If you want to rank higher in search engines, you need links—period.
In case you aren’t familiar, links serve as a kind of digital “vote of confidence.” If a site links to your site, Google considers that to vouch for your authority on a given subject. If you earn lots of links from lots of offsite sources, you’ll increase your authority, which will therefore increase your likelihood of ranking for queries that are relevant to your site.
In short, more links and better links = higher rankings. (As long as you’re link building correctly).
But is it possible to build links using social media? Social media is an incredibly popular channel, both for individual consumers and for marketers, because it allows you to reach millions of people. Could it be useful as part of your SEO strategy?
And if so, how can you use social media for link building?
Does Social Media Affect SEO?
Let’s start by answering a commonly asked question: does social media affect SEO?
SEO usually requires a website to spend time making itself more visible, more authoritative, and more popular. So it makes sense that a brand heavily supported by a social media audience would rise in rankings.
Of course, the reality is more complicated than that.
To start, understand that your social media profiles will have their own status as a webpage; you can attempt to increase the rankings of your social media profiles, just as you could increase the rankings of your main website. And if you have lots of followers and lots of inbound links, those profiles can rank quite highly in search engines.
That said, we’re more focused on increasing the rankings of your main site. Merely having social media profiles established can help lend more authority to your website and make your brand seem more “legitimate” in Google’s eyes. We’ll touch on this more in the next section.
However, getting lots of followers, shares, comments, and likes will not directly increase your rankings in search engines. Just having 160,000 followers and getting 15,000 shares on your last post will not necessarily increase your main website’s likelihood of ranking for relevant searches.
The operative word here is “directly.” Social media may not “directly” increase your rankings, but it can certainly indirectly increase your rankings. Here’s how.
Having a piece of your content shared will not count as a ranking factor to increase that content’s rankings in search engines. However, that share will introduce your content to a wider audience, increasing traffic to that page, increasing time spent on that page, and most importantly, increasing the likelihood of other people building links to that page.
And as we already covered, more links will increase your authority significantly.
To sum it up, social media can play a small role in directly increasing your rankings, but it’s best used to indirectly increase your rankings. It can do this if you use it as a channel for link building campaigns.
So what are the best ways to use social media for link building & SEO?
- Include links in your social media profiles. First, you can include links back to your main site in your social media profile pages.
- Share awesome content. Next, you can share great content (and potentially, viral content) to earn more shares, more attention, and more links from a wide audience.
- Increase your following. The bigger your following, the further your content will reach—but remember, more followers won’t increase your rankings on their own.
- Tap into the power of influencers. Working with highly popular influencers on social media can help you reach more people and earn more links.
We’ll explore each of these ideas below.
Include Links in Your Social Media Profiles
Fortunately, this step is easy.
Create as many social media profiles for your business as you can—one for each platform, even if you don’t intend on using that platform regularly. Fill in your profile completely, naming your business, explaining its purpose, and including a link back to your homepage.
This step is crucial and will immediately make your business seem more authoritative. This will also make your homepage available to followers who decide they want to link to you.
Use Social Media to Share Content
The core piece of your strategy will be using social media to share content.
The idea goes like this. You create an amazing piece of content that people will naturally want to link. You share it to an audience of fans. Those fans share it even further. Eventually, the content reaches thousands, or even millions of people, and some percentage of those readers will link to it. Those links accumulate and increase your rankings.
Here’s how to effectively achieve this:
- Create compelling content. Step one is to make the content. You’re not going to earn any links if your content isn’t worth reading, sharing, or linking.
- Create viral content. Next, you’ll need to think about making your content more viral—in other words, making it more likely to be shared. Highly shareable content has a number of distinguishing characteristics, which you can add to your work.
- Share frequently. People will only find your content if it’s easily available. You need to share your work regularly to maximize your results.
- Build a following. The more people you have following you, the bigger your reach will be.
- Leverage the power of influencers. Along similar lines, you can tap into the power of people who already have amazing followings.
How to Create Compelling Content
Step one is creating compelling content.
This content needs to be impressive enough to share and informative enough to earn a link.
