Although like any odd couple, maybe even Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon from The Odd Couple, organic social media and SEO may seem like ever the… odd couple. Maybe even the opposite. However, when two warring sides — maybe simply just two opposing sides — come together, it’s a match made in heaven.
And when two opposing sides, like what search and social are in the organic sense, are connected, then good things tend to happen.
What is Organic Social Media?
Social media, which many believe had started with Facebook in their undergrad years (and yes, you elder millennials will know that finally receiving your dot edu email to create your social media profile was the start of something you didn’t realize would change your life so drastically), was in its infancy, and started to eventually mature, throughout the late aughts into the 2010s.
At its conception, social media was always “organic” — in that there were no promoted advertised posts. In other words, there was no conceivable thought on monetizing silly little posts of photo albums uploaded the next morning from the previous night’s posts and then subsequently being embarrassed about it a decade later (and then subsequently deleting said album).
Organic social media has grown since its inception in the mid-2000s from being solely a relationship platform to a commercial, transactional, informational, and relational platform. Simply put, people use social media platforms differently now.
And, to add to that, people use all the different social media platforms differently. For example, some use Facebook as a transactional marketplace, not just for ideas — where musings have gone for the past 15 years — but also for monetary transactions through, literally, Facebook Marketplace.
Others use social media channels as, well, places to tease and provoke others or simply just pop silly (and sometimes silly and relevant) memes. Sometimes social profiles share content on Twitter, sometimes it’s Instagram, other times it’s TikTok, but it could — and usually is — a mishmash of all of those. However, despite Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok being utilized for, oftentimes, spilling your guts and sharing random facts, photos, or videos, they can say a lot about how the person who publishes the post wants to be portrayed on that medium.
With all that said, social media marketing, regardless of the platform, can be utilized as a cauldron of knowledge, a wealth of information, and a vat used for distilling facts. There are communities found on each organic social media platform that recognizes it has such capabilities: for instance, Football (or Soccer) Twitter, Beauty Insta, or Dance TikTok.
One way that social media content has changed over the years, from when Facebook was started to today, is that there is information sharing. And not just information sharing regarding opinions but through sharing articles (via article links), media and news information (often through YouTube links or native video links), and research and educational information (also through links but found often through white papers and case studies).
What is Organic Search?
Ah, organic search, better known as Search Engine Optimization or SEO. Whether it’s technical SEO initiatives, on-page SEO, or off-page SEO (we’ll get to these different aspects in a second), organizations can see immense benefits through search engine optimization tactics. SEO strategies often use organic traffic metrics like organic user sessions and time spent on page sessions to analyze progress. But also once implementations have been made, they often see revenue lifted through organic search.
Technical SEO often gets a bad rap due to the — you guessed it — technicality of it all. From no-indexing pages to figuring out what pages should be no-followed, following a technical audit, there are many technical SEO items that can be implemented to lift a website’s domain authority, page speed experience, and overall user experience. Still, technical is an important ranking factor for all websites.
Technical SEO items include site speed (of which site speed audits and technical audits speak volumes to the data received back), structured data, user experience (including CRO), and canonicalization and indexation. All of these factors affect your Google search rankings.
Are you better with analogies? Pretend you are someone who makes perfume or cologne. Technical SEO is part of the process of making perfume (or cologne) that includes compiling all of the ingredients so you know how each element goes well together. Getting the structure and understanding that the scientific elements of each flavor (or smell, rather) will complement the others is vital to getting the correct smell for the finished product.
Despite all areas of SEO working in tandem, this is often where people see more bang for their buck. On-page SEO efforts speak to the quality of the content marketing efforts you perform on your web page, including the robust keywords that speak to the intent of the user, as well as the optimizations of media assets, metadata, and both internal and external links.
When building up on-page SEO, high-quality content tailored to your target audience is king.
It is crucial to remember a basic article or blog formatting structure when optimizing content for search engine rankings. If you are unsure of what that is like (cascading importance of headings and image optimization by way of ensuring that images are in a correct size, etc.), think back to your time in high school or university years of writing term papers or a dissertation, and, well, there you have it.
As part of the perfume or cologne analogy: on-page SEO is part of the perfume manufacturing that combines all the selected ingredients together with possible other droplets of essential oils that will only enhance each specific ingredient.
