Social SEO Simplified: How to Optimize for the “Other” Search Engines
Do you want to compete with the best SEOs in the world?
It might be fun, but chances are you’ll either get crushed or have very slow success.
But that’s exactly what you’re doing when you try to rank for keywords on Google.
Sure, you can go after long-tail keywords to avoid the sharks, but you’ll still have some decent competition.
But what if you could go back in time when SEO wasn’t so evolved? You would be able to rapidly rank for terms and grow your organic traffic.
And although I can’t help you with time travel, I can help you find similar scenarios in the present that could deliver far better results than your current SEO strategy.
What am I talking about?
I’m talking about spending less time focusing on Google. Why? Because that’s where 99% of SEOs spend their time.
I’m talking about taking advantage of ranking for the “other” search engines—the ones on social media sites.
I’ve seen very few marketers and SEOs take full advantage of these opportunities, which means two things:
Less competition – it’s much easier to beat out amateurs and hobbyists who are accidentally ranking for terms than it is professional SEOs
Simpler rankings – since there aren’t a ton of people trying to manipulate search results, their algorithms don’t need to be as sophisticated as Google’s.
In this post, I’m going to show you how you can take advantage of these search engines.
Why ignoring social media means missing a big opportunity
I know what you’re thinking…
Google is the only search engine big enough to be worth focusing on.
It’s true, Google is massive.
Google gets about 40,000 searches per second, which is around 3.5 billion searches per day.
Obviously, Google is the largest search engine.
The misconception, however, is that social search engines aren’t large themselves.
Take Twitter, for instance, which gets an impressive 2.1 billion queries per day. That’s not far behind Google.
Consider that Facebook reached 1 billion searches per day back in 2012, which has only grown since then.
And finally, YouTube—the largest video site—gets over 3 billion searches per month. It may not be as big as the others, but 3 billion searches is still a lot.
Other social sites also get millions of searches per day.
Although those are small fractions of what Google gets, all you need is a small percent of that traffic to build and sustain a very successful business.
One caveat: I’ll admit, social search traffic is different from Google search traffic. A large percentage of the searches performed are meeting the needs of people on a particular network—they are not traffic generators.
However, as I’ll show you later, there are still other types of searches on these networks that canbe used to grow traffic to your site if you optimize for them.
There are some networks that are better for some types of businesses than others, but I’ll make those clear when the time comes.
1. Facebook has invested in search, so take advantage of it
Facebook is all about connection.
Users connect to friends, things they like, and communities on the biggest social media site by far.
It’s really hard to convert Facebook’s search traffic into traffic for your own business, but it can be done.
Facebook SEO for local business: Local businesses, particularly entertainment businesses,need to be on Facebook.
A significant portion of Facebook’s daily searches, billions of them, is used to find local businesses.
Users look for businesses for a few main reasons:
to read reviews
to get recent and upcoming deals, news, etc.
to get more details (hours of operation, location, etc.)
Getting found in Facebook’s search results can get you immediate business. In addition, if you are active on the platform, you can often get the searcher to “like” your page.
This means that you have another follower that you can market your business to in the future.
Let’s look at an example…
Pretend that our user either lives in Chicago or is visiting the city. They are looking for a nearby pizza place, so they search for “pizza Chicago”:
Facebook’s algorithm understands that our searcher isn’t looking for people, photos, or groups, so all the top results are “pages” or “places.”
Note that if someone just types in “pizza,” Facebook will return results in the city they live in.
There are a few things to note in these results:
Reviews are not king - The top result has the worst rating of the top 5 results at 3.8 out of 5. While high ratings are probably better for conversions once someone is on your business’ page, they are not mandatory for high rankings.
Likes are also not king - Similarly, the second result has an amazing 340,000 likes, but it ranks below the page that has 3,700 likes. If likes were a huge part of the algorithm, this wouldn’t have happened.
Facebook understands location - Facebook knows that “Chicago” in the search refers to a location, not a name. Even though the second result doesn’t have “Chicago” in the title, it ranks because its locations are in Chicago.
Reviews, likes, and having the exact search phrase in your title are all likely ranking factors, and they do count. However, it’s likely that they only count for a bit, and the benefit of having more quickly yields diminishing results.
Make sure to get a few hundred reviews and a few thousand likes, and you’ll likely come close to maxing out the effect they will have on your rankings.
The main factor, for local businesses, is location.
Unfortunately, this isn’t very easy to change. If you do have a business with a flexible address or are considering a location change, change your address on Facebook and see how that changes the way your business shows up in the results.
Search for “(your business type) + city”, and study the results.
An alternative strategy is to add a longer-tailed keyword to your business.
For example, instead of calling your page “Chicago Pizza,” you could call it “Chicago Pizza – Deep Dish Pizza and more.”
