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A common question that we at SEO.com receive from clients and potential clients is, “How can social media help my SEO efforts, or does it even help at all?” In this post, I want to talk about just that… using social media to impact your SEO efforts and how the two can work together to grow your business.

Social Sharing & Rankings

There’s a lot of false information floating around out there about how social signals are the new link, and that in order to compete in the SERPs, you have to have them or you are out of luck. Here’s one of the more recent ones, it’s actually been edited (as you can see in the body of the content) after being called out in the comments by a few of the top SEOs in the world.

In most cases, the idea of social shares outweighing links is wrong. Links are still the powerhouse when it comes to securing rankings in the search engines, but, as stated by Matt Cutts last month at SMX Advanced, social signals will eventually come around and be a much stronger ranking signal than they are now.

Before we jump into how to use social media to impact your SEO, let’s quickly talk about the few cases where social sharing can help you “rank better” in the SERPs.

In Google, personalization has been around for a long time; however, with the roll out of Google+ and +1’s, when one of your friends +1 something, it can often show up higher in the SERPs for you. This happens when you search for keywords or key phrases found in the content that was +1’d. For example, if my name is Sally and I +1 a blog post about planning a wedding, Suzy, my best friend could see the post I +1’d above some of the more popular and authoritative blog posts found online when searching for information about planning her wedding.

This is why building amazing content and building social activity around your content is so important, especially as Google+ grows. But still, in your average SERP, links trump social shares… period!

Alright… let’s jump into some strategy.

So, how can you use social media to impact your SEO?

Use Social Media To Build Relationships

When I ask clients and potential clients what they do with their social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Etc), I usually hear one of two things. First, “We just post one or two updates per day to keep them active,” or second, “Nothing at all, we just secured our accounts so no one else could.” Holy crap… we’ve got some work to do!

Social media should be used to build relationships with other human beings, and the first step in doing this is friending/following people. Here’s who I start following right out of the gate:

  • Friends & Family
  • People who have similar interests as myself
  • People who may be the target demographic that I am trying to market & sell to
  • People who share the same kind of stuff as I do
  • Bloggers or other website owners that I know
  • Bloggers or other website owners that I want to know
  • People who already re-share my content or other things that I share via social media
  • People who follow my competitors
  • People who share my competitors’ content

I find these people simply by doing some searches on Twitter. I also use Twellow. If you can find these people on Twitter, they are probably also on Google+, Facebook, and Pinterest. You can then go use their search feature to find them and others with similar interests.

After you find them, the relationship-building formula is pretty simple. Talk to them. Share their stuff. Mention them in social media and link to them in blog posts. Basically, you just need to scratch their back… a lot! You give them what they want (even without them asking) and most times, they will reciprocate!

Relationships Lead To Opportunities

With social media, reciprocation is what we are trying to get at, and reciprocation comes from being friends and giving before asking for something in return. Once these people become your friends… better yet, become your advocates, is when the opportunities really start to come. As an SEO, my ultimate goal is to rank better in the SERPs, and in order to do so, I need links. Through social media, I can do just that. Here are a few of the more popular opportunities I look for when using social media to impact my SEO:

  • Obtaining additional social shares (not links) – Provide me with even more visibility and opportunity to get more links.
  • Finding super high quality guest blogging opportunities (links) – Couldn’t have gotten these without becoming friends with the blog owners via social media.
  • Making my way into content roundups – Couldn’t have done this if my content wasn’t being share around different social channels.
  • Getting referenced in related blog posts – Again, couldn’t have done this if my content wasn’t being shared around and in front of a lot of eyeballs/friends.
  • Finding high quality guest bloggers for my site (links & shares) – When someone guest posts on a site, they will often times reference it in another blog post and share it socially. Couldn’t have done this without becoming friends with others on different social channels.

Well, that’s 886 of words of goodness right there. I hope that this post has been able to clearly define how social media can impact your SEO efforts. Social media is here to stay, and if it can be leveraged in the right way, it can truly impact a company’s visibility in the SERPs and make our jobs as SEOs a whole lot easier.

If you have any other ideas, or I’ve missed anything, please feel free to comment below.