The Coming Together of Search & Social

The coming together of search and social

Today’s web has shifted from a “one-to-many” to a
“many-to-many” method of engagement. For businesses,
the shift in web consumerism and accompanying rise in
social media brings both opportunity and responsibility. The
sheer amount of data that customers make available
through social media alone is a marketer’s dream;
however, the real benefit lies in the opportunity to grow
lasting and scalable relationships with your customer
base through social channels. Furthermore, just as
your customers’ behaviors have shifted, so have their
expectations for yours. Whether your business is listening
and engaging with them or not, customers are having
conversations relevant to your operations. It’s better to
be part of the conversation. Plus, it helps increase your
website’s visibility.

We are now increasingly going to social media
platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
to fulfill our search queries, whereas before, we exclusively
used search engines like Google and Bing to find information.
Now, it’s not just the change in search habits that has
everything in a tizzy – the line between web content and
social media content has also been all but erased. Content
is now paramount and it’s not quantity anymore, but quality
that has so many brands struggling to keep their spots
in search ranks. Before we delve into the world order, it’s
worthwhile to explore exactly what search and social are,
in addition to their past and future relationship with
one another.

Defining Search & Social

Search Marketing is the process of gaining traffic
and visibility from search engines through both
paid and unpaid efforts. It encompasses SEO & SEM.
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization” and
is the process of earning traffic from the “free” or
“organic” search results on search engines. All major
search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo have
primary search results, where web pages and other
content such as videos or local listings are shown and
ranked based on what the search engine considers
most relevant to users. SEM (Search Engine Marketing)
is the process of gaining website traffic by BUYING ads
on search engines.

Social Media Marketing refers to the process of
reaching prospects and customers, and gaining
website traffic and visibility through social media
sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest,
Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube. It usually centers
on efforts to create content that attracts attention
and encourages readers to share that content with
their social networks. Social media marketing is
driven by word-of-mouth, meaning it results in
earned media rather than paid media. Social media
has given brands and organizations a platform to
increase communication, which in turn, fosters brand
awareness and often, improves customer service.
Additionally, social media serves as a relatively
inexpensive platform for organizations to implement
marketing campaigns.

How Were They Independent Before?

As late as 2014, the influence of social media content
was minimal on Google’s SERP rankings. Social was
about creating intent within a targeted audience, whereas
search was about fulfilling it. Search’s popularity and value
to businesses has always come from its ability to help
consumers find relevant companies, products, and services.
With search, intent and desire to find relevant information
(navigational, informational, transactional) has always
been the driving force/purpose behind it. If someone visited
Google, they were looking for something specific, whereas
back in the day with social, people might have logged onto
Facebook for no particular reason. Basically, search played
a vital role in the sales cycle, but social did not.

In 2012, there was a paradigm shift that combined the
worlds of search and social, despite how effective they were
independently. Social’s primary value to consumers was its
peer recommendations. Econsultancy found that 75% of
people ages 18 to 26 used recommendations on social sites
in product research before making a purchase, whereas
search was primarily used to create a list of purchase
options. Social media recommendations were used to
validate (and continue to be used to validate) the relevancy
of our choices with the people in our social graph.

How Are They Coming Together?

The paradigm shift forever altered the way consumers
use search and social. They are now inextricably
intertwined and you can not have one without the other.
People now use social to search and discover content.
Search and social now work toward the same thing:
achieving relevance for your audience.

With so much engagement and activity happening in social
forums, Google is no longer able to turn a “limited” eye
to social media and its impact on the internet. Things
are rapidly changing, with more than 71% of consumers
being more likely to make a purchase on social media
referrals and the amount of content being generated in
social forums, leaving it nearly impossible for Google not to
utilize social media channels in a heavier fashion in their
algorithm reviews and organic SERP influence.

Links to your website via social media accounts DO have a
major impact on your rankings. While authority of a social
account may not impact search rank, links published on
social media could be marked as credible backlinks, and
thus influence a page’s rank. Links to your content on social
channels and networks help the search engines understand
what websites are credible and should be ranked for what
keyword phrases. While social shares may or may not affect
a webpage’s position in search listings, your social profiles
definitely influence the content of your search results. In
fact, social media profiles are often amongst the top results
in search listings for brand names. Social media often feeds
into the discovery of new content such as news stories,
and “discovery” is a search activity. Social media can also
help build links that in turn support the SEO efforts. Many
people perform searches on social media sites to find
social media content. Social connections may also impact
the relevancy of some search results, either within a social
media network or at a ‘mainstream’ search engine.