Looking at the search results for “Chicago deep dish pizza,” you can see that they are less competitive (pages have fewer reviews and likes):
Despite being a much easier keyword to target, it still likely gets a good search volume.
A quick check in the Keyword Planner reveals that it gets about a third of the volume of “Chicago Pizza”:
If you’re just starting out on Facebook, it will take time to get hundreds of reviews and likes. However, you can target a simpler keyword in your title and on your page (mention a few times) and still get some organic Facebook traffic to your page.
For non-local businesses, there are groups: Beyond people and local businesses, there is one other main thing that Facebook users search for—interests.
The first thing a new user does is search their favorite topic. Most of those searches will bring up a combination of groups and topic pages.
If you can rank highly for a relevant search in your niche, you can then funnel that traffic back to your website.
Here’s the plan:
Create a group or page in your niche around a popular interest, and rank for the main search term. Then, include a link in the page/group description back to your website, and periodically include links in your posts.
It might sound a bit complicated, but it’s very simple. Let’s walk through it.
If a Facebook user is interested in marketing, they might search for “content marketing” in the search bar.
All of the top results in this case are groups. For other searches, the results may contain pages in addition to the groups:
Groups are pages, where any group member can create a post. The creator of the group serves both as a regular member and as a moderator (can choose who gets to join the group and can remove posts).
While the number of members for each group may not seem very impressive, you can regularly drive thousands of visits a month to your site with just a few hundred active members.
These groups have two main components.
First, there is a group description on the right sidebar, where you could potentially put a link back to your site (if done tastefully).
This is the main place, other than your title, where you can include keywords. Note that “content marketing” appears three times in the above description.
The other main part of groups are posts, which can be made by any member.
Although it would make sense for groups with more engagement to rank higher in the search results, this doesn’t seem to be the case (perhaps in the future). Plenty of groups full of spam rank highly for broad terms.
You have two main options to take advantage of search traffic that leads to groups:
Create your own for a niche community, and build it up
Join groups already ranking high for your main keywords, be active, and then drop links back to your website occasionally
If you do make your own page, how do you get it to rank high?
The group search engine is very primitive and seems to focus mainly on:
keyword in title
keyword in page description
number of members
The search results are terrible, i.e., irrelevant, for broad keywords such as “marketing,” so try to get more specific. Put your keyword in your group’s or page’s title as well as a few times in your page description.
It will take some work initially to grow your membership. However, once you get a few hundred members who regularly participate in the group, it will take less active work on your part to maintain the growth.
2. The 2 tactics behind Twitter search success
I’ll admit, it took me some time to understand Twitter. You might still be struggling with the platform, but once you do understand it, you’ll see that it can help almost any business.
The Twitter search engine is often used to look for other people to connect with, but not as often as Facebook’s.
The Twitter search engine is mainly used for two things, and you can use both of them to get more followers and, subsequently, more traffic to your website.
Tweeting about trending topics: Twitter is built so that great Tweets can quickly spread, while all the rest fade away.
This is why Twitter is one of the best ways to find what topics are trending in the online world.
Users of Twitter are naturally curious about what is trending, so they either click the trending hashtag or search for it.
When signed into Twitter, you can see a sidebar section just for trending hashtags:
The bar will show you trending tweets in your country. If you want to see trends in another country, use a tool such as this.
Just click the name of the country you’re interested in on the right sidebar, and it will load the current top 10 trending tweets:
Tons of people search for those trending hashtags.
When someone searches for a trending topic, they see results like these:
They will see the tweets that mention the trend—in this case, “Jorge Posada”—either in the text itself or in a hashtag.
The cool thing is that someone who searches that topic will see all the tweets about it,even by those who don’t have many followers.
If you want to get in front of an audience right away, this is an opportunity.
To take advantage of trending topics, you need to tweet about things that include one of those trends. However, you need to relate them to your business/niche.
Obviously, you can’t do this for all hashtags. But the idea is that if a lot of people see your tweet, at least a few of them will also be interested in your niche and could then follow you.
Assuming you have a social media strategy, you will be able to get your Twitter followers to go to your site later.
Twitter is run by hashtags: The other thing that people use Twitter to search for are hashtags.
Again, someone searching for a hashtag will see all recent tweets with that hashtag, no matter who made them. The only SEO that you have to do is strategically include hashtags in your tweets.
Your goal should be to include 1-3 hashtags for each tweet you make. They also need to be popular enough that people actually search for them, which means that you should keep them broad.
To find hashtags that are good for your business, use a free tool like Hashtagify.me. Search for your general niche:
The tool will show you other popular relevant hashtags:
Write down any that apply to your regular tweets, and include them when you get a chance.
There’s one more way to take advantage of hashtag searches.