Off-page SEO, however, is the hardworking part of SEO that gets a bit muddied with other aspects of digital marketing including backlinks, guest posts, public relations, and, yes, a radar for social posts. Off-page SEO, then, could be seen as the marketing method that will promote the perfume.
Backlinks, for all intents and purposes, are simply external links. Marketing professionals often use link-building strategies to maximize the number of backlinks their website has.
As an example, if another website — company, organization, extremely long-winded recipe page, or the like — has a word that links to a website that is not its own, then that’s a backlink. For a true, very layman’s term of what a backlink is: this is a backlink.
Guest Blogs, Article Postings, and Public Relations
Just as writing blogs from a first-person perspective is important, so is the ability to include guest blogs, press releases for external consumption, or news or media article excerpts — or even the full article with express approval through the proper channels — on a website. By incorporating other opinions into the fold and gaining more authority of the thought leadership within the guest blogs or articles, you will likely notice improvement in your website’s domain authority.
Organic Social Media Signals
Not only do organic social signals matter but social media adjacent items like podcasts or guest appearances on news, radio, or TV shows highlight the organization and, therefore, the website. Looking at social media signals, and including data analysis of social network referrals through Google Analytics, will indicate how users are landing on your website. If the traffic is coming through referral means that aren’t too expensive and have a good return on investment (through user experiences of Pages/Session, Average Session Duration, and possibly even an Event Conversion), it might be worth exploring these routes further as it likely is from organic social media signals.
To harken back to the perfume/cologne example: on-page SEO would be the perfume in a bottle at the store… how does it look to the outside world and how do people get attracted to the brand’s bottle.
Why are Two Opposites (Organic Social Media and SEO) a Match Made in Heaven?
Although organic social media and organic search are not as connected as paid social and paid search, there is still quite the correlation. We look into the impact of social media on SEO and vice versa, here.
Social Media’s Effect on Search
We’ve all seen it: there are viral tweets, Instagram posts, or Facebook posts that have an article, blog, or video (usually YouTube) link attached to it. With thousands, if not millions, of views and possible clicks on the associated URLs, there is so much opportunity on boosting a web page’s and, in turn, a website’s signals to search engines that it has the basic — if not advanced — structures of E-E-A-T to be a page that deserves increased visibility on the search engine results pages.
Also, we will remind you that E-E-A-T (the way that Google guides its users to helpful content) is for information on web pages that is based on content that is full of first-person experience, has first-person expertise, has an air of authority to it, and has trustworthy robustness to it.
So, when considering your social media strategy’s effect on search, although it does have an impact, it’s important to take into consideration the user or audience intent alongside the specific social media platform that is used. Depending on if you are using the Big 4 (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn) or other “newer” platforms such as Snapchat or TikTok, there are more advantageous ways to incorporate your organic social with SEO, however, there are platforms that are easier to drive organic traffic than others.
When it comes to Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok — the platforms that are driven by more visual elements — it can be harder to understand social media’s impact on organic search. This may be due to the correlation between links utilized by users and ways of directing traffic to websites embedded within the sites as being more difficult than the other sites.
However, when we look at Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, these are the social media platforms that are focused on, or more accustomed to, driving traffic to the websites that have URLs included in the social posts.
So, it should come as no surprise when there are links associated with Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn posts that show up in search engine page results. Although search results may not necessarily be a one-to-one comparison (as shown in the video/GIF below), search engines like Google & Bing are smart enough to understand that if the topic is associated with something that a website is very ingrained in (like the below example that shows that the Super Bowl is so extremely associated with the NFL) that social media search results affect the search engine results pages results by having the associated topic show up in the SERPs.
However, there are occasions where social media sites and the SERPs might get confused with the intent of the user who is searching. For instance, when someone is searching MLS, do they mean they want information about Major League Soccer or the Multiple Listing Service? That’s a larger question than one about how organic social impacts search results; however, it is worth noting that social media — despite the intent not being wholly understood by Google (in this case) — still shows up as one of the most prominent options of informational and possibly transactional knowledge (shown in the video/GIF below).
Not only do social media sites impact search engines but, as a link between social media and search engines that we would be remiss to not mention is that, Google — specifically — allows tweets to show up in the search engine results pages because Twitter has a high Google ranking. And with social media platforms (including Twitter) continuing to evolve in tandem with how Google and other search engines continuously evolve, it is likely that, alongside helpful content updates and other algorithm updates (including core Google updates), social media results will continue to make their way into SERPs in new and different ways.
