Search engine optimization (SEO): all the cool brands are doing it. But how can you leverage the strength of your owned social channels to improve your ranking within search engine results? And boost your organic traffic?
Understanding SEO and being able to apply its best practices to your social strategy is vital. It can have a plethora of benefits for your business. Figuring out where to begin can be tricky, so we boiled it down into a few helpful tips!
What does SEO have to do with Instagram?
The short answer? On a surface level, not a whole lot. Of all the social media channels out there, Instagram is the one without a direct tie to a search engine.
Additionally, Google has historically stated that social media posts and shares don’t send ranking signals the way that a link on a website would. The sheer quantity of posts is too much to index, and shared links are “no-follow” (They pass no SEO value).
The truth is, no third party entity outside of Google really knows what goes on in the closely guarded, ever-changing ranking algorithms.
SEO professionals have been able to figure out a lot about the ranking algorithms. This is through extensive testing and analysis. This, along with statements directly from Google itself, has been able to provide enough insight to make well-proven claims.
Frustratingly vague, right? Fortunately, there’s a bit more to it than that. We do know that social media pages often rank high in the results when searching for brands. So it’s important to optimize them and cultivate the image you’re looking for.
From an organic traffic perspective, it helps to treat Instagram like an SEO project. In fact, Moz classifies social media marketing as “non-link-related SEO”.
Instagram is often a brand’s strongest platform. And as we’ve seen in recent years, Instagram influencers have developed into a brand marketing goldmine.
With over a billion monthly active users and organic engagement rates that are 10 times higher than Facebook’s. It makes sense that brands are increasingly keen on establishing a presence on the platform.
Many consumers look up brands on Instagram and Google first, before they make a visit. Or have a purchase decision squared away.
Leveraging Instagram in an effective way can ultimately drive qualified leads and conversions to your site. It’s a commonly held cornerstone of SEO that one of the best ways to increase search volume is by increasing your web presence off-page.
What better way to do that than through social media marketing and content?
Optimize your posts
Optimizing a post means crafting it specifically to perform well for its intended platform and purpose. In this case, you want to create posts that are going to get a ton of engagement from your followers. But this also serves as a vehicle to push people back over to your website.
Some key tips for SEO-savvy post optimization include:
- Tagging your location: using the geolocation tags on Instagram, whether they’re for your brick-and-mortar store or just a major city, help to spread your sphere of influence that much farther.
- Building out a prolific content strategy: posting often is key! Make sure you’re tying your content to related items and posts on your website. It can increase the click-through rate (CTR) of the link in your bio. Just make sure to switch up the link as necessary for your campaigns.
- Researching and using hashtags wisely: think of hashtags as keywords you’re looking to rank for and do your research!
- Instagram is widely considered to be a stand-alone search engine. Choosing relevant tags with high search volumes is a great rule of thumb, as well as creating branded hashtags that users can use to tag you when they mention your brand.
Run contests and promotions
Play games, win prizes. It’s an easy win-win for both a consumer and a brand. It also helps increase conversion actions like CTR for related product pages that your brand is trying to rank for within Google.
In many cases, it’s a great way for smaller brands to explode almost overnight in terms of growth and engagement for very little cost upfront.
Some best practices include:
- Looping in friends of friends: the whole point of hosting a contest or product giveaway is to involve as many additional people as possible, both to expose your brand to people who may not have heard of it before, and also to extend the life of the post itself.
- Asking for multiple forms of engagement: common giveaway posts often require reposting a post, tagging friends in comments and a follow in order to be considered for the contest. This is great because not only does it multiply engagement, but helps to accelerate account growth.
- Paying influencers to promote your contest: If you have the budget, influencer marketing is a lucrative avenue, especially on Instagram. Even though overtly sponsored content gets less organic engagement, leveraging an influencer’s follower base is another way to increase the half-life of a promotional campaign and increase exposure for your brand.
Track organic traffic
One of the most important stages of a campaign (though arguably a marketer’s least favorite) involves measuring the ROI of your social marketing efforts. It’s been historically hard to collect the quantitative and qualitative elements of a campaign into a cohesive, actionable report, but there are some best practices.
Here are some of the metrics that matter:
- Use a link shortener: Link shorteners, like Bit.ly and TinyURL, help make long social links manageable and provide the ability to track and compile click data. Plus, you have the ability to create custom branded “short links”. Just make sure to use a short, uniform naming convention so you don’t get confused, and make sure your shortened URLs are set up properly in Google Analytics so you can isolate the traffic.
- Follower growth: Obviously, if your follower count has grown as a result of a campaign, that’s a small victory. Make sure to cross reference that to your average engagement rate. This could be a key indicator that your campaign was not as effective as it could have been.
- Social media mentions: Modern social media marketing platforms like Hootsuite allow you to track each time a user mentions your brand or a competitor. This allows you to stay on top of your brand sentiment, identify the best times to post, and measure your market share.
While the content on your blog and on your Instagram might not have a direct relationship, using SEO best practices to optimize your social content can influence your site’s organic rankings. Both through brand and keyword association and through mentions and other opportunities as a result of exposure.
Savvy social media marketing should be an integral part of any SEO strategy. Don’t expect overnight results: building a brand takes hard work. Doing it the right way is worth it.
About the Author:
Marie Johnson, Contributing Author at Enlightened-Digital