When you search for a hashtag, the first results are often photos:
People obviously click on these; otherwise, Twitter wouldn’t prioritize them in the search results.
These can drive direct traffic to your site, and all you need to do is include relevant hashtags along with a title and link:
See that time stamp above? Even though this picture tweet was made 24 hours ago, it’s still showing up at the top of the results. That’s simply because the vast majority of tweets are text-based, not picture-based.
To take advantage of Twitter search traffic, tweet regularly: What you’ll quickly notice is that most tweets are short-lived unless they get re-tweeted a bunch of times.
I scrolled down about 30 tweets in the marketing hashtag results and got to posts that were only 9 hours old.
Very few people will search a hashtag and go past the first few results.
This means that it’s important to stay on top.
Other than trying to get re-tweets, the way you do this is by posting often.
You should tweet at least 3 times per day and test tweeting even more frequently. You can usesocial media tools to schedule all your tweets at once to save time.
3. LinkedIn is for thought leaders and finding clients
If you are a freelancer or B2B service provider, you have a lot of opportunity to market yourself on LinkedIn.
In addition to using the search engine to find people to connect with, people also use it to find potential people and companies to hire.
Some good LinkedIn optimization can lead to high paying clients down the road, which is why it’s so valuable.
Here’s an example. Let’s say a small business owner is looking for SEO help. He goes on LinkedIn and searches for “SEO consultant”:
Right away, you can notice that keywords are huge on LinkedIn. However, there isn’t too much of an advantage to have the exact phrase “SEO Consultant.”
It probably is still better, but as long as you have the words “SEO” and “Consultant” somewhere in your profile, you could still show up in the search results.
LinkedIn bolds all the keywords searched in the results.
In addition, if you click any of the results, LinkedIn highlights all the keywords on the person’s profile page:
Start by optimizing your profile: In order to show up in any search results, you need to have the right keywords in the right place.
LinkedIn shows your listing in the results if you have your keywords in three places:
Your personal job description
Your current job title
Your past job titles
Obviously, having a keyword in your past job titles may make a prospect think that you’re not doing that kind of work anymore, so we’ll ignore that.
First, let’s pick some good keywords to target. It will depend on your niche, but try to include commonly searched for words such as:
Freelance and freelancer
To edit your professional description, view your profile while you are logged in, and click the pencil icon beside it:
This is the most important area of your profile. It shows up right under your name in search results.
You may not be able to do much with your current section, which lists your company name.
However, if you can find a way to incorporate a keyword into your current company, it can help you rank.
Get more profile views by connecting: You may have noticed one other thing about those search results, which is that they show how closely connected you are with someone:
It makes sense from LinkedIn’s point of view. If someone is looking to hire someone, they probably want to hire someone they know or who is trusted by someone in their network.
If you’re connected with someone, you’re their “1st” connection and will rank higher as long as you also have the keyword.
To take advantage of this:
Connect to everyone you know
Accept all requests, even if you don’t know them (you’ll show up higher for other people in their networks)
Look for opportunities to connect with people with a lot of followers (like bloggers that you’ve emailed or connected with through comments)
Or…connect to the right people: You can also take a much more tactical approach by targeting people with certain job descriptions.
For example, if you were a freelance SEO or writer, you’d typically be hired by marketing directors. Luckily, you can type in “marketing director” in the search bar, and then explore the top suggested results.
Then, you have a few options:
Just send a connection request
Send them an Inmail message
If you have a related job (like a freelancer to a marketer), most people will just accept the request. However, you do run the risk of being marked as a spammer if you do it too much, so be careful.
“Inmail” is LinkedIn’s internal messaging system. You can pay to send anyone a message even if you’re not connected with them.
You could ask them to connect, explaining that you’re trying to grow your network. This will eliminate the risk of being flagged. If they say no, leave them alone.
4. Not surprisingly, Google+ has a search function that beats the rest
Google+ is not as big as Facebook, but it’s probably the better social network from a user experience point of view.
One of its better aspects is its search engine—for discovering new content. This should probably be expected, considering it is Google after all. However, it’s nowhere near as complex as the real Google algorithm, so don’t be scared about doing some SEO.
Users can search for their favorite topics, e.g., “content marketing”:
They get a nice collection of people, pages, and mainly recent posts. Since the posts make up such a large portion of the page, focus your efforts there.
Keywords are still important: First and foremost, you need to mention the keywords in your post if you want to be shown to searchers.
Start each post you create on Google+ with a description, where you can type whatever you want.
Then, you can attach pictures or links, and the title and the description will also be shown.
You should include important keywords in both the description and any content you link to (choose the titles of your content carefully beforehand):
One mention is good, but two or three is even better.