Search’s Effect on Social Media
Usually this is the piece of the puzzle that is often seen as more tenuous as others; however, SEO does indeed have an effect on organic social media.
Think about it: the more an organization takes care in implementing technical, off-page, and on-page SEO tactics on their website’s pages (think category pages and blogs), the more they can expect to see increases in the site’s search traffic, sessions, visibility to new (and previous) session users, and — with ever-increasing confidence — average session duration and pages per session.
Increasing organic traffic metrics through social means can be seen as a likely indicator that the content resonates with users and that — because through organic social media a user’s experience is often bolstered by already knowing the brand via social — the SEO experience is greatly improved since they may visit several website pages after the page that was initially visited.
However, the biggest piece of the search engine and social marriage that sees it all come together is the aforementioned usability of organic social media posts populating search engine results pages. Additionally, because Twitter and other social media platforms rank highly on Google, the more posts show up — especially if there are social media posts with website links in them — the greater the possibility that users who are searching will end up on a website.
Because social media posts, especially those with trending topics — for example, March Madness, the FIFA Men’s or Women’s World Cup, the World Series, the Academy Awards, the Thanksgiving Day Parade — often will show up in the SERPs, it is advantageous to, rather than dismiss organic social media and focus solely on paid social media, slowly but surely use whatever profiles that are needing to be used to cultivate a voice that is lauded and respected in social media.
Not only will that voice help to gain engagement on the social media platforms but, especially if there are posts that have interesting insights or researched data points (or yes, even just funny quips), there is a higher likelihood that those posts will populate on the SERPs.
How Does Utilizing Organic Social Media and SEO Affect You?
As Peter Parker, or Spiderman to some people, once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Now, some might think that the power in that sentence equates to SEO and the responsibility equates to organic social media whereas some might think the opposite as power is social media and responsibility is SEO.
Regardless of how the power and responsibility pan out from a percentage perspective, there’s a correlation between the quality and quantity to organic social media posts (and how they perform through analytics, specifically with engagement rate) as well as how the implementations are dealt with through SEO recommendations and tasks for a website.
With organic social media, the more links, social copy, and, simply, a brand’s name is out there, the more social media sites will understand what it is that the social copy that is being published is saying to the audience (we’ve all seen tweets saying, “XYZ liked this”) as well as the sentiment of the topic or industry.
Although organic social media and SEO are an odd pairing — whether it’s an “opposites attract” type of situation or more of a “they’re both unique and have their quirks” relationship — it’s a fairly seamless fit.
Yes, organic social media is for those brand loyal consumers, or those that know of brand names, whereas many times users don’t know what they’re searching for in the case of SEO and they happen upon the brand, the partnership between these digital marketing tactics showcases that there is a strong case of needing to invest in both.
You might ask: what’s the point in doing organic social media AND SEO when you’re not seeing a quick monetary return as is seen with paid media? Not only is brand awareness one of the most vital pieces of both organic aspects — and think about it: the more social media users and those on search engines see your brand through organic means, the more people will know about your brand — it is about the intent and brand tone of voice behind the type of content that is published.
Both, however, can look to content — copy or text blurbs that are found on a website, whether it’s 150 words or over 2000 words. Content is not completely the end-all-be-all but is certainly one of the greatest assets to have in your pocket and should be invested in, and it is often seen as the bedrock of what makes the Internet go around. And yes, keywords and content can lead to high rankings on the search engines as well as the virality of social media posts leading to a lot of traffic on your website; however, it’s important to learn and adapt (for future content) when there are pieces of content that perform well on social media, and in turn, are likely to be pushed up on the SERPs.
Search engines (especially Google with their ever-evolving core updates and helpful content, review, and spam updates amongst others) can influence the fluctuation of how, when, who, and what type of content goes viral (or at the very least gets more impressions, engagement rates, and shares) on social media, so flexibility is key when living with the organic space of digital marketing.
So despite the idea that paid media, specifically paid search and paid social, are more in sync with each other, that does not mean an organization should neglect both creating a full funnel SEO marketing strategy (which includes having an E-E-A-T SEO content strategy) and incorporating organic social media into its plans to create, sustain, and thrive within a digital marketing strategy and a digital marketing space.
Just remember to smell the roses once in a while, or at the very least, some perfume or cologne.