your keyword 1-2 times. Check to see if it’s natural and not keyword stuffed. Although the character limit for YouTube descriptions is 1,000, we advise keeping it at half that. The first 100 characters display below the video, and after that, a user has to click “show more”. Make sure to front-load your natural-sounding keyword at the beginning of your video. The description is also the spot to add your hashtags, but limit it to 2-3 to avoid looking spammy.
  • Categorizing and tagging videos. After you’ve uploaded your video, it’s time to categorize it. Categorizing your video can help it be seen by viewers who are interested in other channels with similar content. Tagging works in a similar way, letting you tell YouTube the content and context of your video. Not sure what tags to use? Check out what your competitors or similar videos in your niche are tagged with to give you an idea of what to use. 
  • Subtitles and closed captions. Using subtitles and closed captions are a great way to boost your YouTube SEO — especially if you’ve done your SEO research and know which keywords to include in your video.

Pro Tip: Closed captions are crawlable by search engines, so this doubles as a way to optimize your videos for Google and YouTube searches.

  • Leave a pinned comment on your video to encourage engagement. YouTube looks at engagement factors when ranking content. If your video has a lot of comments and interactions, it’s a signal to YouTube that people like or at least find your content interesting enough to stop and comment. Pin a comment that poses a question to your viewers to get the conversation started.

Pinterest SEO tips:

Pinterest is a great place to start optimizing your content for search. It’s less of a traditional social networking site and behaves more like a visual search engine. Therefore, it’s important to optimize each of your Pins to boost topic relevancy and give them the best chances of visibility and discoverability as part of your Pinterest marketing strategy

  • Optimize your profile. Make sure all aspects of your profile are filled in. Keep in mind that your user name is different from your name and will be displayed in your Pinterest URL. It must be between 3-30 characters and have no spaces. Both your name and username should be as close to your brand name as possible. Your bio is a great place to sprinkle in your keywords — with a 500-character limit, you should be able to naturally use a few keywords related to your core business or product. 
  • Claim your website. Claiming your website on Pinterest will gain you access to Pinterest analytics. This will allow you to see success metrics associated with the Pins you and others post on your website. Using this information, you can get an idea of what is popular and create a board or share more of that type of content. Increasing user engagement on Pinterest is important for improving your rankings and discoverability.  
  • Be specific with the naming of your boards. Instead of using generic naming conventions, like ‘lipstick’ or ‘eyeshadow’ try more descriptive titles like “Your brand name best selling lipsticks” or “Your brand name eyeshadow tutorials” you can even get more specific if your product allows it — “Your brand name eyeshadow on brown eyes” etc. Make sure to fill out the descriptions — you get 500 characters to describe your board. Pinners usually don’t see this text, but it is used for Pinterest to understand, categorize and determine topic relevance. 
  • Create Rich Pins. A Rich Pin is a type of organic Pin that pulls information from your website into your Pins on Pinterest. They come with extra information that regular Pins don’t have. To learn more about Rich Pins, visit the Pinterest help center.

TikTok SEO tips: 

TikTok SEO is the fastest-growing social channel optimization strategy that people want to implement. This is because Gen Z is moving from traditional search engines to searching on social platforms, and most of them spend the majority of their platform hours on TikTok. Not to mention, as a new social app, and the increased focus on social SEO strategies, the barrier to entry to rank your content is lower than most. 

  • Search-based content ideas. A great TikTok SEO strategy is using the keywords you’ve already identified as important to your brand for content creation inspiration. Search on TikTok to see what other related searches pop up and use these as video content ideas. For example, if you’re in the wedding industry, and you type in ‘wedding dress’ into TikTok, the top searches today that would make great SEO-fueled content are ‘wedding dresses I didn’t get’, ‘ wedding dresses for women over 50’, ‘wedding dresses plus size’, etc. Creating videos for your niche market with phrases that are already being searched is a surefire way to reach and capture the attention of your desired audience. 
  • Captions. Always transcribe your TikTok audio, as you should plan on saying your key terms in your videos. All content in your TikTok video can impact your ability to rank, so use your keyword for that video in the title, description, and hashtags (as naturally as possible). Not only can it impact your ability to rank the video, but it is also an inclusive practice and aids in the accessibility of your videos. Good accessibility features are a Google ranking factor, and with TikTok's complex algorithm, we’re sure it plays a part there as well.   
  • Hashtags. Look at your niche market and the hashtags other popular brand videos, creators, and your target audience use. Make sure you incorporate them into your content if it makes sense and fits your strategy. Remember to limit your hashtags (2-3) and try using them in your video description without the hash sign if they sound natural and you have to add more than 3. Chances are if your target audience is using these hashtags, they are interested in and searching for similar content. 

Twitter SEO tips: 

Getting found on Twitter can be integral to many social media marketing strategies, especially the awareness piece of your funnel. There are many tips for improving your organic discovery.

  • Optimize your title and Twitter description. This is a common theme with social SEO. Always optimize your bio information. If you can, use a keyword as an identifier that describes your business or brand. For most established companies, this will be your brand name. In your bio, you have a maximum of 160 characters, so use this space to naturally incorporate your key terms, but also be unique, as this is a chance to stand out against your competitors.
  • Use your keywords in your tweets. After you’ve done the research and know which terms to use, include them in your tweets. Hashtags are another way to boost your discoverability and get found. Suggest reading the TikTok tips above on how to find relevant hashtags to target your desired audience and apply it to Twitter. Tweets can be indexed in Google Search, so making sure your tweets are optimized can have the added benefit of being found on the search engine results page (SERP) as well as on the Twitter platform.
  • Add ALT text to images you upload on Twitter. According to Twitter, people are three times more likely to engage with tweets that include visual content. Because of this, you’ll want to attach as much visual content to tweets as possible. Improve the SEO of your tweets by optimizing your image ALT descriptions with keywords (in a natural way, no stuffing), so when people are searching on Twitter for a keyword and find your tweet, they will be more likely to engage with your content versus a tweet without visuals.   

What Tools Should Brands Use for Social SEO?

The only tool social media managers need are the platforms themselves. All the insights and research can be found in each specific social media platform – you just need the strategic approach and know-how. Once you’ve implemented your search strategy for social, the next step is monitoring how it’s performing. SEO is not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy, and what can work for your competitors might not work for you. The key to success is testing. 

Dash Hudson’s social media analytics and monitoring tools allow you to keep tabs on the performance of your content across multiple channels. Visual performance metrics enable you to see how your search optimization content is performing (it can even predict which content will work the best for you).

SEO and Social Media FAQs

What is social media SEO?

Social media SEO is the strategy of optimizing social media accounts and posts with the goal of having content rank well and increase discovery when users search on social platforms.

How should brands incorporate a social SEO strategy into their comprehensive social media strategy? 

The easiest way for brands to incorporate social SEO into their strategy is to integrate the search optimization tips we’ve listed above into their daily social media tasks. These two strategies need to go hand-in-hand. Conduct preliminary research and create a list of keywords for your brand and products.  Let this focus set of keywords guide your text-based content on each social media platform. Where possible, add your keywords to hashtags, titles, descriptions, subtitles, captions, etc. The key to this is moderation, and if it doesn’t sound natural, do not force it.

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