What Does the Future Hold?

On November 16th, 2015, a significant shift occurred
when Google announced that Facebook would begin
allowing more of their pages to be indexed, including in-app
content. Search engines are crawling Twitter, LinkedIn, and
other social sites, and social indexing will grow significantly
in 2016, with posts soon carrying the same value as web
pages. Thus it will be even more important to create
something that people want to share. “Social media efforts
will be tied more directly to SEO results. While social efforts
have historically been challenging to tie to the bottom line,
measuring the impact of social media on SEO results will be
a new, measurable inbound metric.” (SproutContent)

Social is the new SEO. There will be a focus shift in SEO to
social media. User behavior, when it comes to searching out
information on products and services, is changing. While
using search engines to find information is still the most
common behavior, there are many users who are skipping
the search engine and performing their searches directly on
social media.

There are different reasons that this is happening. First,
consumers know that they are more likely to find visual
content if they search on social media, and to them, this
content is far more trustworthy than text-heavy content.
The other reason is that consumers value feedback from
others, and they know they are more likely to find reviews
and comments on social media content than they will in
other places. This means that marketing strategy must move
beyond “How can I get found on Google?” to “How can I get
found on Google and social?” Most mobile users skip the
use of the search engine. Consumers have become more
interested in visually-rich content and would rather do their
search through social channels.

How Does This Apply to Your Business?

The big takeaway: Companies should expand their
concept of SEO to include not just the traditional
search engines — Google and Bing — but also social
search engines.

Just because Google hasn’t officially come out and stated
that social signals are a factor in their algorithm, doesn’t
mean you can discount social’s impact on your SEO.
Numerous correlation studies have shown that they do have
a positive impact on search rank. Social media shows no
signs of becoming a less important part of a brand’s online
presence anytime soon. Moreover, Bing, which is the second
most-used search engine, has clearly stated that their
algorithm DOES incorporate social signals into their search
results. Smart brands will continue to build their authority in
key social channels and think about social when designing
their SEO strategy.

Content will always rule SEO – so here are some best
practices for expanding your SEO efforts:

  • Create content that provides real value to the audience.

  • Focus on content quality and relevancy, rather than just quantity.

  • Capturing your company’s voice and sharing it with
    the world through social media will open up unique
    opportunities in all other channels of inbound marketing,
    including SEO.

  • Social Media needs to be a fully integrated part of your
    marketing mix. Think of it as a means to an end, not an
    end in itself.

Social Media Marketing/Optimization is a hugely important
piece of the SEO pie. There are many places across the
web that customers/prospects can go to find out if you are
a company who knows what it’s talking about, treats its
customers well, and provides good service at a good value. If
your SEO strategy leaves out these other sources (i.e. social),
then you’re missing out on a lot of potential customers.
“Ultimately, the web is all about building relationships,
fostering audiences, expressing identity and sharing ideas—
it’s inherently social, and there’s no reason that SEO best
practices would go against the grain, especially since the
rules that govern SEO are ultimately meant to make the web
a more enjoyable and useful place.” (Kissmetrics)

Search and Social

Synergy Is the Key

The key to using social media to drive SEO, is to build it to
be your very own PR channel to promote your great
content. You should seek to create a powerful synergy between
your content publishing, social media, and SEO programs.
From an SEO perspective, your social media promotion
can help provide the exposure to your content that results
in other people linking to it from their websites or blogs.
Because as we know, links are still a major driver of SEO.

To build this synergy, you must align your social media and content
publishing efforts, and build your visibility on social media.

  • Align your target audiences and the topical themes of
    your content publishing and social media efforts.

  • Build relationships on social media platforms.

  • Participate in related communities in social media.

  • Regularly share or comment on other people’s posts.

  • Prepare to learn – practice makes you better and with
    time you will improve.

And of course, this synergy is facilitated by creating and
publishing great, unique content.


Whatever industry you are in, figure out what the major
un-met needs are (content-wise) and figure out which ones
you can meet. This will make it easier to attract attention
and grow your reputation and visibility. Bottom line? Social
media campaigns can impact your SEO.

Some impressive stats that illuminate just how much
people are using social media to search:

  • As of 2015, Twitter handled close to 2.1 billion
    search queries a day, or close to 60 billion queries
    each month.

  • In 2015, Facebook received an estimated 1.5 billion
    search queries per day, equating to around 45
    billion monthly searches.

  • As of 2013, YouTube receives more than 3 billion
    search queries per month. Also, 100 hours of video
    are uploaded to YouTube every minute, making it
    one of the largest content repositories on the web.