Always include tags: You can add hashtags to your post descriptions, just like on Twitter. Similarly, if you include the individual keywords searched as separate hashtags, they will be highlighted for the searcher:
Add hashtags to your description to help your rankings and to stand out more to searchers on the network.
Google+ also makes it really easy to find hashtags.
Search for your main niche, and then click on any of the hashtags that show up. Google will load the search results for that hashtag.
In addition, in the top left, there will be a box with a ton of popular relevant hashtags. Use these whenever you can in your descriptions.
Plus ones and shares matter: As you might have guessed, time is an important ranking factor.
On any social network, users want to see content that is new, so new posts are prioritized.
But unlike Twitter, which displays information mostly in chronological order, Google+ relies on much more than time to determine which posts to show to searchers.
We’ve already looked at keywords and hashtags, but the popularity of the posts also matters.
Here’s an example:
These two posts were by different people, who shared the same piece of content.
Although one was almost a day older, it still showed up side by side with the other one. The main reason for that is because the older one had a lot more engagement. The left one had zero engagement, but the right one had 38 plus ones and 6 shares at the time.
You can see the number of plus ones, comments, and shares at the bottom of each post.
This last ranking factor you can’t do too much about.
At first, when you have only a few connections on the network, you won’t get much engagement.
But if you plan to incorporate Google+ into your social media marketing strategy, you will get more engagement over time as you grow your network, so be patient.
5. For video content, YouTube is #1
One of the biggest sentiments I hear when it comes to social media is that “social media isn’t right for my business.”
Many platforms might not be, but YouTube is a platform where even “boring” niches come to life.
You can find multiple videos with hundreds of thousands of views about drywall—as boring a topic as it gets.
Ranking well on YouTube will not only get your video a lot of views from internal searches but it will also help you show up on Google. YouTube videos rank incredibly well on Google.
Considering how much videos stand out in Google’s search results, they also get good click-through rates, even when ranking in spots #4-6.
Keyword research has two functions: When picking keywords to target with your videos, you want to target those keywords that not only get searched on YouTube but that also get shown in Google’s video results.
There are 5 main types of keywords that typically have video results in Google:
How-to keywords (“How to shave a cat”)
Reviews (“Bluehost review”)
Tutorials (“Setting up WordPress”)
Anything fitness or sports related (“Cardio kickboxing”)
Funny videos (“Cute animals”)
Include words related to those searches (e.g., “how to”, “review”, “tutorial”) wherever possible in your video title, which is the most important ranking factor.
Become an authority: In Google searches, content of the sites with a high domain authority ranks easier. Google knows that searchers trust the people behind the site, so it ranks their content better.
The same goes for YouTube videos. As you make more and more high quality videos and get subscribers, views, etc., your videos will start to rank easier and faster because YouTube will know that you make videos people generally like.
Take full advantage of your description: YouTube doesn’t know what’s in your video, and it’s not changing anytime soon. That is why basic keyword optimization is so important here.
You have two main places where you can include keywords:
The video title
The video description
You can also include keywords in the video file name, but it doesn’t make sense for that to be a significant ranking factor.
Here are some things to keep in mind for your description:
Include links to your site (convert viewers into email subscribers)
Include main keyword and secondary keyword(s) in the first 1-3 sentences
Don’t stuff your keyword, but aim for 3-4 mentions in a 200-word description
User experience is crucial for ranking: Another way that YouTube can tell if people like a video is whether or not people interact with it.
Years ago, YouTube ranked videos purely on views, but those are easily faked with a bot or a gig on Fiverr.
Now, YouTube can tell which views are fake, partly by how much of the video was watched.
It’s unnatural for most viewers to watch a small fraction of the video. Or it could also mean that the video sucks.
YouTube provides a statistics panel that shows how many people make it to different parts of your video:
If your average view duration is 50% or more, that’s pretty good, but it doesn’t hurt to aim for a higher percentage.
You can also see other engagement statistics:
How do you take advantage of this?
Well, make great videos in the first place—that’s the most important factor. But you can also improve your videos by listening to the comments people leave.
If a comment says that your intro is too long or your video has volume problems, it’s likely that many other viewers thought the same and abandoned the video early.
Don’t forget your tags: While you are uploading a video, you can also add tags to it. These don’t play a very big part in ranking but are still worth quickly adding:
I hope you recognize the potential of ranking highly on social media networks.
It’s much easier than ranking for searches on Google and can still produce worthwhile results.
Your business probably isn’t suited to all of the networks I went over in this article, but it’s probably suited to at least one.
Your first step, if you haven’t already done it, is to create a social media marketing plan, which will tell you which networks to target.
If you also optimize your posts and profiles according to this post, you will get better results and get them faster.
If you’ve had some good results from performing SEO on a social network, please share your story in a comment below.