Here are some quick tips to make that happen:
- Use multiple mediums. Different types of content appeal to different types of people, so consider using a mix of different mediums and approaches. For example, you can include short-form blog posts, long-form blog posts, photos, videos, podcasts and audio content, and even massive eBooks. Better yet, create pieces of content that utilize multiple mediums at once; for example, you can include more embedded photos and videos in your blogs.
- Be original. If your readers feel like they’ve seen your content before, or that it doesn’t offer a unique message, they’re not going to share it, link to it, or even engage with it. If you want a chance to earn links on social media, you have to be original.
- Offer value. Something in your work has to be valuable for your audience if it’s going to land. Some people achieve this by including actionable advice and original research. Others simply try to make their work entertaining and fun. Whatever you choose to do, your readers should walk away feeling like their lives have been improved in some small way from reading this piece.
- Include detail. Generally speaking, detail is a good thing—especially if you’re teaching something or are informing your audience. Generic, thin posts aren’t going to cut it.
- Polish everything. Pay attention to the finer points of your article. Did you spell everything correctly? Does your content load properly on all devices and operating systems? Is it scannable and easy to follow? Polish these extra details to make an even better impression.
- Work on the headline. Did you know that 59 percent of content shared on social media is shared without the sharers actually reading the content? That’s right. Depressing though it is, only 4 in 10 people who see your headline are actually going to read your content. That said, it’s important to realize that 6 in 10 people are going to judge your article based exclusively on the headline—which means your headline may be the most important part of the entire content. Spend some additional time perfecting your headline so it becomes irresistible to share.
How to Create Viral Content
So what steps can you take to make your content even more shareable?
There are some great guides on content virality out there, but here are some of the most important steps you can take:
- Target a specific audience. Many content creators try to target the biggest audience possible, writing something generic that could appeal to anyone. But it’s much better to target a highly specific audience instead; you may lose a portion of that general audience, but you’ll be much more relevant to the people who stick around. When your content is relevant and unique, people are much more inclined to share it—so even though you may have a smaller total audience, you’ll usually earn more shares and more links this way.
- Keep it concise. Detail is good, but there’s no need to go overboard. If your content is bloated or a pain to get through, it’s not going to get links or shares. You’re much better off keeping things concise.
- Call on the power of clickbait. Feel however you like about clickbait—the bottom line is that it usually works. Enticing people to click with a teasing headline, an intriguing mystery, or a sensational statement can really help you achieve more shares. To remain ethical, make sure the content on your page actually backs up whatever statement you choose to make.
- Evoke emotion. The most highly shared content on the web tends to be emotional. When you evoke strong emotions from your audience, those readers want to share those emotions with their friends, family, and followers. The exact emotions don’t matter as much; you can create viral content with joy, surprise, or even anger.
How Often to Share on Social Media for Link Building
Ideally, you’ll be sharing a new piece of content every day. This will maximize your exposure and your opportunities to get new shares and links.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that you can share the same piece of content multiple times. If you choose to do this, make sure to wait several days before sharing it again, and wait even longer for the next time you share it. For example, you could share a new piece of content January 1, share it again January 8, then share it once every 3-4 weeks on rotation. To make an even bigger impact and avoid annoying your followers, change up the headline every time you share it.
Over time, you can filter out the posts that don’t seem to be making much of an impact, and double down on the posts that seem to generate attention every time you share them.
That said, there’s an important caveat here: don’t share too frequently on social media. Twitter is a more forgiving platform that allows you to post many times per day, but on a platform like Facebook, 1-2 posts per day is plenty.
Building a Following on Social Media for Link Building
The bigger your audience, the further your content is going to reach.
Here are some easy ways you can increase the size of your audience to ultimately build more links:
- Target a specific audience. Sound familiar? Again, you’re much better off focusing on a specific niche and being highly relevant to them than you are to target a wide, general audience and lack relevance.
- Funnel people to your profiles. Use other marketing and advertising strategies to get your customers and prospects to your social media profiles. Encourage your email subscribers, online store purchasers, and subscribers to check you out on social media.
- Post regularly. People don’t want to follow a page or a profile that isn’t coming out with new content regularly. Make sure you’re posting at least once a day on each of your active social media profiles. If you’re going to be inactive on a specific platform, don’t bother building an audience for it.
- Be original. Try to be as original as possible. Copying a competitor’s posting strategy may help you get started, but eventually, you’ll need some way to stand out. Provide insights that no one else can offer or present a tone that nobody in your industry has used.
- Engage with followers directly. People love to be seen and heard, so go out of your way to engage with your followers directly. If they comment on your work, respond to them. If they ask you questions, answer them. Try to reply to everything you can, even if it gets a bit overwhelming. This will reinforce your existing followers’ loyalty and attract even more people to your brand.
- Get involved in public conversations. Next, get involved in public conversations. Find active threads and popular hashtags and voice your opinions on the matter at hand. It’s a great way to make your brand visible to new people. Some of them will inevitably follow you.
Leveraging the Power of Influencers for Link Building
Finally, consider tapping into the power of influencers for link building. The basic idea here is to find people in your niche who have massive followings and use their influence and audience to get more attention for your content.
Obviously, you’ll need to be tactful here. These are some of the most important tips to follow:
- Identify influencers. The first, and arguably most important step of the process is identifying influencers who might be a good fit. The best approach is to target people in your industry or who are otherwise adjacent to you. Ideally, these people will have powerful followings of their own, but not too powerful—if someone is too popular, they’ll be unlikely to notice you or work with you. Someone with 10,000 to 200,000 followers is a good place to start.
- Get involved in conversations. Start small. Get involved in conversations with this influencer or participate in threads that they start. You want to get noticed as a fan and as an active contributor. Embed yourself into their community.
- Compliment and share content. Pay attention to the comments they make and the content they share. Compliment it and share it on your own account. If you have a decent following and you bring attention to their content, they’ll likely want to respond in kind, sharing your material.
- Offer value. When it comes time to build the relationship further, find a way to offer value to them. For example, you may recommend a post you’ve written as an important piece of research that reinforces a claim they make. Or you may suggest a line of reasoning they haven’t considered in their latest content. Demonstrate that you are knowledgeable, resourceful, and willing to help them out. In turn, they may build a link to you, share your content, or even just reply to you—any of these can help your image and content reach.
- Collaborate. After you’ve made contact a few times and you feel good about your standing with this influencer, consider reaching out to collaborate with them. Suggest a piece of content you can create together or invite them to be a guest contributor on your blog. You could also interview them for a podcast or volunteer to contribute to their blog. Any form of collaboration could be good for your status.
Nofollow Links on Social Media
The educated SEO expert might argue:
But 99% of links from social media accounts are re=’nofollow’. The links from social media have less of an impact on SEO!
While true, these types of nofollow links also play a role in a natural backlink profile with a diverse type of links.
In addition, Google has recently confirmed that while nofollow links may not pass any equity or “juice” from one page to another, they do act as a “hint” to algorithms:
So, if the ancillary benefits of referral traffic, awareness and branding aren’t enough for you, then please do not fail to be working the social channels for links as a hint or a means of expanding your profile. Failing to do so would be against SEO best practices.
Social media marketing isn’t going to boot your SEO strategy directly, but it can be a valuable way to earn profile links, share content, and build relationships with influencers. If it’s integrated with the rest of your SEO strategy, it can help you rank higher—and certainly help you attract more traffic.
If you’re interested in checking your own backlinks now, take a look at our free SEO backlinks checker tool here!
Are you interested in getting more out of your existing SEO strategy? Or are you waiting for a good time to start? Now is the perfect time to start working with an SEO agency. Contact us today for a free consultation, and find out why!
Industry veteran Timothy Carter is SEO.co’s Chief Revenue Officer. Tim leads all revenue for the company and oversees all customer-facing teams for SEO (search engine optimization)
- including sales, marketing & customer success. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO & Digital Marketing leading, building and scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive growth from websites and sales teams. When he's not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach...preferably in Hawaii.
Over the years he's written for publications like Forbes
, Marketing Land, Search Engine Journal, ReadWrite
and other highly respected online publications. Connect with Tim on Linkedin
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